Test Design: The Foundation for Effective Test Automation
This is the first post in an upcoming series about how to best design and structure your test scenarios with TestCraft. This post gives a general overview of best practices for test design.
Anyone looking to go into test automation has at some point asked themselves the following question: Is coding experience required to succeed in the field? This question has sparked a lot of controversy in recent years, with people passionately defending either side of the argument.
Let us be clear: testers can use code for a variety of purposes related to testing. For example, knowing how to read code as a tester can be very helpful if you’re looking to get more involved in code reviews. There are many instances when knowing how to read (or even write) code at a basic level can help you develop a more well-rounded understanding of test automation. Yet, we believe that there are other skills that are important, even critical for your test automation efforts to really thrive.
The Importance of Designing Tests Effectively
We at TestCraft believe that a major key to effective test automation is in the test design. Designing your tests properly will not only best prepare you for finding vulnerabilities in your software but also setting yourself up for scale. No matter which tool you use for your automation needs, good test design will ultimately be what impacts how your tests perform in the future.
With that in mind, here are some of our best practices to consider when it comes to designing tests effectively:
Test Design Rule #1 – Keep Your Tests Short and Simple
When thinking of how to design your tests, make sure that they abide by the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keeping your tests short throughout your test automation efforts will ultimately serve you well, whether you’re just starting out with more basic tests or moving into more complex scenarios. This will not only make your testing easier, but it can also help your testing integrate more into your company’s DevOps lifecycle in the future.
No matter what you’re testing, we recommend keeping your automated tests between 5-15 steps so that they’re simple and easy to understand. Each component within these tests should also clearly explain its function. This is especially important when multiple teams see and provide feedback on these tests. As a benchmark, share your test with someone from another team who is less familiar with your test. If that person can understand what your test is trying to accomplish and the steps it is taking to get there, you can rest assured that your test components are clear.
Test Design Rule #2 – Build Your Tests From Reusable Components
One great way to keep your tests simple is by reusing the same components when building them. There’s no need to recreate the wheel every single time you want to design a new test scenario. Once you have built those first few, simpler tests, you should use those components for future scenarios.
Consider this example: you design a test that checks your login process. In all other test scenarios that require someone to log in to their account, such as an account creation test, modify account test or even very complex scenarios, you can then reuse this login test as a step within all these test options.
Reusing components is beneficial for multiple reasons. First, it ensures that your tests go through the same elements when testing different functions. This mimics the end user more closely by broadening the different ways that someone can interact with your application. Second, it helps a lot with test maintenance. Within TestCraft specifically, if you create a test element multiple times that test the same function, the platform will merge the two elements automatically. In addition, changes that you make to one element will apply automatically to other tests that use it. This can help reduce your overall maintenance time tremendously.
Test Design Rule #3 – Every Test Should Be Independent
Another important point to consider when designing tests is that they should be independent of other tests that you have in your environment. Tests can then be executed in isolation, without relying on external factors. Keeping your tests independent also prevents unnecessary test breakage. If feature B changes in an application under test, there should be no need to update the tests for feature A to ensure that it continues to run.
Even when you’re reusing components, tests should still be independent. The key is to make sure that the test goes through the entirety of the process that you’re analyzing. As an example, if you’re looking to test a scenario where an end user modifies his or her account, that test should include the login and account creation scenarios described above as test steps. Since modifying an account would first require creating an account, account creation would need to be part of your test.
To ensure that all of your tests are independent, check that your test includes these three components: navigation, operations, and validations. Each test should navigate to the necessary part of your application, do some sort of action after it goes there, and then validate that the task was either completed or get results for why it wasn’t. Keeping these three components in mind will make your tests more durable in the long run.
Test Design Rule #4 – All Tests Should Have a Purpose
Another important best practice to keep in mind is that each test that you design should always have a clear purpose. While this may seem obvious, the purpose of the test can often get lost either over time or when multiple testers or teams are involved in building the test. Defining a purpose at the start of the design process and identifying that as a clear goal throughout the design will make sure that your tests continue to stay relevant and helpful.
To prevent your test from getting off-track, it’s a good idea to create the test as if you won’t be the person testing the application next time. This mindset will put you in the shoes of a future team member, or even you in a few months’ time, who doesn’t know or remember the context of the test inside and out. This will prompt you to make the purpose of the test clear and solidify its place in the rest of your environment.
Test Design Rule #5 – Don’t Forget the End User
Last but not least, the end user should always come first when designing tests. Especially as a business tester, you know your application inside and out. You understand the different ways your customers or prospects interact with your application, along with their requirements and pain points. Designing your tests with your customer in mind will ultimately lead you in the right direction when doing effective test automation.
Keeping your end users in mind will also help when mitigating risk. When designing your tests, focus on different ways a user can break it. Some ways that end users can break tests might be obvious, while others could be due to technical things that end users will never see but can cause problems. Knowing these ahead of time will make sure that you’re both choosing the right tests to design and designing them smartly.
Good Test Design Leads to Better Test Automation
In this article, we delved into some important best practices for designing tests. When it comes to what testers need in order to excel in test automation, smart and intuitive test design is absolutely essential. By implementing these test design skills, you will be setting your test automation up for success.