Switching to UI Automation: Everything You Need to Know

 In Blog, Most Recent, Codeless Test Automation, Web Application Testing

Switching to UI automation: Everything you need to know

Table of contents

What Is UI Automation Testing?
Manual vs. Automated Testing
UI Automation Checklist: What You Need to Know
Automated UI Testing Tools
Is Automated UI Testing Enough?
How to Overcome UI Automation Challenges

Not long ago, most software tests were performed locally by replicating an ideal environment and running several UI tests. Today, with rapid development models and short release cycles, organizations are replacing conventional manual testing techniques with more effective approaches. UI test automation is quickly becoming the new norm.

This comprehensive guide dives into UI automation, one of the hottest trends in the world of software testing. It is designed to provide you with knowledge across the broader UI test automation spectrum, including what it means, how to perform it, and the various challenges it presents.

As you will realize, this guide provides valuable insights for decision-makers looking to invest in test automation as well as developers who want to increase their knowledge in this field.

So, let’s get started.

What is UI automation testing?

To understand the concept of UI automation testing, you first need to understand what UI testing means. So, let’s start by breaking everything down.

A user interface (UI) is the front-end of an application that facilitates interaction with users on their screens. UI testing is the process used to verify whether the interface is running correctly.

When performing UI tests, we check that every bit of logic, UI feature, or flow of actions works as expected. Here, testers focus on validating every click of a button, data entry, navigation, calculation of values, and other functionalities used for user interaction.

UI automation testing is a technique where these testing processes are performed using an automation tool. Instead of having testers click through the application to verify data and action flows visually, test scripts are written for each test case. A series of steps to follow when the verifying data is then added.

A simple example would be something like this:

Sample UI test script

The UI automation testing process simplifies the process of creating UI tests, running the tests, and viewing results. At its core, it allows testers to:

  • Simulate and test an application’s interaction with end-users.
  • Automate all testing activities for the application under test (AUT)
  • Integrate UI tests in the development process
  • Submit test results and generate reports with your application package.

Development and testing teams choose to automate UI tests for several reasons. The most notable include:

  • Time – Manual testing is slow and cannot keep pace with many development processes.
  • Cost – Manual tests are resource-intensive and costly.
  • Accuracy – Manual tests are prone to more errors when performing repetitive tasks. Conversely, automation reduces the chances of these errors.
  • Scale – It is difficult to rely on manual tests when performing complex iterations.
  • Trend – Most organizations have realized how they can benefit through automated testing, so there’s increased pressure to jump on the automation bandwagon.

According to the Global Quality Report, organizations are benefiting from automation testing in different ways. Around 60% of organizations cited an improved ability to detect application defects due to increased test coverage.

Another 57% saw an increase in test case reuse after applying automation. At the same time, 54% recorded a decrease in the time spent on testing cycles.

Benefits of test automation chart

Manual vs. automated testing

A question that most development teams ask is whether they should perform testing manually or automate it. There are many aspects to consider when making this decision. These include time constraints, economic feasibility, type of tests to be performed, and more.

To make the right decision, business leaders should first understand the difference between manual and automated testing.

Manual testing

In manual testing, Quality Assurance (QA) specialists create and execute test cases by hand. The QA specialist or test engineer describes several scenarios in the application and creates conditions in the test cases.

It involves preparing scenarios and datasets, then triggering the right actions or inputs to verify the described scenario. While this kind of testing may seem primitive, it is vital in cases where automation cannot be applied.

The advantages and disadvantages of manual testing are summarized in the table below:

ProsCons
Lower initial investment
Scalability issues
Greater adaptability and flexibilityGenerally slow
Facilitates testing of real-life actionsHuman error and change blindness
Involves human intuition, inductive reasoning, and inference.

Automated testing

With automated testing, as its name suggests, pre-scripted tests are run to validate different functionalities in an application. This means using tools and test scripts to create different states and prepare data.

Once done, a set of steps are executed to validate the scenario. By doing so, QA teams can determine where an application works as expected or not.

The table below summarizes the main strong points and downsides of automated testing:

ProsCons
Long-term cost efficiency
High upfront costs
Higher speed
Test maintenance can become tedious
Higher accuracy
Greater learning curve
Increased test re-use
Increased transparency
Easier detection of bugs

Manual vs. automation testing comparison table

FeatureManual testingAutomated testing
SpeedLow High
AccuracyLowHigh
ScalabilityLowHigh
Short-term testing ROIHighHigh
Long-term testing ROILowHigh
Test reusabilityLowHigh
Test coverageLowHigh
Learning curveLightModerate
TransparencyLowModerate to high
AdaptabilityHighModerate
Best suited for:Usability testing
Exploratory testing
Early development stage UI testing
Ad-hoc testing
End-to-end testing
Regression testing
Testing stable UI versions

When should you switch to automated testing?

Now that you completely understand the difference between manual and automated testing, it can be easier to decide when your team should shift to automated testing.

Here are some scenarios where automated testing is the best option:

  • When handling time-consuming tasks
  • When working with short-release cycles
  • When you want to integrate UI tests into the development process
  • When executing repetitive tasks or operations in the same project
  • When performing end-to-end tests
  • When testing UI load and performance
  • When performing advanced UI tests between different platforms
  • When performing UI regression testing
  • For UI screenshot comparison

UI automation checklist: What you need to know

Before automating UI tests, the QA team should conduct an automation feasibility study and prepare a test strategy.

The feasibility study confirms whether automation testing can exhaustively cover the application to be tested. By doing so, testing teams can determine whether UI automation will be successful or not.

From here, testers should continue with the automation process by preparing a checklist.

An automation checklist outlines the steps you should follow to make your automation journey successful. Following these steps will ensure the transition from one testing stage to the next is smooth and efficient.

Here is a standard UI automation checklist that can be applied in any testing project:

Example UI automation checklist

1. Initial consultation meeting

The QA team and all stakeholders hold a meeting with automation experts to define the purpose, plan, and requirements for test automation.

2. Gathering requirements

The UI automation team collects project requirements based on the architecture and technology used for application development.

During this stage, testing teams identify the testing and product knowledge at their disposal to determine whether external technical assistance will be required.

The requirements listed are used to select an appropriate tool for automation. The right automation tool makes it easier for testing teams to accomplish their testing goals.

3. List test cases

Test cases provide a better understanding of the structure and logical flow in your interface.

They provide a visual depiction of how an application works and serve as the basis for your project’s scope and strategy.

4. Determine a UI test automation strategy

After listing potential use cases, the QA team determines the best strategies for conducting automated UI tests. This includes the languages and test data to be used.

5. Framework development

After outlining the automation strategy, testing teams proceed to develop a basic framework for automation.

Frameworks are essential for the success of any testing project and should only be developed after a diligent analysis of the application.

6. Test script creation

The testing team uses the test cases outlined in the initial stages for creating test scripts.

7. Test execution and analysis

Upon completing script development, they are executed in batches. During this step, it is crucial to analyze the results for feedback purposes.

Additionally, check for defects to ensure no test script failures are encountered.

8. Demo and reporting

The final step of UI automation involves generating and presenting test reports. This is done after completion of the test suite to facilitate the future training of stakeholders.

Shifting from manual to automation testing might seem daunting at first. However, by following these elaborate steps, you can easily pull through.

Automated UI testing tools

The success of automation testing largely depends on the choice of tools used. With dozens of automation tools in the market, QA professionals should take time to evaluate every tool’s features and capabilities.

This way, it becomes easier to pick a tool that meets your testing needs and benefits your software development projects in the long run.

Here are some of the considerations to make when evaluating automated UI testing tools to make a decision that will best fit your organization:

  • Ease of creating and maintaining test scripts, a tool with record and playback capabilities is ideal.
  • Facilitates smooth input of large test data for load testing and other complex tests.
  • Ease of test-suite execution by non-technical users.
  • Support for web, desktop, and mobile applications.
  • Support for cross-browser testing.
  • Ability to capture console logs, take screenshots, and record videos when running tests
  • Ability to generate intuitive test reports.
  • Support for keyword, data, and behavior-driven testing.
  • Reliable technical support and online assistance from the vendor.
  • Wide language support for flexible test script development
  • Seamless integration with other tools within the CI/CD pipeline for automatic builds or deployment.
  • Reasonable pricing.
  • Initial training during the onboarding process.
  • Ease of maintenance.
  • Ease of applying changes to existing scripts.
  • Use of AI to optimize automation.
  • Ability to test complex UI components.

Demo: Practical UI automation with TestCraft

Here’s a quick demonstration of how TestCraft’s codeless testing platform handles UI automation. In this example, we will be testing the process of signing in to a Google account.

Gmail sign-in

The testing process on TestCraft begins by creating a new project on the TestCraft dashboard. To start building the test, we provide a project name and test name.

TestCraft also prompts you to add the URL to the test. In this case, we add a link to the Google account sign-in page. Next, we select the platform or browser we’d like to run our tests on:

Adding a new project to the TestCraft codeless test automation platform

After supplying the necessary test details, the project initializes and TestCraft directs us to the canvas – the platform’s main page where you can create and modify test scenarios.

Creating a TestCraft test scenario

The canvas allows TestCraft users to perform offline test planning as well as online visual capturing. More specifically, you can do the following on the canvas:

  • Add a test step
  • Change an element’s name
  • Change a test step’s action
  • Remove or duplicate a test step
  • Toggle a test step in or out of the flow
  • Remove an element’s binding

While on the canvas dashboard, users can start creating scenarios for processes to be tested. For every test scenario, create a spec that includes all user actions that you’d want to check or validate.

The process of creating specs and modifying steps involved in a test case is pretty straightforward.

TestCraft also provides step-by-step visual modeling, so you only need to click on the elements shown on the screen to add action flows to your test case.

Example of TestCraft's visual modelling capabilities

Below is a simple spec created for testing the Google sign-in page. It starts by checking user input typed on the “email or phone” textbox.

User-friendly visual labeling of TestCraft test steps

TestCraft allows you to modify or add as many testing steps as you want on a single element, although we recommend that you create short tests built from reusable components that you can use for more complex scenarios in the future.

After adding all of the required steps into the spec, you can now publish and run your test suite.

Configure the execution parameters and provide input data (if needed), then hit the run button as shown.

Configuring test execution parameters in TestCraft before running a test scenario

After running the test, you should see the test results indicating whether the test was successful or some steps failed. If there are errors, they will be clearly indicated in the error log.

A successfully run TestCraft test scenario

TestCraft provides a number of features to help you manage your testing processes. Other than specs, you will find the suites, execution, assets, and system management dashboards.

TestCraft test automation dashboard

All these dashboards have valuable tools for test management. In the suites section, for instance, you will find the scheduling feature, which allows you to automatically run tests at a specified time.

TestCraft scheduling capabilities

The CI/CD integration dashboard allows you to integrate your testing processes into your development workflow.

TestCraft CI/CD integration options

The UI testing capabilities of automation testing tools like TestCraft are unlimited. How you use the tool depends on the nature of your project, the scope of your testing, and your creativity.

Is automated UI testing enough?

Although UI test automation is an essential component of the CI/CD pipeline, it isn’t the only type of test that can be automated. You can bring value and scale your QA process by automating more software tests.

Below are some guidelines to help you identify ideal candidates for test automation:

  • When testing business-critical paths and other high-risk features
  • When running tests that should be executed repeatedly
  • When running tests that should be performed after every application build or release. Regression tests and smoke tests are good examples
  • When working on test cases that require a long time to execute
  • When running performance tests such as load tests
  • When running data-driven test cases that require the same workflow for different data sets or input
  • When running tedious test cases that require large volumes of data input

Types of tests you can automate

Based on the conditions outlined above, you can automate the following types of tests:

Unit tests

Automated unit tests are performed to test an application at the code level. They are designed to test individual functions, methods, and all modules in your software.

Unit tests are performed by developers during the initial testing phase and are generally cheap to automate.

API tests

APIs are an essential component in modern applications. They facilitate communication between different software modules or web services.

APIs should be tested thoroughly to verify their performance, functionality, security, and compliance.

Integration tests

Integration tests are performed to verify that different application modules work well together. The main focus here is to verify data communication between different microservices. For instance, you can check whether your application can query the database.

Functional tests

Functional tests are performed to verify whether all application functions work as expected. They focus on the application’s business requirements and are more specific.

For instance, instead of only testing whether an application connects to the database, you could check whether it gets values from the database appropriately as per the application’s requirements.

Regression tests

Regression tests are performed to verify that changes pushed to the codebase do not affect existing features in an application.

The aim is to check whether the old code works as it was before changes were introduced.

How to overcome UI automation challenges

There are several challenges that testers face when automating UI tests. Most of these challenges can have a significant impact on the success of your testing process and development project at large.

The 2017 Global Quality Report identified the following main challenges hindering most organizations from achieving the desired level of automation.

Challenges of UI test automation

Common UI automation challenges

1. Finding the right automation tool

Today’s marketplace is filled with tons of open-source and commercial UI automation testing tools. Although these tools are designed to support different types of tests and technologies, choosing the right tool to support an application under test becomes a challenge.

It is therefore important to perform enough research before selecting a UI automation tool. Choosing a suitable automation tool that satisfies your technical and business needs will make your testing efforts more productive.

2. High level of maintenance due to an increasingly changing UI

A common development practice when developing applications is making constant changes and improvements to the UI and the app logic. This creates a contact challenge of adapting the test automation to those changes.

3. Complex development environment

Just like in manual UI testing, the increasingly diverse combinations of devices, operating systems, and other software are a serious challenge when automating UI tests.

4. Demand for skilled resources

There’s a common myth that UI test automation can be handled by anyone because it involves recording test scripts and playing them back. This is utterly wrong.

Most automation tools require a substantial level of technical expertise and strong knowledge of the testing framework. Without the required technical skills, creating accurate test scripts and maintaining becomes a top challenge.

5. Selecting a proper testing approach

For successful UI testing, you must use the right tool and employ a correct automation approach. This should always be one of the top concerns for test automation engineers.

Testing teams should think about reducing the effort required to implement and maintain test scripts. It is important for testers to develop an automation solution that detects issues automatically and revalidates the tests without human intervention.

Another thing to consider when selecting a proper testing approach is the generation of useful test metrics and reports.

6. High upfront investment

Automated testing is crucial for quality assurance in today’s agile development. However, despite its huge pay off in terms of long term benefits, the cost of implementing test automation in the initial phases is usually high.

The solution: Codeless UI automation testing

While the above are not the only challenges found in UI test automation, they are the most common. Testing teams should, therefore, find solutions that can overcome these shortcomings to ensure the test automation project is successful.

Codeless automation tools can help address these challenges by providing a more efficient way of testing. This is because they are built to empower every tester, including those with the least testing knowledge.

Through codeless UI automation, you can create testing scripts without framing any code. As such, it eliminates the headache of maintaining test scripts every time a new feature of functionality is pushed to the UI.

This means testers can concentrate on important testing activities without putting too much effort into maintaining the test suite.

Some of the main benefits of codeless UI automation include:

  • Increased testing speed due to visual UI workflows
  • Easier maintenance and management of complex tests due to AI-based, self-healing technology
  • Effortless integration with other CI tools
  • Lower test maintenance costs
  • Enhanced scope of UI automation
  • No steep learning curve as programming knowledge is not required.
  • Facilitates easier documentation of process changes and report generation

UI test automation is an efficient and cost-saving way to verify the performance and functionality of your application’s interface. Although setting up automated UI tests and creating the necessary scripts requires a considerable amount of effort, it will streamline your testing cycle in the long run.

To perform test automation effectively, an organization’s QA team should have the required automation expertise. Otherwise, they should consider external consultation.

Want to start or streamline your UI automation tests? Get in touch with our automation experts and learn how TestCraft can help.

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