Test automation, or automated QA testing, involves automatically reviewing, validating, and analyzing a software product and using the results from these assessments to improve software quality — ensuring more consistent and unified code and optimizing product functionality and user experience. Plus, it makes for happier developers.
Continuous testing and test automation increase the reliability, consistency, and efficiency of both the development team and the final product. This makes it easier for DevOps and QA teams to remain on schedule without sacrificing crucial debugging and troubleshooting processes.
Additionally, test automation is faster and more effective than manual tests. It reduces the potential for costly human error and eliminates communication barriers among team members, saving time and money.
Test automation also offers new modes of flexibility, meaning development teams can reuse their test scripts for any related testing suites. Thanks to the automation environment, they don’t have to worry about breaking the code or creating new scripts for each test case.
Test automation contains several key automation concepts you should follow to ensure quality software testing. These test automation frameworks appear in stages, following the test pyramid hierarchy.
Unit testing involves isolating your application into units and then testing the behavior of each as a function independent from external parties, databases, or configurations. Unit testing often occurs during the build period and is considered the first layer of testing.
Integration testing evaluates how several units are logically integrated, and how this affects the system functionality without unintended errors in the integration process. The main purpose of integration testing is to test the compliance of a system by verifying how disparate modules work together.
Regression testing ensures that bug fixes or other changes have not adversely affected existing functionality. Automating regression tests allows developers to quickly and efficiently identify and fix any issues that may have been introduced by code changes, ensuring that the software remains reliable and bug-free.
An end-to-end testing framework tests the functionality and performance of the application by simulating the user’s expectations and needs from start to finish. The end goal isn’t just to ensure the application validates and checks all the user’s needs, but to ensure it operates and behaves at least as well as expected.
Exploratory testing is a more sophisticated software testing strategy that involves parallel learning, testing, and reviewing various functional and visual components from the user’s perspective.
DevOps involves the software development workflows that accelerate the build, test, configuration, deployment, and release of software products. This approach helps teams build applications much faster. Because continuous testing is an integral part of continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices, adopting automated testing makes CI/CD more efficient and enables teams to release software more frequently.
Quality assurance engineers should focus on developing automated integration and end-to-end tests while developers perform unit tests for each block of code they build. These tests should be executed early enough in the DevOps CI/CD pipeline to ensure each component works as expected. Additionally, product managers should perform functional testing (e.g., the black-box method) to ensure the optimal user experience.
Automated testing provides many benefits, including:
Like anything, it’s important to be intentional when implementing test automation. If you’re not careful, automation can create more work than it eliminates. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when thinking about where to introduce test automation:
Remember, automated testing doesn’t eliminate the need for manual testing. Retaining a manual step or two where automation doesn’t add value will save your team time in the long run.
When aligning test automation for your teams, you’ll want to consider the following components of your development lifecycle.
If the frequency of software release takes several days, your development team should adopt test automation in their DevOps CI/CD pipelines to accelerate the build, deployment, and release. Unit tests should be performed throughout the development phase along with end-to-end testing. As the application grows throughout the build process, integration testing is performed to ensure all dependent third-party applications work as expected. This ensures 100% test coverage, speeding software release to production and the market.
Not all test automation tools work the same way. A test automation architect should identify which features work best for the organization. Reliability, frequency of maintenance, efficiency in test creation, and CI/CD integration with your current stack are some features to look for in a test automation tool. The ease of use and learning curve across your team members are also important. The more accessible the tool, the more smoothly your organization can kick start the automation process.
Understanding your CI/CD environments is very important when deciding at which point you want to incorporate test automation. To achieve a useful testing environment, it’s crucial to have a strong testing infrastructure. Arrive at a consensus with team members on which strategy works best and for which scenarios. For example, an infrastructure for providing temporary test environments early can rapidly improve the feedback and review process.
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