What is Automated Software Testing?

Automated software testing is the ability to have a software tool or suite of software tools test your applications directly without human intervention. Generally test automation involves the testing tool send data to the application being tested and then compare the results with those that were expected when the test was created.

Why Should You Use Automated Testing?

Automating your testing allows you to do more testing, faster, and more efficiently. The average test plan for a commercial grade application will have between 2,000 and 10,000 test cases. Your test team of five must manually execute and document results for between 400 and 2,000 test cases. And the scheduled release date of your product is fast approaching. No worries; clone your team and work around the clock. Or perhaps there’s a better way.

Line graph showing the cost of automated testing as opposed to purely manual testing over time.

As the graph above illustrates, there is an upfront cost to automated testing (as opposed to purely manual testing), but as the number of test cases and builds increases, the cost per test decreases.

Benefits Of Automation Testing

1. Improved Scalability

Automating your tests transforms the scale at which your test team operates because computers can run tests 24 hours a day. This allows you to run a lot more tests with the same resources.

2. Streamlined Releases 

The traditional approach to software development sees all testing done after the product is developed. But if you use test automation, you can constantly re-test your application during development. This helps your release process becomes more efficient. 

3. Delivery Speed

Automated software testing makes easy work of repetitive, time-consuming, and manual testing. It reduces the overall testing effort and by increasing the speed and accuracy of each test case

What Kind Of Tests Should Be Automated?

This might be a good time to add automated testing to your test plan. The first step in this direction is realizing that no test plan can be executed completely with automated methods. The challenge is determining which components of the test plan belong in the manual test bucket and which components are better served in the automated bucket.

This is about setting realistic expectations; automation cannot do it all. You should not automate everything. Humans are smarter than machines (at least currently) and we can see patterns and detect failures intuitively in ways that computers are not able to.

Let’s begin by setting the expectations at a reasonable level. Let’s say we’ll automate 20% of test cases. Too small, management cries! Let’s address those concerns by describing what automating 20% means.

ROI diagram for automating test cases. Which 20% should we automate?

So, we have decided to automate 20% of our test cases, great! There is only one problem - 20% means 20% of your test cases. How about the 20% of test cases used most often, that have the most impact on customer satisfaction, and that chew up around 70% of the test team’s time? The 20% of test cases that will reduce overall test time by the greatest factor, freeing the team for other tasks. That might be a good place to start.

These are the test cases that you dedicate many hours performing, every day, every release, every build. These are the test cases that you dread. It is like slamming your head into a brick wall – the outcome never seems to change. It is monotonous, it is boring, but, yes, it is very necessary. These test cases are critical because most of your clients use these paths to successfully complete tasks. Therefore, these are the tasks that pay the company and the test team to exist. These test cases are tedious but important.

Factors To Consider When Deciding Whether a Test Should Be Automated

A test case should be automated if:

  • The task is going to be repeated
  • It’s going to save time
  • The requirements, the test, or the task are low risk, stable, and unlikely to change often
  • The test is subject to human error
  • The test is time-consuming
  • The test has significant downtime between steps
  • The test is repetitive
  • The test is business-critical

Please watch our video on this topic: From Manual to Automated Testing | Inflectra Webinar | Test Automation, Demystified

What Kind of Tests Are Best Done Manually?

There are a few types of tests that are really hard to automate. These are best done manually:

Tests That Are Constantly Changing 

Tests where the correct outcome changes frequently can’t be automated. Equally, tests where the outcome isn’t always clear.

One-Off Tests 

Sometimes you need to test to check a particular condition or to search for a reported bug. These ad-hoc tests aren’t suitable for automation. However, if you do find steps to recreate the bug, you may then want to automate the test.

Testing Features That Are Still Evolving 

As new features are developed, you need to develop your tests in parallel. It usually isn’t worth automating the test while the feature is still evolving constantly.

Automation Based on the Type of Testing

There are 2 main types, functional and non-functional:

Automation of Functional Tests

These tests are written to test the business logic behind an application. Automating these means writing scripts to validate the business logic and the functionality expected from the application.

Automation of Non-Functional Tests

These tests define the non-business requirements of the application. These are the requirements related to performance, security, data storage, etc. These requirements can remain constant or can be scaled as per the size of the software.

What Types of Automation Tests Exist?

Now that you have decided to add automated testing to your test plan, you need to consider which types of testing you will need:

  • Automated Unit Testing
  • Automated UI Testing
  • Automated API Testing
  • Performance, Load and Stress Testing

Automated Unit Tests

The unit testing part of a testing methodology is the testing of individual software modules or components that make up an application or system. These tests are usually written by the developers of the module and in a test-driven-development methodology (such as Agile, Scrum or XP) they are actually written before the module is created as part of the specification. Each module function is tested by a specific unit test fixture written in the same programming language as the module.

Sample unit test fixture in C# using NUnit

Automated User Interface (UI) Tests

In an ideal world, the presentation layer would be very simple and with sufficient unit tests and other code-level tests (e.g. API testing if there are external application program interfaces (APIs)) you would have complete code coverage by just testing the business and data layers. Unfortunately, reality is never quite that simple and you often will need to test the Graphic User Interface (GUI) to cover all of the functionality and have complete test coverage. That is where GUI testing comes in.

Architecture diagram of a typical n-tier web application

Testing of the user interface (called a GUI when it’s graphics based vs. a simple text interface) is called GUI testing and allows you to test the functionality from a user’s perspective. Sometimes the internal functions of the system work correctly but the user interface doesn’t let a user perform the actions. Other types of testing would miss this failure, so GUI testing is good to have in addition to the other types.

Automated API Tests

API testing involves testing the application programming interfaces (APIs) directly and as part of integration testing to determine if they meet expectations for functionality, reliability, performance, and security. Since APIs lack a GUI, API testing is performed at the message layer. API testing is critical for automating testing because APIs now serve as the primary interface to application logic and because GUI tests are difficult to maintain with the short release cycles and frequent changes commonly used with Agile software development and DevOps.

Architecture diagram with different automation testing types included

When you release a new version of the system (e.g. changing some of the business components or internal data structures) you need to have a fast, easy to run set of API regression tests that verify that those internal changes did not break the API interfaces and therefore the client applications that rely on the APIs will continue to function as before.

Performance, Load, and Stress Tests

There are several different types of performance testing in most testing methodologies, for example: performance testing is measuring how a system behaves under an increasing load (both numbers of users and data volumes), load testing is verifying that the system can operate at the required response times when subjected to its expected load, and stress testing is finding the failure point(s) in the system when the tested load exceeds that which it can support.

Sample picture of a performance / load test

Automation Testing Frameworks

An automation testing framework is a set of guidelines or rules used for creating and designing test cases. A framework is comprised of a combination of practices and tools that are designed to help professionals test more efficiently. Utilizing a framework for automated testing will increase a team’s test speed and efficiency, improve test accuracy, and will reduce test maintenance costs as well as lower risks.  There are many frameworks to choose from, but here are some of the most common ones:

Linear Testing Framework (Record-and-Playback)

This is the most basic kind of framework. Testers write and run a test script for each individual test case, like recording and playing back a clip on a screen. Because of its simplicity, it is most suited for small teams and test automation beginners. With a linear test automation framework, testers don't need to write code to create functions and the steps are written in sequential order.

Modular-Based Testing Framework

This framework breaks down test cases into small modules. Then, it follows a non-incremental and incremental approach. There, the modules are independently tested first, and then the application is tested as a whole. This makes each test independent. This sort of abstraction concept ensures that changes made to the other part of the application do not affect the underlying components. Prior planning and test automation knowledge are required to successfully implement this framework.

Library Architecture Testing Framework

The library architecture framework for automated testing is based on the modular framework but has some additional benefits. Instead of dividing the application under test into the various scripts that need to be run, similar tasks within the scripts are identified and later grouped by function, so the application is ultimately broken down by common objectives. These functions are kept in a library which can be called upon by the test scripts whenever needed.

Data-Driven Testing Framework

In this testing framework, a separate file in a tabular format is used to store both the input and the expected output results. A single driver script can execute all the test cases with multiple sets of data. This driver script contains navigation that spreads through the program which covers both readings of data files and logging of test status information.

Keyword-Driven Testing Framework

This is an application-independent framework and uses data tables and keywords to explain the actions to be performed on the application under test. This is also called a keyword-driven test automation framework for web-based applications and can be stated as an extension of a data-driven testing framework.

Hybrid Testing Framework

This form of the hybrid testing framework is a combination of modular, data-driven, and keyword test automation frameworks. As this is a hybrid framework, it has been based on the combination of many types of end-to-end testing approaches.

Test-Driven Development Framework

This framework focuses on creating unit test cases before developing the actual code. It is an iterative approach that combines programming, the creation of unit tests, and refactoring. Developers start creating small test cases for every feature based on their initial understanding. The primary intention of this technique is to modify or write new code only if the tests fail. This prevents duplication of test scripts.

Behavior Driven Development Framework

This framework is derived from the Test-Driven Development approach and in this method, tests are more focused and are based on the system behavior. The testers can create test cases in simple English language. This simple English language helps even non-technical people to easily analyze and understand the tests.

Automated Testing Tools

Test automation tools help teams automate their software testing needs. These tools are pieces of software that enable people to define testing tasks that are afterward run with as little human interaction as possible. They help in the efficiency of software development. See our 2022 list of the best automation testing tools. We include open-source, cross-browser, commercial test automation software, and more. 

Steps To Choosing an Automation Tool

  • Identify the types of tests you want to automate 
  • Based on the types of tests you want to automate, plan the design of automation and move towards a framework.
  • Based on the type of automation testing you are targeting and the type of framework that you may want to build around, you can then select the tools that suit your needs.

Why Should I Use Rapise for My Software Testing?

You need a test automation solution that can be integrated fully into your development process and that be adapted to your changing needs:

Codeless / scriptless automated testing tool interface

Rapise is the most powerful and flexible automated testing tool on the market. With support for testing desktop, web and mobile applications, Rapise can be used by testers, developers and business users to rapidly and easily create automated acceptance tests that integrate with your requirements and other project artifacts in SpiraTeam.

Self-Healing Tests

One of the obstacles to implementing test automation on projects is that the application’s user interface may be changing frequently, with new pushes to production daily. Therefore, it is critical that tests created one day, continue to work seamlessly the next.

Ability to relearn automated testing objects when the application changes.

Rapise comes with a built-in machine learning engine that records multiple different ways to locate each UI object and measures that against user feedback to determine the probabilistic likelihood of a match. This means that even when you change the UI, Rapise can still execute the test and determine if there is a failure or not.

Testing Multiple Technologies

Many test automation products are only able to test one type of platform, with Rapise your teams can learn a single tool and use it to test web, mobile, desktop, and legacy mainframe applications from the same unified tool:

The different technologies that users need to test with an automated testing tool.

User Interface and API Testing

Rapise is unique in offering both API and UI testing from within the same application. Rapise can handle the testing of both REST and SOAP APIs, with a powerful and user to use web service request editor:

API Testing a REST web service

One of the benefits of using Rapise is that you can have an integrated test scenario that combines both API and UI testing in the same script. For example, you may load a list of orders through a REST API, and then want to verify in the UI that the orders grid was correctly populated.

Load/Performance Testing

Inflectra has partnered with Neotys, the leader in performance testing and monitoring solutions. Our partnership allows you to seamlessly integrate Rapise and NeoLoad to get an integrated function and performance testing solution.

The integration between Rapise and NeoLoad allows you to take an existing test script written in Rapise and convert it seamlessly into a performance scenario in the NeoLoad load testing system.

Load testing conversion from a functional test.

This feature allows you to convert Rapise tests for HTTP/HTTPS based applications into protocol-based NeoLoad scripts that can be executed by a large number of virtual users (VUs) that simulate a load on the application being tested.

Unit Testing

Rapise comes with a special extension for NUnit and Visual Studio’s MS-Test that facilitates the calling of Rapise tests from within unit test fixtures.

Sample unit test results dialog

In addition, Rapise includes pre-built Visual Studio templates for NUnit and MS-Test that allows you to quickly and easily write GUI-based unit test scripts in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

How do I Get Started?

To learn more about Rapise and how it can help you get started with automated software testing please:

Try Rapise free for 30 days, no credit cards, no contracts

Start My Free Trial

And if you have any questions, please email or call us at +1 (202) 558-6885