What Are the Essential Factors for Test Automation Framework Success?
In today's technology landscape, people demand innovation, convenience, comfort, and more from products and services. Meeting these requirements at a rapid-fire pace is vital to thriving in any market. And to do so, many companies are turning to test automation technology for a solution. But what are the crucial components needed to create a successful test automation framework? And what separates a stellar test automation framework from the rest? To answer these questions, we sat down and talked with Integrant's Technical Project Manager Walaa Elyamany and Senior Technical Architect Mohamed Shahin.
Wait, What Is a Test Automation Framework?
A test automation framework is a comprehensive set of guidelines that facilitates a consistent way for changing test scripts and functions. By doing this, it provides users with a streamlined environment that helps them develop, execute, and report on automated test scripts effectively and efficiently.
You can think of it like cooking. Everyone possesses some level of skill and intuition in the kitchen. But by following a detailed recipe with step-by-step instructions, methods, and examples that you can compare your outcome with, you can elevate your results.
Test automation framework guidelines will vary depending on who you ask.
But they usually include aspects such as the following:
● Coding standards
● Assumptions about the desired outcome
● Test tools, interfaces, and libraries
● Test data handling protocols
Regardless of the guidelines you go with, it's important that your test automation framework provides scalability, reliability, and reusability while decreasing the effort needed to conduct constant code maintenance. The name of the game is to reduce repeated manual work and the time for running tests while gaining a faster response and ensuring your tests are consistent with your expected outcomes. This goes for whether you're testing application programming interfaces (APIs) for websites, mobile apps, or any other type of software.
With that being said, let's take a look at Walaa's and Shahin's essential factors for a successful test automation framework.
Ease of Use
No matter the technical topic, the greatest solutions are always the most elegant ones. And test automation frameworks are no exception. A great framework should support users' needs as simply as possible.
Shahin and Walaa both emphasize that test automation frameworks should function like plug-and-play devices. Members of a quality assurance (QA) team should be able to use a framework even if they don't necessarily understand how it works.
There should be no learning curve dependent on their automation experience or technical skills. It should be so user-friendly that writing, inserting, compiling, and running a test script should be seamless without needing to dive into the underlying mechanics.
Let's see this in action with a RESTful API testing example. To make a request and validate the response of an API endpoint, Walaa explains that she doesn't need to know everything about the API as long as the request can find the information needed for the test, execute it, and compare the results. This applies to various aspects of API testing like performance, functional correctness, and security.
Test automation can encapsulate a wide variety of tests; load testing, unit testing, and functional testing name just a few. Depending on changing requirements and scenarios, some of these tests have to be scaled up and down.
To address this, a great test automation framework should minimize the effort of development needed down the line. Let's say you build software for RESTful API testing. Because this software was only built to test specific elements, it does not accommodate anything else outside of that specific scope. Every time you need to add new testing capabilities, a developer will most likely have to add extra code.
In contrast, an API test automation framework is already equipped with the capabilities to cover most API test cases. So you can add extra scenarios without any extra development needed. Simply configure the new APIs and test cases, and you should be all set to go.
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Every test automation framework should have a robust and transparent reporting mechanism. This is the only way to analyze any glitches present and fix them efficiently.
Besides this, it's important that the details of what you find are accessible and comprehensible for a wide range of people. After all, it could be a manager, developer, or automated build tool that's examining your results. And each requires different information and level of detail to understand the situation. Shahin and Walaa like to incorporate both reporting and logging mechanisms to cater to each audience member.
Reports display information such as how many test cases executed, how many failed, and how many passed. They're useful for QA engineers and managers to quickly find out what's going on. Users should consult the log if more information is needed. This shows technical details that allow users to trace failures to their root cause.
Maintainability plays an essential part in keeping things cost-effective. And traceability is integral to ensuring great maintenance. But a few other components are also crucial for proper maintenance.
Walaa likes to take a modular approach to maintainability (not to be confused with the modular automation framework type also known as functional decomposition). For example, if she has to modify login functionality, she only has to make changes in one place (such as the location of her global variable assignment) for them to be carried out across the rest of the framework.
This also makes it easy to keep the framework backward-compatible with tests already developed. Shahin emphasizes that backward compatibility is key to great maintainability. Whenever he makes changes, whether it be adding a new feature or revamping an existing one, Shahin always ensures it is backward-compatible with previous iterations.
Reusability is one of the primary benefits of a successful test automation framework. It's important to prioritize this factor in your test automation strategy. By building automation frameworks and test scripts that can be implemented across numerous functions, you optimize their value.
Not only does reusability make testing quicker, but it also lowers maintenance costs. Reusability and maintenance are key to meeting both budget demands and rapid software release schedules. Together, they simplify processes for both developers and end-users -- extending the code or framework, reconfiguring aspects, and setting up other test cases all become much easier to accomplish.
In addition to framework and script reusability, you should also consider how your framework is optimized for testing across various device platforms. An ideal test automation framework will generally support a host of major applications, platforms, and operating systems (OS).
When contemplating this factor, you must try to anticipate what types of platform and OS your organization may use in the future. Technology stacks and digital ecosystems are everchanging, so it's prudent to select automation testing tools that are compatible with a variety of options. This is best in terms of both convenience and cost.
Minimal Manual Intervention
As we mentioned before, reducing manual work is a big reason why many organizations choose to employ a test automation framework. This factor goes hand-in-hand with ease of use. Since end-users should be able to use test automation frameworks without understanding them, they should have no need to go on the backend to debug something. The general rule of thumb is to always work towards unattended. Basically, this means that even if you only run automated tests once in a while, they should be able to operate unattended. Otherwise, they cannot support Continuous Testing.
Shahin uses Microsoft Word as an analogy: You simply click the "New Document" button and you can start writing from scratch. You can change your formatting, colors, and fonts with a simple click. No development needed. By having the necessary utilities in place already, anytime you add a new test, you only have to think about what you need to do instead of "reinventing the wheel" every time.
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A Dedicated Team
This final factor on our list is undoubtedly the most important one. Only a team of talented techies can make a successful test automation framework. Without the appropriate knowledge required, you can't get the other ingredients on this list -- you'll only have a recipe for disaster.
It's important to work with engineers, architects, and developers who know what they're doing. They should be experts in automation implementation. And they should be partners you can trust at every step of the process.