Automated software testing is defined as a process in which specialized tools are used to perform pre-scripted tests on a software app, prior to its release, to compare the actual outcomes against the predicted ones. Test automation allows for repetitive pre-determined testing procedures such as regression testing that is often laborious and time-consuming if done manually.
In other words, an efficient automation testing technique runs an app through its entire life cycle. This determines any defects or performance deficiencies, which in turn contributes to the overall quality and effectiveness of the app.
Test automation can be implemented by various methods, the most common ones are;
- Graphical user interface (GUI) testing where a graphical user environment is stimulated with certain keystrokes and mouse clicks. The response of the program against these stimulations is observed, recorded and analyzed.
- Application programming interface (API) driven testing or data driven testing allows for checking the impact on the system in response to input data changes. This type of testing is not concerned with user interface as it focuses more on how the data is received, inserted and interpreted at the API level and if there are problems with the data.
Advantages of automated software testing
Since its inception, automated software testing has enabled time-consuming, recurring, cumbersome tests to be carried out proficiently, thus, easing the actual testing procedure drastically. Other advantages of test automation include:
Optimization: As mentioned earlier, automation makes the testing process immensely efficient as it implements mandatory software testing, that is tedious and time-consuming, without requiring any human interventions, thus, saving time and resources.
Test automation, in the long run, also reduces the cost of employing a human team of testers and ensures high, and often long-term, ROI (return of investment). It also optimizes the overall software development life cycle (SDLC) by detecting bugs in the development stage prior to deployment to the customer.
Consistency and accuracy: A pre-determined set of instructions are followed while testing a certain feature thus yielding a consistent testing procedure. Precise testing specification also ensures marginally reduced chances of error compared to manual testing. Moreover, regression testing consistently and accurately verifies that the pre-existing software is functioning correctly post updating or alteration following a reliable testing protocol.
Testing flexibility and shelf life: Automated testing tools are developed to not only follow exact testing specifications but are also designed to be flexible enough to tackle future testing situations and manipulate unique products, while following strict security protocols. Therefore, perfect results can be generated invariably with the help of the testing software making it resourceful over a long period of time.
Reusability and continuity: Automated testing software can be reused countless number of times without being worn down thus justifying its initial cost. With consecutive bug detection and its subsequent recovery, the testing software takes note and is updated for future referral thereby enhancing the system with continuous usage. Furthermore, testing tools do not require human presence or monitoring which is why they can be run perennially.
Increased test coverage: In certain scenarios, such as software testing on multiple platforms or with different configurations, data-driven testing or in cases of regression testing, frequent testing has to be carried out which is a rigorous and time-consuming process if done manually. Automation of these testing procedures greatly improves the overall test coverage conserving time and resources.
Test execution and capabilities: Automated software testing allows multiple devices to execute test scripts simultaneously. This feature is known as distributed testing. In addition to this, automated testing programs are versatile; hence they can be run on various web browsers and mobile devices to test different web apps and mobile apps respectively. This flexibility is lacking in manual testing.
Disadvantages of automated software testing
Despite the numerous advantages of automation of the testing procedure, there are certain counteractive disadvantages as well that need to be addressed to generate a comprehensive argument. These include;
Test designing: There are two stages of automation testing; the design stage and the execution stage. While the execution phase runs independently, design stage comprises meticulous planning and proficient scripting. It is also a time consuming process as the testing script requires several reviews by a vigilant tester to eliminate any errors in the initial phases. These errors, if left undetected, can have drastic consequences in the later stages.
Test maintenance: In case of inflexible testing tools, it can be costly and time consuming to update the relevant tests to keep up with the upgraded application. Despite minor alterations in GUI, the test script has to be reevaluated thoroughly requiring additional time and resources. If the testing procedures are not updated consecutively, they will fail due to reformation issues in lieu of potential bugs in the system.
Reduced error identification: Automated regression tests the functioning of software after it has gone through certain changes, such as interfacing with other software. Regression testing follows pre-existing steps with the same set of test data which may cause it to overlook new bugs in the software. In addition, bugs are usually unveiled during exploratory testing when the app is tested using constantly changing sets of data thus identifying more loopholes in the system.
Occasionally unreliable: When considering automation, it should be noted that it is a set of fixed instructions coded manually and is unable to evolve independently. Due to this, automated testing at times can fail to highlight some issues that are exposed via manual testing.
Every aspect of technology, including automated software testing, has its pros and cons. However, the advantages of automated testing greatly outweigh the disadvantages if certain factors are addressed appropriately including;
- Mandatory manual/exploratory testing in addition to automatic testing
- Flexible testing tools that can be altered and reused in a short span of time
- Highly skilled testing engineers
- Randomness in data testing techniques to identify more bugs