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What is test automation and why we need it?

If software can do anything then, why not make software test software?

Does this statement sound logical to you? If yes, then congratulations, you are now thinking about automation testing.

Imagine yourself first day at your job as an SQA. You are presented with the application to be tested. It’s an ERP application containing 100s of forms and thousands of reports. You begin your exploratory testing by opening a form which contains around 50 different fields. You try to enter random data in this form which took around 20 minutes. Then you press submit. Wolla!! An error message is shown which looks like an unhandled exception. You become very happy. You proudly note down the steps and report the bug in your bug management system. Great effort, you feel really confident and energetic. You continue the testing until the day ends and find some more bugs. “Amazing first day”, you thought.

Now comes the next day, the developer has fixed the issue and releases the new version of build. You test the same form with same steps and you found that bug is fixed. You mark it fixed. Great effort. You have contributed to the quality of the product by identifying that bug and since this bug is fixed, the quality is improved.

Now comes the third day, developer has again released a newer version. Now you again have to test that form to make sure no regression issue is found. Same 20 minutes. Now you feel a little bored.

Now imagine 1 month from now on, newer versions are constantly releasing and on every release, you have to test this lengthy form plus 100 of other forms like this, just to make sure no regression is there.

Now you feel angry. You feel tired. You begin to skip steps. You fill around only 50% of the total fields. Your accuracy is not the same, your energy is not the same and definitely your steps are not the same.

And one day, the client reports the same bug in the same form. You feel pathetic. You feel unconfident now. You think you are not competent enough. Managers are questioning your ability.

I have news for you; this is the story of 90% of the manual testers out there. You are no different.

Regression issues are the most painful issues. We are humans. We cannot do the same things with same energy, speed and accuracy every day. This is what machines do. This is what automation is required for. To repeat the same steps with same speed, accuracy and energy as they were repeated the first time. I hope you get my point.


Whenever such situation arises, you should automate your test case. Test automation is your friend. It will help you to focus on new functionality while taking care about the regressions. With automation you can fill that form in less than 3 minutes. The script will fill all the fields and will tell you the result along with screenshots. In case of failure, it can pinpoint the location where the test case failed, thus helping you to reproduce it with ease.

Some other scenarios where we need Automation
The above scenario is not the only case when you will need automation testing. There are situations, which cannot be tested manually. For example,

1. Comparing two images pixel by pixel
2. Comparing two spreadsheets containing thousands of rows and columns.
3. Testing the application under the load of 100,000 users.
4. Performance Benchmarks.
5. Testing the application on different browsers and on different operating systems in parallel.

These situations require, and should be, tested by tools.

A simple example of Test Automation
When you are testing a software (on the web or desktop), you normally use a mouse and keyboard to perform your steps. Automation tool mimics the same steps by using a scripting or a programming language.

For example, if you are testing a calculator and the test case is that you have to add two numbers and see the result. The script will perform the same steps by making use of your mouse and keyboard.

The example is below.

Manual Test Case Steps:

1. Launch Calculator
2. Press 2
3. Press +
4. Press 3
5. Press =
6. The screen should display 5.
7. Close Calculator.
Automation Script:

//the example is written in MS Coded UI using c# language.
public void TestCalculator()
//launch the application
var app = ApplicationUnderTest.Launch(“C:\\Windows\\System32\\calc.exe”);

//do all the operations

//evaluate the results
Assert.AreEqual(“5”, txtResult.DisplayText,”Calculator is not showing 5);

//close the application

The above script is just the duplication of your manual steps. The script is easy to create and easy to understand.

What are Assertions

The second last line of the script needs some explanation.

Assert.AreEqual(“5″, txtResult.DisplayText,”Calculator is not showing 5);

In every test case, we have some expected or predicted result in the end. In the above script we have the expectation that “5” should be shown on the screen. The actual outcome is the result which is displayed on the screen. In every test case we compare the expected outcome with actual outcome.

Same goes with automation testing. The only difference is, when we do that comparison in test automation, it is called something else in every tool.

Some tools call it “Assertion”, some call it “check point” and some call it “validation”. But basically this is the comparison. If this comparison fails, for e.g. screen is showing 15 instead of 5 then this assertion/checkpoint/validation fails and your test case is marked failed. When a test case is failing due to the assertion that means you have detected a bug through test automation. You report it to your bug management system just like you normally do in manual testing.

In the above script, we have performed the assertion in the second last line. 5 is the expected outcome, txtResult. DisplayText is the actual outcome and if they are not equal, we will be shown a message that “Calculator is not showing 5”.

Automation Testing is the Cost-effective method for regression testing

Test automation costs are higher initially. There is the cost of the tool, then there is a cost of the test automation resource and his/her training. But when scripts are ready, they can be executed hundreds of times repeatedly with the same accuracy and rather quickly. This also saves many hours of manual testing. So the cost gradually decreases, and ultimately it becomes the cost-effective method of regression testing.

I can sum up this article for you with 7 points.

Test Automation:

1. Is the testing which is done programmatically.
2. Uses tool to control the execution of tests.
3. Compares expected outcomes with actual outcomes (Assertions).
4. Can automate some repetitive but necessary tasks (e.g. Your regression test cases)
5. Can automate some tasks which are difficult to do manually ( e.g. Load testing scenarios)
6. Scripts, can run quickly and repeatedly
7. Is cost effective in the long run.

Test Automation is explained simply in this article, but that doesn’t mean it is always simple to do. There are challenges, risks and many other obstacles. There are numerous ways by which test automation can go wrong, but if all goes well, then the benefits of test automation are huge.

Still to come in this series:

In the upcoming tutorials, we will talk about many aspects related to automation testing.

These include:

1. Types of automated tests and some Misconceptions about automation testing
2. How to introduce test automation in your organization and avoiding common pitfalls when doing test automation.
3. The tool selection process and comparison of various automation tools.
4. Script Development and Automation Frameworks with examples.
5. Execution and reporting of Test Automation
6. Best Practices and Strategies of Test Automation

About the author: Thomas Vinod, who is working as a Test Automation Lead in a leading MNC, is helping us for this “getting started with automation testing” in-depth tutorials series. His extensive experience in test automation field includes – initiating test automation on a project, designing test automation frameworks and best practices in order to carry out test automation for the long run, managing a centralized test automation department in company and automating Build Acceptance testing. He is using Microsoft Test Manager, MS Coded UI Test, Selenium and Visual Studio Tools for Test Automation.

You can suggest what other topics you want to know about in test automation in the comments section. I would love to have your feedback.


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