According to InfoWorld’s survey, companies that run more than 50% of their tests in an automated mode significantly speed up test cycles and improve test coverage. It is quite logical that they find errors much earlier than those who use only manual methods. All this leads to bringing the software product to the market faster than competitors without compromising quality and with minimal effort and money. So what is automated testing and its life cycle (ATLC)?
The goal of automation is to transfer standard, repetitive tasks of a QA team into automatic mode, eliminating routine and optimizing the schedule for working on an IT project. However, it does not mean a complete rejection of manual methods since redundant automation can lead to serious problems. Most often, different methods are combined depending on the specifics and complexity of the procedures.
This type of testing involves tracking changes while working on a project: from familiarization with business rules to analyzing results. For this purpose, the process is divided into successive stages, and a different set of works and priority tasks is determined for each of them. The combination of such planned activities is called the Automation Testing Life Cycle (ATLC).
Following ATLC allows you to:
- Standardize the structure, all team actions, and the results obtained.
- Plan, distribute tasks among team members, and make changes to the project schedule efficiently.
- Control the quality of tasks and track the progress of the project.
- Ensure transparency of processes for all interested parties: performers, managers, partners, and the customer.
- Keep in touch with the customer, notifying them of the intermediate test results.
- Get the job done faster, ensuring that your product is released to the market on time.
- Minimize the risks and costs of launching the project thanks to the detailed study of each stage.
All labor-intensive processes have different sequences of steps/phases, including development, where testing is an integral part. In general, ATLC allows you to identify the critical points in the automation process in advance and focus on the actual problems.
The 8 Key Steps of ATLC
1. Requirement Analysis
The first phase involves analyzing requirements, functions, and rules and aims to determine the viability of automation. In other words, testers need to find out what conditions the new software will be used in and what problems it should solve.
Testers analyze the architecture requirements, which detail how to develop any feature. System requirements, consisting of functional and non-functional specifications, are obligatory to follow as well. They are the foundation for creating a product, and therefore must be tested.
Based on the requirements, a feasibility study of testing methods is carried out. The essential details are combined in the Requirements Traceability Matrix. In the absence of the necessary data, the team asks for clarifications from the customer or developers.
2. Choosing an Automation Scope
After collecting, organizing, and analyzing the data, testers determine the types and scope of tests with which they will work. As mentioned earlier, not all of them are profitable to switch to automatic mode. Therefore, this stage requires careful study.
The following are subject to automation:
- unit tests aimed at checking the functionality of a part of the code;
- priority functions with a high probability of failures;
- regression tests that check the correctness of functions;
- integration tests that check the work of individual modules as a group;
- performance tests for which manual methods are not applied;
- repetitive test scripts that run frequently;
- tests of basic functionality regarding simple functions.
User experience (UX) cannot be automated, as many aspects of it require purely manual verification, for example, registration on the site. Testers do not recommend automating testing of functions that have no value, as well as functionality at the development stage. Tests without clear results and those that are performed half-manually are also not subject to automation.
3. Choice of tools
The tools you have chosen to use significantly affect the accuracy of testing provided. It makes this stage one of the most important in the entire cycle. When choosing tools, testers start from:
- The requirements established at the first stage;
- the budget allocated by the client for testing;
- technologies on which the project is created;
- the type and complexity of the tests;
- the competencies of the testing team;
- a support team that can provide assistance in case of problems
Selenium is a common tool for testing web applications on different platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) and browsers. It is the basis for many other software testing tools. In terms of flexibility, it is similar to Appium, a tool for working with hybrid and mobile (iOS, Android) web-format applications. Another versatile tool is Ranorex, suitable for mobile, web, and desktop products.
Other popular tools valued by testers for their convenience and reliability: Apache, Katalon Studio, Cucumber, Leapwork, Subject7, HPE, TestComplete, etc. Each testing team has different preferred tools.
The next step is drawing up a plan/strategy. Testers determine how the automation goal can be achieved, considering the characteristics of the previously selected tools. In simple words, all the ideas obtained in the previous stages are combined and documented during planning.
The plan deals with all aspects of testing: standards for conducting procedures, data requirements, hardware and software, bug tracking system, change management, and environment for finding bugs. Next, risks and limitations associated with the procedure are recorded, and a test calendar is drawn up, which can subsequently be adjusted. After this, the plan is agreed upon with the leaders on the part of both the contractor and the customer.
5. Creating test cases
When you have a testing strategy, you can go to another crucial stage, writing test cases and scripts. It implies detailed elaboration of all tests that have been chosen for automation and the selection of general working methods.
Characteristics of test cases:
- simplicity and clarity for all team members;
- contrast to other test cases;
- maximum compliance with the established requirements;
- identifiability and reusability;
- structuredness and documentability.
Upon the work completion, the finished test cases must be approved by the head. As a result, they are all combined into test units, which will be run later.
6. Building a test environment
This step is very valuable because the QA team cannot start testing without a suitable environment. It implies setting up the software and hardware environment to execute test cases. The main goal is to create a test environment that will cover all the necessary scenarios.
Experts make decisions about configurations and the setup of support items for test execution. The test environment configuration should simulate a production environment where any issues related to the relevant area can be identified.
The configuration concerns the following areas: test data, system, modules, applications, database server, front-end work environment, client OS, browser, hardware (server OS), network (Internet, LAN Wifi, private network), and documentation (installation guides, configuration, etc.). Testers provide the setup together with other specialized IT professionals, including those who develop the project and administer the system.
7. Test Execution
All steps led to this stage, product testing. Ideally, it is necessary to execute all selected test cases in a limited time. As an option, batch testing may be provided.
The test script should cover all the requirements set, be stable and ready to work in different conditions, browsers, and platforms. This is the only way to assess the correctness of the product operation objectively. Any functional issues are noted in the bug report.
8. Analysis of results and reporting
The life cycle ends with the collection of all data and its analysis. The goal is to identify those areas where the most problems have arisen. Based on this, the advisability of performing additional tests is discussed.
Each of the interested parties receives reports with results and their assessment. They must give the client an idea of what areas need improvement and what risks can be reduced.
What are the benefits of automated testing:
- Simulation of a high load, which almost corresponds to a real situation, including in multi-user conditions.
- The ability to test the app in several environments and various configurations.
- Eliminate the routine since the code for the script is written once, and it runs automatically on schedule.
- High execution speed: in 99% of cases, the bot passes the test faster than a manual tester.
- Ability to use the code repeatedly, including when introducing new functionality.
So, thorough preparation for testing and its correct implementation allows you to speed up finding errors several times without compromising quality. Ready-made scripts are launched without additional modifications, so the risk of the human factor is completely eliminated. All this makes automated testing an excellent tool to control the quality of software products.