What Is Test Automation? Definition, Process, & Test Types

What Is Test Automation? Definition, Process, & Test Types

Manual testing is time-consuming, and your CI/CD pipeline struggles without speed, but you want to deliver robust and reliable software to your customers. How do you do that? Through test automation. Although it can be pricier initially, it ends up being cost-effective in the end if done right. 

This article covers what test automation is, the different types of automated tests you can run, and how to make test automation more effective for your teams.   

What Is Test Automation?

Test automation, or automation testing, is a process of running automated tests, managing test data, and utilizing those results to improve software quality. Helping ensure teams maintain a high standard of quality throughout all the points of the pipeline, automation testing requires the commitment of the entire software production team. It offers more efficiency and faster time-to-market for your projects, as well as ROI for QA teams. 

We already know from our Staging Environment article that continuous delivery is about delivering new code releases to customers as fast as possible. Test automation helps with that by improving quality with speed. But we have to remember that not all testing can or should be automated. There are many different types of tests, so you must focus on automating the ones that slow you down the most or the overwhelming manual ones.   

Test Automation Process

There are three main steps to a test automation process:

  1. Prepare - most tests require the environment to be in a particular state before an action can take place, so it may need some setup. So you must prepare the state, the environment, and the test data. 
  2. Take action - once in the necessary state or environment, the tester runs the test. This is done either by running the code directly or calling an application’s program interface (API). 
  3. Report results - a result is a simple pass or fail system. When tests sometimes don’t run or are inconclusive, the automation system has a complete log developers can review to find the issue. Once a fix occurs, they’ll be able to replay the scenario.  

Test Automation Criteria

To automate tests, they need to meet specific criteria; otherwise, you risk paying more than you save. Depending on your circumstances, your criteria might be different, but below are the general three-step criteria for test automation:  

  1. Repeatability - a test should be repeatable because it’s time-consuming and useless to automate a test that will only be run once. When the test is complete, return the environment to the initial state. A repeatable test has the following three steps: 
    - Set up the test and include the environment and data
    - Execute the function to measure the result
    - Clean up the environment and data
  2. Determinant - a function is determinant when you have the same outcome every time you have the same input. The same applies to automated tests. Software may use a higher number of variable inputs, making it difficult to determine a specific outcome or even to have the same result over time. To prevent unexpected results, isolation is the way to go.
  3. Unopinionated - while user feedback is crucial, it can’t be automated, unfortunately. Usability testing or beta testing work better for matters of opinion. 

All Types of Automated Tests You Can Run

Below is a list of tests that can be automated:

1. Unit Testing

Unit testing implies testing the behavior of a single, isolated (from the rest of your software) unit or function of your application. These types of tests don’t depend on file storage, databases, or external APIs. Its main purpose is to show you how each application component works without interfering with anything else. It essentially begs the question: does input for a function match the expected output? 

Unit tests work great for sensitive calculations, and these types of tests are inexpensive and provide a high ROI. 

2. Integration Testing

For integration testing, sometimes called an end-to-end test, you test how units work as a group and how units are integrated logically. These tests need to interact with external dependencies, making them more difficult to set up. When dealing with resources outside of your control, you may create fake external resources. You must, however, always have enough control over your environment to explicitly create each scenario.  

3. Smoke Testing

A smoke test’s purpose is to ensure all services and dependencies are up and running so testers can continue to conduct further tests. Usually performed after maintenance or deployment, this basic test isn’t an all-out functional test. It can be manually run or run as part of automated deployment.

4. Automated Acceptance Testing

An automated acceptance test (AAT) ensures that a feature does what it’s supposed to do. It uses behavior-driven development (BDD) and automated acceptance test-driven development (AATDD) to create the acceptance test before the feature is developed. The business, developers, and QA testers must write these AAT tests as a team to agree upon the feature functions. They can serve as regression tests in the future.

5. Regression Testing

You have to write regression tests after the fact if you don’t have AATs in place. They are performed whenever there is a bug fix in the software or when changes are made to the existing functionality of the software. Regression tests essentially ensure that application features aren’t affected and are still working correctly following a code change

However, this type of testing can introduce a lot of overhead, as software development life cycles (SDLC) are short and changes happen frequently, especially in Agile.  

6. Performance Testing

Performance testing tests some aspects of an application’s performance. That can either be testing the response time, speed, stability, scalability, or reliability of a software application under a particular workload. Its main purpose is to identify and ultimately eliminate any performance bottlenecks in the software application.

How to Make Test Automation more Effective

It’s important first to identify what you want to achieve with automation before deciding to do it, as a poorly organized automation strategy can end up being more costly than automation itself. Next, you must decide which test(s) you’re going to automate because you won’t be successful with automation or get your expected ROI without the proper test practices in place. 

Pro tip: things that work in a particular environment may not work in another one. Also, make sure to consider the following factors when deciding what to automate:

  • application under test
  • environment
  • hardware dependencies
  • potential impacts.

Once you have decided, it’s time to prioritize and divide tasks amongst team members, though not before you have identified the outcome you wish to achieve through automation. You can then follow the three steps that are part of the automation process mentioned above, and don’t forget to review tests periodically to identify tests that are no longer relevant to your current test cycle. 

Finally, you must remember not to automate every test. Automating each one results in increased costs and efforts. Additionally, your team might lose focus regarding important tests if everything becomes automated. With an Environment as a Service (EaaS) solution, you can take some of the worries off your shoulders because it’s an all-in-one application environment. It helps you automate what you need and scale what you don’t. 

Use Test Automation, Be Automatically Cool 

If done right, the benefits of test automation are huge. Most modern DevOps and Agile teams today have automation testing from the get-go, but not enough teams have an EaaS solution. 

Bunnyshell has the perfect EaaS. And we already know that when you’re not able to produce isolated environments, this will hold your business back in more ways than one. An EaaS is what you need to cut downtime and deliver reliable applications and services at high velocity

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