The developer's guide to QA automation

It’s always wise to run testing on a program before initially releasing it. You would otherwise be risking a low quality program that’s riddled with bugs and which operates on limited functionality. QA automation can help turn a piece of software that’s unpolished into something your users will love.

In this article, we take a look at some different types of testing, implementation techniques, and things to keep in mind as you test.

What is QA?

QA, or quality assurance, is the part of the testing process that helps to ensure that the best possible product or service is delivered to end users. In the programming sense, we want to release a streamlined product with zero bugs. QA practices offer tools that help teams achieve the required level of software reliability.

Quality assurance, however, does not only include product testing. While testing is an important part of it, QA focuses on improving the overall software development process. Adding checks and balances into the software development process will reduce future errors and make the process more efficient. As a result, the end product should naturally see fewer bugs on release.

The QA process is quickly becoming a standard part of development workflows and should be considered in any new software project.

Manual QA vs QA Automation

When planning out QA for your software, you should be aware of the differences between manual QA and QA Automation (QAA).

Manual QA

A manual testing process is a common starting place for an existing program. It’s not only used when there isn’t any automated testing, however. No matter how efficient automated software may have become, there are instances where manual quality assurance is still the better option.

For instance, when it comes to user interface testing, having actual users on hand to test a program will offer you a lot more information than a computer can. Human testers can share their thoughts concerning layout and ease of use. A computer, on the other hand, isn’t able to collect qualitative information. A test automation framework would simply perform the step-by-step commands laid out in the test and provide no subjective information about the user experience.

Exploratory testing is another area that’s hard to replicate with an automated test. You will want your QA colleagues to test the app in whatever way they choose, in order to uncover bugs that you might otherwise not think to look for. There's no easy way to program an automated test to run similar random scenarios.

QA Automation (QAA)

On the other hand, automated quality assurance relies on a dedicated program to perform tests on your software. QAA requires a testing tool or framework that is used to orchestrate and track all the testing scenarios.

Each test must be written step-by-step based on the process and results you’re looking for. Once test scripts are written (or adapted from existing manual testing scripts), you'll link up the framework to your software to perform those tests. The framework will run each test as written and report back errors as they are found.

Why is QAA important?

QAA can help get your program out the quickly, with as few errors as possible.

One of the biggest perks of automated QA testing is that it can be used to run many tests at a much faster rate than manual testing. QAA testing can also repeat tests with ease and, in turn, offer more data through repetition. As an added benefit, this type of testing also automates a lot of the tedious and repetitive tasks that you might otherwise need to perform.

Whilst repeated manual testing can introduce user error, automated tests are typically more accurate. Improved accuracy means better results, which increases confidence in the quality of your software. All this leads to deliver a more robust product, that your users will love, and you'll have no fear in improving over time.

QAA categories

While setting up a test plan for QAA, you'll want to consider whether you want to conduct frontend, backend, or mobile automation.

Frontend automation

As the name implies, frontend automation testing is all about what the end-user sees when using your app. Also known as the presentation layer, frontend automation tests the graphical user interface (GUI) and how a user might interpret it.

This area of automation tests the functionality of graphs, menus, forms, button presses, and commands that an end-user may give to the app. Frontend testing should also verify that the user interface is aligned appropriately on the screen or in the browser, that navigation links work correctly, and that load times are reasonable.

Backend automation

By contrast, backend automation testing looks at everything under the hood. In fact, with backend testing, you don't even need to use the GUI. backend testing typically looks at the program’s database, application programming interfaces (APIs), and servers.

This type of testing is best used when checking for functionality that doesn’t get surfaced directly to the users. Such functionality can include backend functions, asynchronous tasks, and API calls. Eliminating issues in the backend will improve your system's overall functional stability and robustness.

Mobile automation

If looking solely at a mobile app, there are frameworks available such as Appium and TestProject that will connect with a real or emulated mobile device. These frameworks specialise in testing both the frontend and backend of a mobile application and often work with major mobile operating systems like Android and iOS.

QA automation techniques

When creating tests for your new software application, there are two main ways to do so:

Test code automation

By far the more common method, most frameworks require the use of code for QA test creation. In this way, programmers have complete control over each step of the test process and can make tests as complex as they desire.

With so many programming languages available, test frameworks typically support multiple languages for test creation. This way, you can use your preferred programming language (or maybe even the language you created your program in) to write your test scripts.

No-code test automation

A few frameworks support the creation of QA tests without the need for any coding experience. One such interface is the TestProject test recorder. This software allows you to build a step-by-step test using the TestProject app and then see how it performs.

The downside of no-code test automation lies in the limitations brought on by the no-code test automation program itself. While a programmer can use such a service to create simple tests, more complex tests that are specific to your program are likely outside of the scope of what no-code test automation can do.

What to consider when using QAA

Here are a couple of helpful tips for getting started with automated quality assurance.

Think about what you're trying to achieve

When creating a test plan for your automated QA, be mindful of whatever you’re trying to achieve with your tests. It's imperative that you have specific criteria to test against so that you know your QA testing is a success. Keep your objective at the forefront, whether it’s to have less than a particular number of defects or have a minimal number of bugs opened in your tracking tool of choice.

Consider how you’ll measure the impact of QAA

QAA, if used correctly, should lead to faster releases and, in turn, accelerate development. Having a software program perform a range of QA tests will quickly identify bugs and lead to faster fixes. Testing can occur on one section of code while you’re working on writing the next part of your program. This increases the overall efficiency of the project and can lead to a quicker product release.

Success can be measured by assessing how frequently you can release, and how many fewer bugs are identified in each of those releases.

Agree on testing conventions with your team

If you're working with a team of programmers, you'll want to work out the aspects of testing with the rest of the group.

For instance, you may decide to start using test-driven development (TDD) as a programming approach. You may also consider creating a plan to build tests for any bugs that your team fixes to avoid extra steps in future programs or iterations of your code (referred to as regression testing).

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