Creating a web-based application can be a time-consuming process, and errors can happen along the way. To make sure every link and feature works as intended, it’s wise to test every possible scenario. Automated testing allows computer programs to do a lot of the testing for you, allowing you to focus on feature development.
This article discusses the importance of web app test automation and presents the best automation frameworks to get end-to-end testing done.
What is web app test automation?
Web app test automation involves using a software program to perform automated tests that can identify bugs in web applications.
You may already be testing your web-based app, but doing so manually. While manual testing allows you to check an application’s individual aspects and get user feedback, it also has its limitations: it’s both time-consuming and relies wholly on human judgement.
By contrast, test automation allows you to repeat tests multiple times by using a framework to ensure each step of the test is followed. Automated testing also frees up engineers to work on other parts of the project.
What’s more, you can continuously run automated tests as software updates are released, which ensures that you’re not introducing new bugs into your app. Since you can build tests into a framework, you can run those tests any time you make a software change with just the push of a button.
To perform automated testing, software and QA engineers need to choose the test automation framework that best suits their needs. With several automated testing tools available, we set some criteria to identify the best frameworks out there.
Framework selection criteria
Frameworks were required to meet three criteria to be considered for this list of the best frameworks for testing web-based applications.
The framework must be free to download and use
Creating a web application requires considerable investment, and just the costs for testing can add up quickly. Therefore, we consider it vital that a test automation framework be free to download and allows access to all of its features.
A framework based on a subscription model or one that has key features locked behind a paywall is a hindrance and also slows down the process of getting started. In a company, delays can come in the forms of purchase order requests and justification of use. With free tools, the time you need to get started is limited only by your download speed.
The framework must be open-source
Open-source software, or OSS, provides users the ability to access any part of a framework’s code and modify it. In practice, engineers and programmers will offer feedback on an open-source program’s functionality. These same professionals can also make their own additions to the program, with a view to helping other users.
Programs that use open-source code tend to generate a community of software developers who contribute to the open-source project and have a vested interest in its success. These same people stand behind the open-source software and are often quick to offer suggestions and guidance when asked.
While most software developers won’t need to access the core of the open-source software, the option is there. In practice, however, if you hit an issue that requires heavy debugging, you’re better off if you can see the framework’s code to trace the function calls responsible for the issue.
Another benefit of using open-source software is the freedom to stick with a version of the software that works best for you and use it as long as needed without concern. With closed-source programs, you’re subject to changes the developers make, whether you like them or not.
The framework must be actively maintained and support all major browsers
A test automation framework won’t be useful to many users if it’s not compatible with the latest versions of the most popular browsers out there (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari).
Browsers are no different than other software applications in that they see regular updates. Frameworks that don’t accommodate such changes may lack features that could have a negative effect on the framework’s ability to run correctly. A lack of updates to the framework might also mean that your web app could have compatibility issues with a newer browser version that you won’t be able to detect.
Regular test automation framework updates are also a good sign that the framework’s development team are actively involved in the project and won’t jump ship any time soon.
Our top 4 frameworks for testing web-based applications
With these criteria in mind, here are the four web app testing frameworks that you should consider today.
Cypress was built from the ground up and not Selenium-based like many other automated testing programs out there. Released in 2017, Cypress has plenty of documentation on how to use it.
Of course, Cypress is completely free to download and use. It is open source and has seen regular updates from the time of its public release. The automated test software runs in Chrome (including Electron), Firefox, and Edge browsers.
For more information about Cypress, check out our in-depth guide and information on getting started.
As Microsoft’s latest open source test library for automating web-based applications, Playwright does have the support of a large organisation behind it. While this may be a red flag for some, the program remains open-source and flexible to use. There’s no fee for downloading or using the software, and new versions roll out about once a month to keep the framework fresh.
Playwright installs very smoothly with one command downloading all the prerequisite files for each of the three Playwright-supported browsers. Better yet, any test you write for one particular browser can also be used across the others with minimal work.
Selenium WebDriver is part of the greater Selenium suite of tools designed to automate web-based testing.
It should come as no surprise that Selenium is both free and open-source to meet the criteria of this list. The test automation framework launched all the way back in 2007 and still receives regular updates. Thanks to its track record, Selenium has a Google group full of people with questions and answers.
The WebDriver framework offers a lot of versatility, enabling software developers to create tests using programming languages such as Java, Ruby, Python, C#, and PHP.
Additionally, Selenium WebDriver is compatible with all of the popular browsers out there, including Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox, and Opera. This makes Selenium useful if your app needs to work with all those browsers. On the negative side, Selenium’s setup is quite complicated as each browser requires specific drivers to run.
Specific requirements for each browser make WebDriver a challenge to use as well. As a result, WebDriver isn’t an ideal framework choice unless you need to test the gamut of browsers or your company has already invested in the Selenium Test Suite.
Robot Framework may be used for test automation but was created with robot process automation in mind. The framework’s developers are active, providing frequent updates for users. Robot Framework is entirely open source and free to use.
This automated test software is built around keyword-based syntax for test cases and does not require knowledge of a programming language to use. That said, you can extend test scripts with libraries that use Java or Python. Users have the ability to develop tools and libraries to further enhance Robot Framework’s functionality.
Depending on the library you choose to implement with Robot Framework, the automated test software is usable with theoretically any browser. Many software developers use the Selenium library, offering flexibility to run on any browser.
Uncover email and SMS testing issues with Mailosaur
Regardless of whether you decide on Cypress, Playwright, Selenium WebDriver, or Robot Framework for testing your web-based app, Mailosaur is there to help with SMS and email testing. You can use our virtual servers to uncover bugs in areas such as account creation and email verification.