After interviewing over 500 test engineers on my podcast, I've identified the four most frequently mentioned causes of test automation flakiness. These apply universally, regardless of the test automation framework you're using.
1) Not having A Robust Locator Strategy
When creating an automation test script, a key component that test engineers must focus on is the locator strategy. Depending solely on superficial attributes of an application, like class names, can yield inconsistent results since these can change throughout the application's lifecycle.
Standardizing object identification using more dependable attributes such as IDs or other unchanging properties is strongly advised. With a solid locator strategy in place, the reliability and efficiency of your automation tests improve, ensuring more consistent and precise outcomes.
In my conversation with Geetha Achutuni, she shared that her team's successful strategy was adding unique attributes to page elements. This simplifies the task of the automation code in locating the elements and significantly reduces flakiness.
Besides using unique attributes, Geetha suggests two additional measures to refine your locator strategy:
1. Opt for standard locators like ID, name, CSS selector, and link text. These are generally more dependable than alternatives like XPath.
2. Refrain from using link text as a locator. Since link text can vary, it might lead to multiple test failures. Instead, utilize the complete text of the link or its href attribute.
2) Not understanding Synchronization
A pivotal element in a successful automation test script is synchronization.
Alan Richardson, better known as “the evil tester,” highlighted four fundamental activities that every automation flow should encompass the following:
- Navigation: The process of moving within an application.
- Interrogation: Retrieving information from a page.
- Synchronization: Waiting for specific events.
Alan emphasized that synchronization is the aspect most individuals often misinterpret.
Several guests on my show have suggested various synchronization methods commonly available in automation testing tools:
- Verifying the existence of an element.
- Confirming the absence of an element.
- Waiting for an element to appear.
- Waiting for an element to disappear.
By integrating these methods, your automation script can judiciously wait for the application to attain the required state before proceeding. Mastery over synchronization can notably enhance the reliability and efficiency of your automation tests.
Furthermore, this mastery helps sidestep the infamous ‘sleep' command, which should be reserved for exceptionally rare situations.
3) Bad Test Data
The efficacy of your tests hinges on the quality of your test data.
Test data is the cornerstone of the testing process. Without it, your test scripts would be navigating a void.
In my book, “Automation Awesomeness,” I underscore the paramount importance of a robust test data strategy. Test data, which consists of input values or conditions for executing test cases, must be varied and exhaustive to guarantee comprehensive testing coverage.
By dedicating effort to assembling a diverse set of test data, you can assess the application's resilience and gain assurance in its performance across various scenarios.
In episode 282 of my automation podcast, Huw Price advocated for a proactive approach to testing data, emphasizing its consideration even before development begins.
For example, when observing our most successful clients, their teams initiate at the project's outset, gleaning the necessary test data requirements from users. They then diligently craft a dynamic test and development dataset. This proactive approach is invaluable. It's achievable with existing technology and merely requires a shift in mindset. ~Huw Price, Managing Director at Curiosity Software (Episode 282: testguild.com/a282)
Recognize that the challenge of producing quality test data isn't unique to you. Teams have grappled with this for years, and a burgeoning array of tools is available today.
Exploring these tools can alleviate many immediate and long-term challenges, saving time and stress.
Chiara Colombi, in our conversation about “Faking Data in Testing,” emphasized,
“The onus shouldn't fall solely on developers or testers to generate or anonymize data in-house. Given the vastness and intricacy of data, it's unreasonable to expect individuals to ensure data privacy and security within testing environments. It's worth investing time in a specialized tool. ~Chiara Colombi – Episode 405”
4) Bad Environments
The environment in which testing occurs is pivotal.
It's more than just a platform for your application under tests; your testing environment should closely mirror the conditions your application will face in the real world.
Many guests on my podcasts recommend harnessing the adaptability of the cloud to emulate real-world scenarios, enhancing the authenticity of tests.
Engineering leaders need to approach testing environments with a dose of realism. This means simulating actual use cases, establishing isolated systems that reflect the deployment environment, and monitoring function calls and data interactions during tests. Such a meticulous approach can reduce production issues, optimizing system performance, reliability, and user experience.
A valuable suggestion is to explore on-demand test environments.
These temporary, fully functional environments allow independent feature testing without external dependencies. Once testing is complete, the environment can be shut down.
- Advantages of an Automated Testing Environment:
- Decreased reliance on manual processes.
- Cost-saving in operations.
- Minimization of human-induced errors.
- Adoption of an ‘environment-as-a-service' model for the organization.
- Removal of obstacles that hinder the scaling of automation testing.
- Simplified process for developers and testers to establish their test environments
Defeating the 4 Destroyers of Automation Testing
In summary, you can overcome the typical pitfalls of automation test scripts by embracing a dependable locator strategy, honing synchronization methods, utilizing varied test data, and establishing authentic testing environments. This results in streamlined testing, reduced production errors and ultimately ensures the success of the application or feature under scrutiny.
I trust you found value in this article.
For deeper insights into test automation and more, don't miss my book, “Automation Awesomeness: 260 Actionable Affirmations to Improve Your QA and Automation Testing Skills“