Here are the top test automation testing trends 2021 predictions you need to know as a tester.
First, the obvious…
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies had to go 100% digital in 2020.
This has also factored into my automation testing trends 2021 list. (FYI see how I did with my last year's predictions)
Covid-19 has only accelerated digital transformation, causing everyone to start porting things over to apps and software as the only way to interact with customers.
This, in turn, has increased the amount of software testing needed.
A recent Applitools survey showed that with more and more companies moving towards digital transformation, it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain quality when they need to cover an average of 300,000 pages and screens daily for a typical app.
Enter the need for more automation in the New Year.
1) More automation
My first prediction for software testing trends is the need for more automation in 2021.
The rest of this article will cover what types of automation you should know to succeed, so be sure to read all the way to the end.
2) Accessibility testing
With more companies going digital, there’s a need to create software that is accessible to all our customers.
The need for accessibility testing will be even more significant in 2021.
Individuals who have disabilities are relying on digital services more than ever before for everyday activities (remote work, education, healthcare, banking, shopping, etc.)
That means you should be software testing the accessibility of all the software processes your team is developing.
2021 will see a jump in companies investing in accessibility testing to improve their customer experience.
Covid-19 has also caused everyone to begin moving towards Cloud-based solutions.
3) Cloud-based software development and testing
My third trend is to focus on learning as much as possible about Cloud-based software development and testing.
According to an article on PWC.com, Cloud spending rose 37% to $29 billion during the first quarter of 2020.
This trend is likely to persist in 2021, as the transition to virtual work underscores the urgency for scalable, secure, reliable, cost-effective off-premises technology.
Gartner estimated a rise of 19% for Cloud spending for the full year.
This prediction signals a need to shift your focus to Cloud-based development and quality assurance.
Automation will be a crucial driver for this transition.
With the need for more automation, more companies will begin using Cloud-hosted, Web, and mobile application automated testing platforms like Sauce Labs to run against all the different devices that customers are using to interact with them.
If you haven’t been creating automation that can run in parallel against different devices and browsers, 2021 will highlight this need.
What will also follow is the need to automate functional tests and non-functional testing, including:
- security testing
- performance testing
- accessibility testing
- Chaos Engineering
- penetration testing
- robotic process automation (RPA)
Moving to the Cloud will also open the door for more Cloud-based automation tools and collaboration tools to embrace the culture of Agile development for remote teams.
4) Cloud-based collaboration testing tools
Some examples of Cloud-based collaboration tools that will bloom in 2021 are:
Visual Validation tools, which allow teams to leverage AI and human thought to collaborate, and verify that the software they are creating is functioning how they expect.
Applitools’ Ultrafast Visual Grid farms out screenshot jobs to a grid of browsers in the Cloud.
It then generates images of web pages on all the browser types, viewport sizes, and emulated devices that a tester requests.
Also, being able to work seamlessly on a remote team requires Cloud-native test tools.
An excellent example of this is the test tool TestProject.io.
TestProject is a free test platform that has made collaboration and community one of their firm’s core principles.
Having all your digital automation assets living on the Cloud makes it easier for everyone to access and collaborate on automation in one central location. There is also an ability to create custom add-ons to share with your team rather than starting coding from scratch.
TestProject defines an add-on as a collection of coded actions you can use within your tests.
That means there's a lot of built-in functionality available to you.
TestProject basically remedies many things you would otherwise have to code from scratch when creating your test automation framework.
5) AI-based software assistance
Once folks become accustomed to Cloud-based development, I believe there will also be an increase in AI Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Watson Cloud.
Users go to websites expecting to find answers to all their questions.
Smart, AI-powered tech like conversational artificial intelligence (AI) chat-bots or customer sentiment analysis, machine learning and speech recognition technology can help the user experience.
I suggest learning more about Qaops testing of chat-bots, speech, and ML-powered software.
A QA test-specific example of this type of tech is IBM Engineering Requirements Quality Assistant. This software uses Watson AI's power to improve the quality of engineering requirements as you write them.
6) Automation Pipelines–not automation scripting
Long gone are the days that as an “automation test engineer,” focusing only on Selenium automation scripts.
2021 will be an evolution away from automation scripting to automation pipelines and continuous testing.
As an automation engineer or tester, CI/CD is a task you need to know.
It's not someone else's DevOps task.
It’s one of the skills that employers will expect you to know.
The expectation will be that as an automation engineer you will handle the automation of full, end-to-end pipelines.
The actual coding of a functional test is just a small piece of the activity you'll need to know in 2021.
One key signal for this shift is Selenium 4.
A lot of the new functionality in the latest Selenium release pertains to upgrading the Selenium grid architecture.
The team added support to work out of the box with container technology like Kubernetes clusters, AWS Google Cloud, and Azure.
As test engineers, you will be expected to understand orchestration software to deploy, manage, and scale containers and incorporate that into your teams' continuous integration and continuous delivery workflows.
Baked into the new grid, Selenium 4 has also integrated a framework called Open Telemetry, which allows you to do distributed tracing.
A feature like this is a game-changer, because as more and more companies go Cloud-native using micro-services architecture, systems will become more complex. And this will lead to failures became more abundant and harder to debug.
Enter the need for observability.
Wikipedia defines observability as “a measure of how well internal states of a system can be inferred by knowledge of its external outputs.”
Testing expert Abby Bangser explains observability from a tester’s perspective as “access to data (telemetry) that is both relevant and explorable.”
This information adds visibility into your system.
Honeycomb.io explains its observability tool/platform like this:
“When environments are as complex as they are today, merely monitoring known problems doesn't address the growing number of new issues.
These new issues are “unknown unknowns,” meaning that you don't know what is causing the problem without an observable system, and you don't have a standard starting point/graph to find out.
Having an observable system means you have the instrumentation you need to understand what's happening in your software.
Observability focuses on developing the application to have the rich instrumentation you'll need, not to poll and check it for thresholds or defined health checks, but to ask any arbitrary question about how the software works.”
You can't predict what information you're going to need to know to answer a question you also couldn't predict.
So get to know more about observability, telemetry.
Using a tool like the new Selenium Grid should help get you real-world, hands-on experience with it.
8) API end-to-end monitoring
I’ve been talking about API testing as a trend for years.
This year, that trend will continue and expand into needing to understand how to automate an API test, and leverage it for monitoring purposes.
Sauce Labs recently acquired API Fortress.
I see that as a signal that they see a need for this in the marketplace, which means that you should know it as well as an engineer does.
The Sauce Labs press release mentioned that “The acquisition addresses a critical need for customers by enabling them to quickly, easily, and continuously test the API endpoints that make up the core of modern API-driven applications.”
I’ve also spoken with companies like Deep Factor that recently came out with a continuous, preproduction observability platform.
Their software provides security performance and behavior visibility integrated into your CI/CD pipeline to find and fix runtime security, compliance, and behavior risks in custom and 3rd party code within DevOps pipelines.
9) AI Data
All this Cloud-based activity, automation script logs/report/results, and observability produces a ton of data.
How are we, as testers, going to cope with it?
Python was on my list of trends in 2020. Turns out my prediction was spot on, and I believe it’s also handy for AI and data.
This could also explain Python's increasing popularity, with the TIOBE index naming it the top programming language of 2020:
Once again, this reflects the trend of moving away from being an automation testing scripter to an automation engineer. Your job will start to encompass data science, infrastructure, automation, etc.
You're being pushed to create software not only faster, but with quality baked in.
To do that, you need a way to validate your code without slowing down the development process.
Because of this, headless testing has become more popular because, let’s face it—headless automation is faster to execute, and it's typically easier.
And this year, I've seen an unprecedented number of firms embracing Microsoft Playwright and creating solutions around it.
Once again, when I see an increasing number of companies investing time and resources into a technology, I see it as something to pay attention to.
In 2020 Testim introduced Playground, which is a free recorder for Puppeteer or Playwright to create UI tests as code.
Checkly also has a headless recorder Chrome extension for recording browser interaction and generating Puppeteer and Playwright scripts. (Check out my article on Microsoft Playwright to learn about some of the cool functionality it gives you.)
Accelerate your Automation Testing in 2021
If you truly want to accelerate your automation testing efforts in 2021 and see some of these trends in action, register now for Automation Guild.
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