Challenges faced during Automated Testing and its Solutions
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - April 27, 2023
An effective test automation system is, by now, an absolute necessity in software development. In its ideal form, the system runs tests in parallel on multiple devices, thus speeding up results. It also frees up developers’ time to formulate new test cases, develop tools for deeper testing and engage more actively in code review. Instead of running the same test for the fifteenth time, they can write new code and develop new scripts.
However, given how central automation testing has become to the process, one must be conscious of its pitfalls. These pitfalls or bottlenecks will almost certainly show up in automation pipelines, and being aware of them helps teams address these issues.
Common Challenges in Automated Testing
1. Test Case Prioritization
Due to shorter release cycles, a limited time left for the Testing stage of the product. As more and more tests are added to an automated testing framework, it becomes overloaded. Tests are delayed, and when this piles up, enough test cases fail that test results miss timelines and cause friction in release cycles. Hence, it has become more important to prioritize the test cases, especially during Regression Testing, to improve its efficiency.
Regression testing checks that the changes, updates, or improvements made in the code base of an application do not impact the existing functionality of the software application. It is responsible for the overall stability and functionality of the existing features. However, sometimes the number of regression tests is very high, hence to complete it in a short period, Test Case Prioritization (TCP) is required.
There are two ways to handle this:
- Increase the number of parallel tests or prioritize which tests must be automated.
- If the former is not an option, then the latter brings up multiple questions.
- Which tests need to be run each day?
- Which can be run only once a week, or even less frequently?
- Can some tests be reshaped to run faster?
Prioritizing Test Cases is a challenging task since it has to balance between meeting the set quality standards while saving time and resources. At any given time, it should not compromise the stability of the software while ensuring the tests are performed within the stipulated time.
If there are too many test cases in the system, such prioritization would involve significant time and effort. Developers have to run manual tests, investigate bugs and fix them. On top of that, prioritization takes a serious toll on their bandwidth.
Using TestNG Priority. Priority is an attribute that tells TestNG which order the tests need to follow. When you have multiple test cases and want to execute them in a particular order, the TestNG priority attribute helps in executing the test cases in the said order.
2. Communication and Collaboration
Automation testing cannot function without collaboration. It certainly requires more communication among all stakeholders than manual testing, whether from the tech or the business side.
In order to decide which tests need to be automated, a strategy must be discussed with developers, business analysts, project managers, technical architects, and even a sample group of customers. Since automation tools are a significant investment, the test plan, scope, and timeframe of the test strategy must be as specific as possible from the start.
Establishing lines of communication and collaboration among many individuals and departments is, needless to say, a challenge. Plus, to get all team members to agree on identifying automation objectives and setting targets, developers and testers need to spend time collecting evidence of effectiveness and historical data and sometimes even create a proof of concept.
Behaviour Driven Development enhances overall collaboration since the test cases are written in a more readable format that can be easily understood by a person from the business side with limited technical knowledge. Cucumber is a widely used Test Automation framework in BDD. Moreover, using cloud-based solutions like BrowserStack allows Integration with Jira, Trello, Github, and Slack for communicating bugs and test reports.
3. Finding the right Testing Framework or Tool
A great Automation Test Plan might not work out well due to a wrong choice made in the test framework or tool. Choosing a Test framework or tool is very crucial for the testing process and should be done diligently. Along with these Third-Party Integrations should also be evaluated wisely to make the most of a testing cycle.
Depending on the nature and extent of automated testing, teams will have to do research into the tools and also consider the available budget before making a choice. Simply choosing a popular commercial tool because others in the industry are doing so often backfires. An effective assessment involves defining tool requirements based on the application under test (AUT) as well as testimonials from experts who have already used the tools.
No matter the testing strategy and methodology, they will not succeed if the tool executing both does not match technical and business requirements. Without the right tool, any automation efforts are bound to fail.
A key part of this automation testing stack is the grid of devices used. Testing can never be comprehensive unless the tests are run on real devices to mimic real user conditions. Setting up a real device lab is expensive, cumbersome, and requires constant updations. Picking a real device cloud like BrowserStack could be a great option.
Make a choice based on the project requirements and resources available. Evaluate all the pros and cons by comparing tools to decide better. Prefer taking a Proof of Concept before finalizing. And most importantly, figure out a migration plan in case you are moving your test suite to a different framework altogether.
BrowserStack, in fact, provides a cloud Selenium grid that of 3000+ real browsers and devices. The grid allows users to perform automated Selenium testing on multiple real browser-device-OS combinations, ensuring that websites and apps are optimized for usage in the real world.
4. Taking Real User Conditions into Account
Testing can never be accurate unless the real user conditions are considered while testing. However, testing on emulators and simulators has certain limitations as they mimic devices and can not provide real user conditions when testing. Hence, it is always recommended to replace mobile emulators with real devices while testing.
Testing on physical devices could be very expensive, as it would require setting up an extensive infrastructure like a device lab. This would be very costly to set up and maintain and might not be able to provide wide coverage in terms of the devices used for testing.
When thinking of build vs buy, building up a real device lab is expensive, cumbersome, and requires constant updations.
Picking a real device cloud like BrowserStack could be a great option. It is cost-effective at the same time, you get access to 3000+ real device-browser-OS combinations to test on.
BrowserStack, in fact, provides a cloud Selenium grid that allows users to perform automated testing on multiple real browser-device-OS combinations, ensuring that websites and mobile apps are optimized for usage in the real world.
5. Finding the right skills
Just like automation cannot operate without the right tool, the tools cannot be operated without people with the right skills. It would be wrong to assume that manual testers or any technical testers can use automation tools if test scripts and recorded and played back.
Most test automation tools are only effective when manned by individuals who can accurately design and maintain automation frameworks, build solutions, and test scripts. They must also be able to resolve emergent technical issues. Since automation frameworks can differ in terms of features and operability, they usually need to be versed in the framework’s design and implementation protocols.
Obviously, finding people with solid automation skills requires a monetary investment. This may not be feasible for every organization, especially if they are looking to scale up significantly in a short span of time.
Consider Low code or No Code solutions where a lot of tech expertise and coding skills are not required. Moreover, you can choose frameworks that match your tech stack in terms of the language supported so that it becomes more manageable to find the right skills.
6. Upfront Investment
The initial phase of implementing automation is almost always expensive. One must analyze, design, and choose or build an automation framework, libraries, reusable functions, and the like. Certain cases may involve licensing costs on top of the usual operational costs. Even if one is using open source tools such as Selenium or Appium, one must take into account the investment going into training testers in using these frameworks plus the cost of setting up a device grid.
There are also hidden costs to consider. As explained before, setting up collaboration practices is integral to automation success. This may accrue costs in organizations that are just moving into automation practices.
Consider following some best practices, such as keeping a tab on the ROI for automation, ensuring code reusability, using parallel testing, and dockerization to ensure that you save on costs and resources as much as possible. Having said this, automated testing always offers huge payoffs in the long run and is the right choice for companies to scale up.
7. Device Fragmentation
Device Fragmentation is the biggest challenge faced by the app development team. It refers to an application being run on various devices and OS combinations.
This is where the QA teams have to Test Compatibility not only in different OS (Android, IOS, Symbian, Windows, etc.) but also in different versions of the same OS (like Android Nougat (7.0), Oreo (8.0), etc.). And it is often linked much more to Android devices as many third-party manufacturers provide their own “re-skinned” versions of the OS.
BrowserStack Automate and App Automate allow you to run automated web and mobile tests on real Android and iOS devices. From legacy devices to the latest ones like iPhone 14, Samsung Galaxy S22, Google Pixel 7 to One Plus 9 you can test your Mobile and Web Applications and deliver a consistent user experience.
While it wouldn’t be right to say that the above are disadvantages of automation testing, they certainly are factors that must be considered before shifting to automated testing practices. The shift might require investment, education, and effort in its setup stages, but it has repeatedly proved to be worth all three. By establishing automation testing in software testing lifecycles, organizations will definitely be able to release better quality faster and with greater efficiency.