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Challenges in Test Automation Frameworks

Test automation frameworks are basically recipes for how to build automated test cases. They include guidelines for testers on how they should do their job. The problem is, these frameworks don’t always work, as they tend to complicate test automation more than necessary. When QA teams prepare for an implementation of test automation, it often involves research on how to build automation frameworks and then trying to adopt these practices to the specific business-setting.

The idea of a test automation framework rests on great intentions. They exist, at least in theory, to ensure benefits of automation, such as: Re-usability of code, higher coverage, low-cost maintenance, and easy reporting. However, when reality hits, frameworks don’t really work. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. Frameworks don’t match the pace of development

A test automation framework is often supposed to support current and future software releases, but in reality, it’s impossible to match the pace of a development team, who produce new code continuously. The problem is that it takes a lot of time to implement code-based tests along with changes in the framework, and during sprints, there’s no time to implement automation while also taking care of testing.

What usually happens is that, over time, testers come up with short-term fixes to the framework, which inevitably leads to frameworks starting to fall apart. And without a solid foundation, test cases stop working too. Teams are then tasked with developing a “better, more robust, and future-proof” framework using a new technology – probably headed for the same disastrous end as the previous one. It easily takes a year for a team in the first attempt at a framework. In the meantime, organizational conditions might have changed. For example: Major overhauls of the system under test and changes to the software release pipeline.

There’s no way that you can program a framework that is flexible and adaptive enough to prepare for all these factors.

2. Frameworks are costly and take time away from testing

Script-based frameworks require development and maintenance. Skilled test automaton specialists who are also great at professional-level programming are difficult to find.

This means QA teams can do one of two things: Either rely on costly developer resources, whose primary responsibilities lie elsewhere, or assign the task to (technical) testers who don’t have years of programmer experience, which would take time away from testers’ most important task: testing!

3. Frameworks are difficult to scale and are limited in scope

Custom automation frameworks are usually project-specific and not geared for handling different types of applications. Most test automation frameworks are usually built for just one of the following application types: Web, desktop, or virtual, which doesn’t allow testers to use the same framework to test different applications across the organization.

4. Frameworks are person-dependent and have a short lifespan

Frameworks are often introduced by a single person in the organization, and they evolve around that same person as well. This means that frameworks are often incomplete and difficult to understand for other people who need to work with them. When the inventor of a custom framework changes jobs or leaves the organization for other reasons, the framework is at risk of dying due to lack of proper hand-over, the use of sub-standard coding practices, and difficulties of deciphering the automated processes through code.

How to overcome framework challenges with codeless UI automation

A testing tool is for the tester, what the spreadsheet application is for the finance manager. Does the finance manager in your organization ask programmers to write a script for how to work with her spreadsheet? Does she go through a long checklist each time she creates a new spreadsheet? Probably not.

Preferably, the tools you work with are designed in such a way that, by performing standard tasks and procedures in those tools, you are implicitly following best practices inherent to the application.

Automation frameworks are paradoxical: They are intended to hide code and complexity from the tester, but they still dictate that the tester should code. It takes another layer of abstraction to completely hide unnecessary complexity.

Codeless UI automation enables a level of agility that frameworks don’t. When all members of a QA team can take ownership of and collaborate on test automation, testing becomes agile and can match the pace of development. The maintenance workload of automated tests built with codeless UI automation is only a fraction of the workload related to script-based tests.

Advantages of Codeless Test Automation

1. Match the pace of the development cycle

When automation is designed with visual UI workflows, all code is generated under the hood making automation easy to learn and implement.

A tester can start automating cases as soon as UI development is completed without wasting time going through complex coding practices and frameworks.

This makes it easier to match the pace of the development cycle with continuous integration.

2. Lower maintenance and scale automation

Automating tests with visual UI workflows, inherently following current business rules and best practices, make it easy to scale and maintain test automation.

Automation with Leapwork tool relies on native identification of the objects used in test cases. This means that for the most part, it’s not necessary to adjust the automation flows every time the system under test changes.

What’s more, automated flows can be combined into reusable components to be used as sub-flows across test cases. If changes are made to heavily re-used sub-flows, these changes will go into effect across all test cases containing the component.

3. Free up resources for better testing and lower costs

When testers don’t have to spend all their time trying to automate their regression tests by writing code, they have more time for exploratory testing of the application in which they are experts.

What’s more, with codeless automation there’s no need to involve developers in the creation of UI tests, which is more cost-effective.

4. Extend the scope of automation

Leapwork’s codeless automation platform is built to support multiple types of applications, including web, desktop, and virtual applications. More specifically, this means that automated tests can involve multiple interfaces across applications as part – or beyond – the given project. With this flexibility, it’s easy to scale the extent of automation from one to several applications, and especially, to include testing the integration between projects.

5. Improve adoption with a shared automation solution

Unlike code-based custom frameworks, the Leapwork Automation Platform can be used as an all-in-one solution for automation needs across an organization. By combining a shared solution with a Center of Excellence setup, it becomes easy to share knowledge, best practices, and test cases across projects for collaboration. Sharing automation flows and components across projects reduce the time required to initiate new automation projects.

With a UI-based framework, it’s easy to understand flows created by other users. This comes with the advantage that users can pick up and work on other people’s flows with little or no hand-over required. If a given test case is not following best practices, it’s easy to change the flow by visually interpreting the steps and actions involved in the UI of the application under test. Code-based frameworks don’t come with the resources and support that a dedicated automation solution does. This ensures a long life-time for the chosen solution in the organization and makes it non-dependent on specific personnel.

6. Easily document processes and changes

UI workflows work both as a visual description of a process and as a documentation of how that process is executed. With the Leapwork Automation Platform, automated tests are documented with video and logs. All actions and events are recorded in audit trails.

7. Integrate with CI tools

Your CI/CD pipeline should dictate the test automation solution and not the other way around. Leapwork comes with a fully documented REST API, native plugins for most common DevOps tools and pipeline orchestrators. You can even build your own custom integrations with third-party systems.

In summary, with codeless UI automation, there’s no need to understand testing frameworks or the underlying technology of an application in order to be able to automate tests.

Suddenly, the road to success with test automation is within reach. An automation tool built on this visual approach empowers non-developers. It enables them to create, maintain, and execute test automation themselves without having to learn how to code.

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