Disclaimer: Read this only if you want to know how to save thousands on your way to millions!
Literally every developer has to go through a period of testing his products before releasing them. Whether you are making an accounting platform for an enterprise or writing a small game for your college friends, you have to test various features. Testing is a pivotal part of software development and enables us to see whether specific features work as intended.
There were times when everything was done manually. Unsurprisingly, manual methods are boring and ineffective, mostly due to their time-consuming nature and complications that you have to overcome one by one.
When automation comes into play, you can avoid wasting precious resources on some testing activities. This truly saves thousands and thousands of dollars. However, not every automation pattern can be of use to you. Choosing the right pattern is a complicated process that often leads to an intricate set of activities that include case studying, identifying issues, and developing a solution.
There are some exceptionally well-made test automation pattern examples that can be used as an etalon for many modern developers who struggle with selecting the right set of testing tools for their projects.
Test Automation Issues and Solutions
Any pattern is a solution in itself. Basically, whenever we are approaching a specific problem, we want to identify a proper solution. Testing issues is one such problem. Highlighting a testing issue is hard and sometimes demands that we invest lots of resources, but in the end if you find a proper solution, you will definitely save your budget from shrinking uncontrollably.
Usually, you can fairly easily identify the scope of testing and pinpoint various features that need heavy testing. Nonetheless, automation solutions may present issues by themselves. The issue may be of a technical nature (i.e. inefficient analysis) or be caused by incompetent management (i.e. late test automation design). Identifying the very nature of the issues is the first important step towards creating an efficient testing automation pattern.
Issues related to automation pattern creation can be categorized:
- Process issues. Problems that occur due to managerial and operational methods we use when interacting with tools and frameworks or conveying our test activities.
- Management issues. Problems related to human resources management and allocating said resources. Usually such issues are caused by poor staffing or incompetent budget usage.
- Design issues. These arise when an automator fails to properly build an efficient testing architecture and ignores the importance of maintenance.
- Execution issues. Such issues are related to the testing process itself and occur due to irresponsibility shown by testers.
Before actually trying to select a test automation pattern, and develop or enhance it, you need to study the case carefully and identify any glaring issues that may create obstacles for your testing team. Many automators routinely case study even the simplest products before committing to heavy testing and architecting an automation pattern.
Were there any exemplary patterns that deserve our attention?
What is a test automation pattern?
Before presenting you our examples, we want to elaborate on the very purpose and nature of automation patterns. A pattern is a solution to a re-occurring problem within a certain concept. Basically, you want to create a certain set of actions to counter a specific issue that you have previously identified during the case studying. Just like issues, patterns are subdivided into multiple categories:
- Process patterns. Action sets and sequences that can allow you to improve how you use tools and frameworks.
- Management patterns help you to integrate testing activities into your development routine or create a standalone testing solution.
- Design patterns focus on clarifying the architecture of a test automation pattern, how to maintain them, and make them more efficient.
- Execution patterns. Models of improvement for your testing execution methods and resource allocation.
Nearly all effective test automation patterns fall into one or another category and rarely cross-over. It is imperative to understand that each pattern is a solution to a specific problem, and piling together irrelevant methods is not an efficient way to design your patterns. The patterns must be sharp and present a definitive set of activities that address a certain issue.
Efficient process pattern
Implementing a short-term solution is similar to avoiding a problem altogether. If you want to become an efficient developer that regularly introduces new products to the market, be sure to implement a long-lasting solution that can be used over and over. Process patterns should be conceptual and upgradeable.
The most efficient way to implement a good process pattern is to approach the issue just like you approach software development in general. Basically, a process pattern is an iterative process that should be viewed as an agile project. If you are a developer, chances are that you already know how to apply agile methods. The implementation of said methods is a crucial part of creating a proper process pattern.
Key facets of the process pattern:
- Ensuring that the test code is well structured, and has an efficiently operating set of modules that work together with other modules. This ensures that you can upgrade the software without overworking.
- Ensuring that basic elements of the testware, such as scripts and modules, are properly developed and are under control.
- Implementing iterative development. Using mini-sprints and regularly testing the newest iterations is the way to go.
- Accountability and responsibility. Every single team member should deeply understand that they are responsible for the outcome. Your employees need to team up in testing the testware, maintaining it, and upgrading it constantly.
- Documenting your progress is very important. This goes along well with agile methods themselves. Making sure that you have a detailed description of your testware is imperative.
While this pattern is one of the most efficient, and helps you to build a very good team of testers capable of creating and maintaining an efficient testware, there some issues that you may face while implementing the pattern. First and foremost, having a talented team of developers is instrumental in the efficiency of your process patterns. Secondly, your team needs to know how to work agilely. If the opposite is true, the pattern will still help, but will be less efficient than it could be.
This pattern successfully addresses various test automation issues including revision control, ambiguous testing, script creep, loss of test data, etc. It is extremely important to avoid script creeping to keep your testware simple and efficient.
Early automation. Management pattern.
This pattern can drastically improve how you work on your project in general. There are various automation issues related to management. However, the most important one is identifying when the best time to start automating is. This pattern addresses this exact question by demanding that you start automating as early as possible. If you are late with implementing automated solutions, you will lose money that you could otherwise have saved.
Key facets of the pattern:
- Implementing automation as early as possible; start developing suitable testing methods during the very first sprints of your projects.
- Ensuring that the software is developed as a testable software that can be easily tested with automation patterns architecture accordingly.
- Ensuring that both the developers and testers communicate and exchange feedback. The earlier this exchange of information begins, the better.
- Establishing testing automation quickly is the best way to release a product faster, thus showing ROI faster.
The most obvious problems that this pattern has relate to timing. If you implement automation patterns too early, you will definitely waste effort. Moreover, you can easily distract your developers by developing lots of “noise” and skewing the goals of first sprints. Make sure you begin automating at the same time as developers start coding. Timing can be confusing due to the fact that testers can start developing automation tools before SUT is implemented by the developers.
Model based testing (MBT). Design pattern
MBT helps you to efficiently convey testing activities and simultaneously reduce effort, especially in terms of maintenance. Even if SUT changes, you can update the testware partially and generate test case updates automatically. Generally, this pattern is used for testing GUI, and creation of manual test instructions. MBT is extremely useful for testing a product that requires you to iterate it multiple times. The fewer the amount of repetitions, the more inefficient this pattern becomes.
You will need to create a model for each specific feature. If there are no duplicate features, you will struggle to find a good use for your MBT patterns. However, when you have a lot of repetitive testing activities, this pattern is the best choice.
Key facets of MBT pattern:
- Ensuring the systematization of test sequences and data within a specific test model for the SUT. You need to create efficient models that produce data, and this data needs to be categorized and analyzed immediately.
- Pair up this method with Early Automation. The earlier you start modeling, the easier it is to manage models and ensure their efficiency. Design models early based on the requirements of the project, add technicalities and details in the end.
- Modeling should be component-based. Components need to be re-usable and applicable during tests which follow.
The biggest issue with this pattern is that often project requirements are not specified clearly enough to provide enough details for proper modeling. The effort grows due to the amount of work that has to be done to gather sufficient information for future modeling. Without sufficient data, the models will be inconsistent. Gathering information is usually a good thing as you can identify various problems with the project documents before you start actual development.
Maintainable testware. Design pattern
This pattern allows you to architect your testware so it will not have to be updated each time there is a minor change in the SUT. The pattern is especially efficient when used to build long-lasting solutions for repetitive changes to the SUT. Do not use this pattern to manage disposable scripts or small products with a small set of features.
Key facets of Maintainable testware:
- Identifying what features or scripts are changing frequently in the SUT. Designing automation patterns based on the list of said changes. If you implement this pattern, making minor changes to the testware should be easy. Using an object map is a pivotal part of this pattern.
- Use process methods that relate to iterative management. Agile management is a good approach and should be used for building a maintainable testware.
- Ensuring that you use domain-driven testing. Your automators and testers should work together. Working together is the best way to establish a proper environment for maintainable testware to exist. Cooperation allows your team to build consensus on the architecture, solve various technical issues, and allocate resources correctly.
- Ensuring that testware maintenance is all-around and properly scheduled. Maintainability is both the goal and means of this pattern.
One of the weakest aspects of this pattern is that it demands to be implemented as early as possible. Maintaining your testware at later stages of development is often unnecessary. By the time you start implementing maintainable testware, you’ve usually lost money. Planning the implementation of this pattern should start earlier than the actual development of the SUT.
Nearly all test automation patterns relate to each other and can use each other in a global scheme of things. Object map is a common execution pattern that is used in various design and management patterns to solve minor issues. There are other obvious connections. However, choosing the best pattern is a tricky task.
Each pattern category has a wide array of specific patterns that address various automation issues. We highly recommend that you commit to heavy case studying and analyze your project before choosing the best test automation pattern. For example, complex software with lots of repetitive features should use MBT at least partially. On the contrary, applications with fewer features and minor changes to the SUT over the course of development can be tested with maintainable testware easily and without much effort.
Choose your patterns correctly and save the drain on your budget.
Created: 25 Oct 2016
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