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A Complete Guide To Web Testing

Andrew M. by Andrew M. on 06/10/2022

A Complete Guide To Web Testing

The world of internet services is booming. Banks, car dealerships, even your favorite grocery store around the corner – everyone is going online. The competition between web platforms has never been this intense. And as businesses fight for a digital crown, polishing their UIs and rolling out new features, users become finicky. They can’t stand waiting, and they’re not going to tolerate clunky interface or poor functionality, switching to a better website or app with a top-notch design and awesome CTA. That’s just what people are – we always look for a quicker and simpler solution to our problems.

But human nature isn’t the only enemy of web development. One simple bug may lead to a security breach in your online store app, making users’ personal data vulnerable and causing financial losses. All of a sudden, you have dozens of lawsuits to deal with.

The whole point of the story is to get your product properly tested before introducing it to the public. Need a hand with that? Check out our web app and website testing guide below.

What is web testing?

It’s a set of techniques aimed at making a site or app perform according to a certain quality standard. It’s a process that encompasses various types of activities, but the main goal is always the same – to detect as many bugs as possible and develop approaches to prevent them in the future.

Web testing answers several key questions:

  1. Does the product’s functionality meet the requirements?
  2. Will it work correctly on all major devices?
  3. Can the product support an influx of users?
  4. Can unregistered users access it?
“What is web testing? It’s a set of procedures aimed at finding issues that might negatively affect the functionality, usability, and performance of a web app or website.”.

Why is web testing an essential process?

You need to make sure your website or app is not a mess before you launch it. You can’t tell what pitfalls are waiting for you down the road, so first of all, testing before launching or updating a product will reveal all the vulnerabilities and defects in the code.

Web testing is not only about running functions over and over. It also points out usability issues you never knew were there in the first place and detects weak points in your web solution at all stages and levels, including user experience.

When functionality doesn’t work as intended, users either drop the product or go for ineffective workarounds. Testing shows how logical the product is and whether it’s simple to navigate, helping you eliminate any logical flaws and UX inconsistencies.

Web testing solutions

The definition of web testing is quite broad and covers a lot of ground depending on the kind of web solution you’re building. In this section we will cover the four most common types of web solutions and how to test them.

Testing static websites

Static websites show the same info to all users. Nobody expects complex functionality from them. They are simply supposed to be informative and look fine. Testing such a website can be a walk in the park as long as you do it right. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Make sure your GUI doesn’t cause any eye strain, discomfort, or depression (font sizes and styles, colors, spacing, etc.).
  2. The next thing is to check the links to see if any of them are broken.
  3. Make sure content and spelling are OK.
  4. Check if scrolling is smooth.
  5. If the site has a contact form, fill it in a couple of times to test it.

With a static site you focus on functionality and looks, you won’t be spending much time poking around the backend to test the system, its compatibility, or security.

Testing Dynamic web applications

These are websites users actively interact with, changing their content. They require focus on both frontend and backend. The frontend testing involves checking HTML and CSS (things users interact with) whereas the backend is about testing databases and systems that run the show from behind the scenes (usually written in JavaScript).

In addition to checking the things described in the static website section, your web testing efforts should also cover things like tooltips and spacing, making sure they adhere to standards. Check if active and inactive buttons look different (as they should). Make certain that all the error and pop-up messages appear where needed, there are no broken images, and the input fields work properly.

If your website allows creating accounts, test the fields and form validations. Be sure the user can type in special characters and symbols or upload files (if there is such a feature). As for the backend, check if your database and systems show correct behavior and good performance. If not, try reconfiguring them for better performance.

Testing eCommerce websites

The key difference between an online store and any other website is in its purpose: setting up a digital storefront for products and implementing financial transactions is a tricky task. And if that’s not enough of a challenge already, you also need to ensure a positive customer experience. The web testing process should be focused on:

  • Functionality. Try adding some items to the cart, placing orders, and checking out.
  • Usability. Do the pages load properly? Are there any additional actions that complicate shopping?
  • Performance. Can the customer shop quickly and comfortably? Check the capacity of the online store to effectively process an influx of visitors.
  • Compatibility with a huge variety of browsers and devices.

Testing Mobile websites or web applications

Somewhat similar to desktop web testing, mobile web testing involves the familiar HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and covers the same problem areas and typical bugs. But there are still some differences here and there. Mobile web testing requires more time and attention for UI/UX testing, performance, and security, considering a huge variety of mobile devices and platforms.

Usability is probably the main focus of mobile web testing. The final UI should have no deviations from the approved design. Check the responsiveness of your web solution and integrity at different resolutions. 

Follow it up with thorough performance testing such as API load testing if your solution is integrated with any third-party systems or platforms. Check the web solution on all the supported browsers to ensure cross-browser compatibility. And last but not least, make sure there are no security vulnerabilities in your systems to protect your users and their data.

Types of web testing

The image shows the most common types of web testing: Unit, Integration, Functional, Smoke, and Sanity Testing.

Now that you are familiar with the most common kinds of web solutions, let’s see what types and stages of web testing your project requires to ensure top performance and high user satisfaction rates.

Unit testing

This web testing method involves testing the individual components of your web solution—units of code. It’s the process of checking functionality in separate parts of the app or website (program modules, objects, classes, functions, that kind of thing). This is what makes unit tests different from system testing (when the entire system or subsystem is tested as a whole) and integration testing that verifies correct behavior in interaction between modules. The main benefit of testing a small piece of code independently is that certain bugs become easier to spot and fix.

Integration testing

The goal of integration testing is to monitor how different modules work together when combined and tested as a group. Integration testing serves as an evaluation of the compliance of the systems and components of your web solution with its specified functional requirements.

There are four different approaches you can use when planning integration testing: 

  1. Big Bang. The development process assumes that the modules and system components are interconnected. They’re combined and tested together.
  2. Bottom-Up. This one focuses on low-level systems at first, both together and separately. In plain English, you start performing checks from the lower levels, reaching the most critical elements.
  3. Top-Down. In contrast to the previous technique, this one is aimed at testing all the high-level modules first, gradually going down to the very bottom.
  4. Hybrid/Sandwich. This is a mish-mash of the previous two methods. The modules on top are tested separately, while the lower ones are integrated and validated with the high-level modules.

Functional testing

Functional testing in web testing is the process of evaluating the behavior of your web solution to see if all the features function as expected. For the product to work correctly, all the processes must show the correct behavior specified in the requirements: from access restrictions during authorization to the correct logout procedure.

Smoke testing

Smoke testing is a quick check-up test method that enables us to reveal anything from harmless bugs to severe system failures that can put the release of your web solution at risk. They are designed for simple checks, so they’re easy to run frequently. If a request returns a correct response, then there are no critical issues with the system. 

Sanity testing

Sanity check is a very brief yet in-depth test of certain functionality to ensure that the system is working properly. Always test the features after debugging, even if you know for sure that the problem is fixed. Because you never know what will pop up next. Sanity testing is often performed not only before a full regression test cycle but after a smoke test or after fixing a minor bug in the system to check a slight change in functionality.

Mobile application testing vs. Web application testing

At first glance, mobile and web app testing might look somewhat similar. But once you delve deeper into the matter, you’ll start seeing major differences in goals and approaches.

Mobile app testing evaluates the quality of the app’s performance on various devices and operating systems. This type of testing focuses on functionality, behavior analysis (including support for device-specific functionality such as touchpad controls), QoS compliance, usability, security, and privacy. 

Web app testing, on the other hand, aims to see how your app works across different browsers. Unlike a mobile application, it typically allows access to the underlying server functionality through a mobile thin client. Thus, in addition to analyzing the aforementioned, web app testing should also consider connectivity and interoperability.

When it comes to UI testing, mobile application testing should cover older phone models as well as smart mobile clients, multimedia content and graphics, and features such as gesture recognition. In turn, UI testing for web applications should focus on thin web clients, downloadable clients, and browser support for multimedia content and graphics.

There are also certain differences in usability testing. Testing mobile applications involves validating gestures, content, interfaces, and typical user activities such as how they interact with a camera, GPS module, or fingerprint sensor. Web application testing focuses on validating GUI content and user flows.

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What is web application testing?

Web application testing is the process of assessing the performance of client/server products involving support for a wide range of separate system components that interact with the application. When an error creeps into the code, it’s nearly impossible to locate it without the help of a qualified QA engineer since the amount of code you’ll have to brush through is huge. When testing a web app, QA engineers consider the peculiarities of the project architecture and the mechanics of interaction between the database, backend, web services, third-party components, and UI.

“What is web application testing? It’s a set of techniques directed at ensuring the web app is fully functional by testing its accessibility, usability, performance, and several other factors.”

Reasons to test your web app

The main reason for web application testing is saving a lot of money in the long run. Without proper testing, the amount of time and resources required to maintain a product in the long run grows dramatically compared to investments in QA, not to mention that something may break sooner or later in the course of further product extension. 

Code quality improved through testing will make your product less prone to crashes thanks to more reliable code and implemented programming standards. It helps in creating a better architecture. When some part of an app is difficult to test, it’s usually because it’s tightly interconnected with other elements, or the functionality of your application is too complex. Testing will show how to make your app as simple and testable as possible.

Web app testing also ensures code safety when working with teams. Since an application is usually built by teams, different people change the same piece of code dozens of times. Web application testing makes this process safer, as nothing will break without you noticing it.

6 Key Steps in Web Application Testing

The image shows the six steps of web application testing from executing functional testing to checking the security of your web app.

Web app testing can be a real pain in the neck. There are dozens of processes to consider. And without a solid strategy, you’ll quickly get lost and miss essential steps. Make sure to consider these 6 simple steps when planning your web application testing.

Step 1: execute functional testing

There’s no point in running any tests if the app doesn’t perform the tasks it was designed for. So the first goal is to check the functionality.

Testing user flows

How smoothly do you navigate through the app? A great product should be intuitive, and if the UI seems a bit complicated and bulky at first glance, then it needs polishing.

Testing hyperlinks

Simply put, the link to the user’s profile shouldn’t lead to a third-party website. The example is a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea.

Input field validation

Usually, web apps are all about forms for names, phones, emails, and so on. Your task at this stage is to check if the forms prevent entering invalid information like the last name in the “Age” field.

Cookie testing

If you’re going to show custom data to your visitors, check if the application handles cookies as intended.

Step 2: focus on usability

Keep these simple questions in mind when testing the usability of your web application:

  1. Does the application meet user expectations?
  2. Are the UI consistent and navigation thoughtful?
  3. Is the app compatible with target platforms and devices?
  4. Does it run fast enough?

Step 3: perform UI testing

How does the interface look? Are the buttons convenient to click on? Is the content readable? When testing the interface, try to simulate the actions of a regular user.

Step 4: test compatibility

Since not all browsers, operating systems, and devices necessarily support the same features, you need to make sure that everything looks and behaves properly on each of them.

For example, if your web app looks great in Chrome, things may be completely different in Firefox. Same applies to different desktop and mobile operating systems such as Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. 

In mobile web testing it’s also crucial to test the app’s looks across different screens and resolutions to ensure great usability on every device.

Step 5: measure performance

The next important step is to find out how your application holds up against different performance challenges.

Load testing

This is the most common type of performance testing that shows the app’s response and capacity under specific load conditions.

Stress testing

This one will help you define the stability of your application by bombarding it with user requests beyond normal operational capacity.

“How to do stress testing for web applications? First, you define the goal of your test. Then, you use automated software to set up and run a script that will generate test data.”

Soak testing

This test is used to check the stability and performance of the system over long periods of time. If stress testing is a sprint, soak testing is a marathon.

Spike testing

Spike testing puts the app under different sudden and extreme loads to determine the behavior of your web solution at different levels and find out its operational capabilities.

Step 6: check the security

And last but not least, you need to carry out meticulous security testing to see how well protected your business and user data is. Depending on the web solution you’re building, there are different security testing approaches you can take.

Static Application Security Testing (SAST)

This one will help you identify weak spots in the app’s source code in the early stages of development.

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST)

This one detects vulnerabilities and weaknesses in a running application by allowing malicious data into software to identify common security flaws and minimize the risks of losing valuable data.

Application Penetration Testing

Web application penetration testing assesses the security of an information system by simulating targeted attacks. The key purpose of this test is to reveal the most successful attack patterns and the possible damage done to patch these vulnerabilities.

The challenges of testing complex web apps

As web app development grows bigger, everyone strives to make their apps stand out from the competition. The key challenges are in keeping up with a rapidly changing industry. And the web app testing domain is no exception.

With such a huge variety of mobile devices where each and every one has a different screen size and resolution, compatibility testing of web applications has become a real nightmare. And even though there are many emulators to help you, nothing beats testing on physical devices, as one of your tasks will be to test and optimize your product’s performance for both high-end and budget models.

Another complication is related to integration of modules and components. This stage is one of the main sources of bugs, as making all app modules work together while maintaining compatibility with other systems is hard, to say the least. Considering how many browsers and devices your app must be compatible with, this also means you’re likely to run into a few snags, trying to improve usability.

“How to test a web application? To test a web application properly, you need to follow a simple web testing checklist. Verify how your web application functions and performs. Check its usability and compatibility with major browsers and devices. Finally, make sure it’s secure.”.

Websites vs. Web applications: the core differences

The image shows the core difference between a website and a web application—one has static pages while the other enables dynamic pages.

Most users see every URL address they visit as a website. That’s not always the case, as some sites are, in fact, web apps. But how are they different?

Websites usually serve for informational purposes only, hence a simple structure: a few web pages linked together into a single resource. They have a simple HTML-based architecture, and the most complex thing you’ll find on them is an embedded video. Websites don’t usually allow you to interact with anything. Users don’t have access to their content beyond filling out a subscription form.

Web applications, in turn, are interactive programs that allow users to enter, receive, and manipulate data. They closely interact with the server (backend), constantly sending requests to it. They can be embedded in web pages, or the web pages themselves can be, in fact, apps. Think of Facebook, Gmail, or YouTube.

The main differences between a website and web application are:

  • A website is mostly static while a web app is interactive.
  • Testing website user interfaces is easier thanks to simpler functionality, tasks, and UI.
  • A web application can be an integral part of a site or a separate resource.
  • Website development is an easier and less expensive process.
  • A web application is more resource-intensive than a website.

What is website testing?

Website testing involves checking and assessing the functionality of a website to comply with the requirements. It’s painstaking work by a team of QA experts that simulates all sorts of situations that could occur when the website goes live. The team analyzes the behavior of the web solution under stressful conditions. After spotting a flaw, the tester reports it, and the problem gets fixed by developers. After that, the website is re-tested. Rinse and repeat.

“What is website testing? In simple terms, website testing is a complex process of validation of website functionality against the specified requirements.”

Why carry out website testing?

Launching a website that hasn’t been thoroughly tested is always a huge risk. Even if you manage to get a buggy website working properly over time, fixing its bad reputation will be ten times harder. But apart from that, there are at least four considerable benefits of getting your website tested through and through.

Validating the functionality

There’s always a risk that a freshly made website will not perform as expected. Broken buttons, links leading to nowhere – all these are common things that need to be tested and fixed.

Minimizing errors

Unlike web apps, sites aren’t usually as complex. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t have issues with the backend. For instance, the server not returning requests won’t do your visitors any good.

Making the website look professional

Spelling errors, faulty HTML structure, and conflicting CSS selectors aren’t always visible. You need to carefully check every corner of your frontend on different browsers to make sure your website serves as a high-quality representation of your business.

Boosting website security

A decent website is made to withstand attacks, so identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities is one of your top priorities. Users hate it when their private data is in the hands of unreliable systems.

Website testing checklist

Despite the fact that websites are much simpler to test than web applications, there’s still a lot of ground to cover and issues to solve. There are plenty of things to pay attention to: HTML page interactions, internet connectivity, firewalls, applications that run on web pages (applets, JavaScript, modular applications), and server-side applications (CGI scripts, database interfaces, dynamic web generators, etc.).

To streamline the process and succeed with your website testing objectives, consider these simple guidelines for different types of testing.

Documentation testing

Consider it a preparatory stage. The goal here is to analyze the project’s documentation and draw up a solid plan for further action. This involves determining the minimum and maximum requirements, preparing a test plan, and designing test cases.

Functional testing

Here you test your web product against its functional requirements. This includes checking the links and buttons, testing forms, adding, deleting, and managing content. You need to make sure that your HTML is error-free, the site has an accurate map in HTML and XML format, and that search bots can easily detect the website.

Links/URLs

  • Check the links coming from all pages to a specific domain, as well as internal ones.
  • Check the links to other elements located within the pages.
  • Check the links for sending emails to the admin or other users of the web pages.
  • Check the links to isolated pages.

Web forms

  • Check whether each field of the form is correctly validated.
  • Check the default field values.
  • Check the options for creating, deleting, viewing, and editing forms (if there are any).

Database

  • Check the integrity of your data and test the website for errors when editing, deleting, modifying forms, or performing other database-related activities.
  • Check if all database queries are running correctly and if data is extracted and refreshed as expected.

Cookies

  • Check if the cookies are encrypted before they are saved on a device. Test login sessions and user statistics when the session ends. 
  • Check if the security of the application is affected by deleting cookies.

UI/UX testing

When testing the visual consistency and usability of your website, you should put extra focus on navigation and overall accessibility. Everything should be easily reachable and intuitive for your users to conveniently interact with your website across the majority of devices and browsers.

Compatibility (Configuration) testing

Prepare the website for browser testing to make sure it performs equally well with numerous configurations of software, hardware, and internet connection. This includes taking into account the various parameters of different browsers to find the most optimal configuration. 

Run responsive web testing to see how web pages look on smartphones and tablets. You may come across some device compatibility issues you will need to solve. And don’t forget to test the site at different resolutions.

Performance testing

Check the site’s performance against different internet connectivity parameters and working conditions. In case of website testing, your two main testing methods are load testing and stress testing. 

You need to simulate an influx of users making requests to the same page at the same time. This will help you understand how the system handles peak loads. Another thing is to check system stability when the load goes beyond the expected traffic – find out how the system reacts to stress and how it recovers from failures.

Security testing

This one can go two ways. In the first case, you can simulate an attack with malicious software and see how the security measures in your system cope with it. The second option is a vulnerability test that involves simulated hacking attempts. All data about these simulated attacks must be saved in a separate file. You should also check captcha performance and see if you can log in using false data such as the wrong password or email.

Integration testing

Using automated testing tools you should add some info to your database and run a thorough check of your backend and frontend. Check if the UI works well with your database and provides the right outputs to their requests. Make sure information such as notifications and subscription content are distributed and displayed correctly to your users.

Change control

After making all the adjustments and correcting errors, test the website again to make sure nothing was broken by the implemented fixes. This includes adjusting and reusing all the test cases you previously found bugs in. Then run a regression test to prevent new bugs from appearing when making changes to certain cases.

“How do you test a website? Whether you take a manual, automated, or combined approach to website testing, your goal remains to make sure the website works as intended by carefully monitoring every aspect of your solution from functionality to security.”.

Website elements you should test for maximum results

If you’re looking to make website testing even more efficient, make sure it covers the areas mentioned below.

A/B test your content

It’s always a good idea to measure page performance by comparison. The basics are simple: you create page A, copy it, and change some parameters like a title, button, or image. That’s now your page B. Show page A to one half of your visitors and let others browse page B to see which one has a higher conversion. Make sure to check either the title, the text on the button, or the picture, but not all three at the same time. Otherwise, you won’t be able to tell what worked.

Check your CTAs

Test several calls to action. Use different strategies, suggestions, designs, layouts, and so on. See how each CTA performs and pick the most converting ones.

Groom your user interface

The interface should bring your website’s functionality to its full potential. Make sure the graphic design standards were taken into account during the development. Give the color, style, and layout a good look to make certain your UI is aesthetically appealing – make an impression. And don’t forget about usability. Make sure it’s easy to navigate your website.

Refine your landing page

The visitor should clearly understand what your offer is from the moment they landed on your page. Sometimes the info on the landing page is vague, and the user can’t fully understand the nature of your business. Make sure this doesn’t happen.

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Best tools for automated web testing

Website Testing Illustrations 5

Automated web testing does exactly what you expect from it. The tester uses specialized software to automate the process of web testing, eliminating the human factor and dramatically boosting the efficiency. The software performs a variety of tasks from finding broken code to detecting vulnerabilities and simulating stressful situations. Automated testing is a huge asset in large, complex projects with a lot of functionality to deal with.

Here are the most commonly used automated web testing tools:

Website testing tkools

  1. Uptrends is a great program for monitoring your website’s uptime.
  2. LoadView is one of the best website load testing solutions on the market.
  3. Browser Shots is a service that allows you to get snapshots of your site as it looks in different browsers and operating systems.
  4. TryMyUI is a great tool for online usability testing. Setting up even the most complex test takes no more than a few minutes.
  5. Optimizely is a universal A/B platform where you can track statistics of website visits and conversions.

Web application testing tools

  1. Selenium is a whole suite of web testing solutions that will make your life much easier by automating a wide range of processes.
  2. Google PageSpeed Insights is a popular and reliable service that allows you to analyze the web application’s usability, supporting both desktop and mobile apps.
  3. Katalon Studio is a framework for automating testing of APIs, web applications, and mobile and desktop apps with a fairly rich set of features.
  4. Watir is a tool that will mimic the behavior of a regular user when interacting with your application.
  5. WebLOAD is one of the best web application testing tools for simulating loads.

“What are the best web testing tools? It depends on the project you’re working on and the tests you currently run. Even though some of the tools have a wide range of different applications, each project requires an individual approach.”

What’s in the future of web testing?

IT is one of the most flexible industries out there, quickly adapting to new technologies and creating its own. At the moment, it’s hard to predict the course web testing will take in the long run, but we can take a peek into the nearest future where we will most likely see AI, machine learning, and fully automated test cases becoming a common thing.

QA engineers must be prepared to adapt to these changes and master new techniques. They should keep a close eye on trends, actively participate in communities, and learn from the experience of successful tech companies.

And while most predictions aren’t 100% accurate, there’s one thing we can tell for sure – software testing engineers will remain indispensable. Even if developers take on some QA responsibilities, software testers will always bring their own perspective and experience to the process.

Wrapping up

When testing a website or web application testing, it’s crucial to make it both look great and run smoothly. You can’t roll the product out until you know for sure that your users will enjoy it. That’s where web testing comes in. Every type of testing is meant to cover a specific area, detecting large and small issues so you could deliver a polished product.

To properly organize the testing process that covers all the aspects of your product, consider the steps, tips, and tools described in our web testing guide. And remember, every dollar saved on proper testing will cost you ten times more in case you have to rebuild everything from scratch after a failed launch.

Posted by
Andrew M., Technical Writer

Andrew is an insatiably curious geek who loves writing about technological innovation, business development, and digital transformation in the globalized world. Throughout more than 5 years of experience as a writer for different media, startups, and tech companies, Andrew has meticulously studied every aspect of the tech industry and loves sharing his knowledge with the international community.

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