Every single delay in launching your product hurts your brand image, and drastically reduces your potential customer base. Being late, by a day, hour or minute means that someone else gets the first chance to impress your potential customers with a solution to their problem. You may have a better product, but if the first application a customer tries is “good enough,” you may never get the chance to prove you can do things better.
An optimized automated test suite is your best defense against being the second option.
But experience tells us that there is more to test automation than just raw speed. Yes, automation will give you more consistent, reliable results quicker than any human tester can generate, but it has to be accurate and it has to be effective.
An optimized automated test suite should not just get you to market quicker. It should get you there with your reputation intact. The only thing worse than being second is being second-rate.
Best Practices for Test Suite Automation
Test suite automation is a balance of speed and control. It takes an experienced QA professional to know when you can turn testing over to a tireless machine and when you need to get a closer look with human insight.
Our QA experts have executed hundreds of successful customer engagements for some of the biggest names in software, including Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Oracle. In the process of automating more than one million test cases, our engineers have developed a series of best practices that ensure maximum test coverage with minimum delay.
Presented below are some of the most important lessons our engineers have learned. This advice could be the difference between getting your product into the hands of potential customers or having it disappear into a market blackhole.
Their advice begins with a simple message: time spent planning is time saved on the way to market.
Invest Your Time in Test Planning and Test Strategy
Your first opportunity to save time and resources on the way to market comes at the initial planning stage. The goal here is to turn your software business goals into a functioning customer solution with as little time and wasted spend as possible. Your efforts will be guided and defined by two documents: your test strategy and your test plan.
Your test strategy is a high-level, unchanging document that establishes the standards and best practices each team member will follow across every project they undertake. It sets out security and reporting protocols, test metrics, environment specifications and the roles and requirements of internal and external stakeholders. If you are a startup business, it is always advisable to consult an external QA expert when drafting the document that will influence every project in your immediate future.
Your test plan is a step-by-step set of instructions on how a specific project will be executed in order to satisfy the standards of your test strategy. It is a practical guide that each project member will reference to know what is being automated and when, who they need to report to, and what the conditions are for a successful exit.
These documents chart the road ahead. Any advantages you can identify at this point have a far greater chance of making a positive impact on your final product delivery.
Decide What Test Cases Can Be Automated
It is impractical to automate all tests, hence it’s important to decide on the priority of tests that need to be automated first. Tests that are performed a few times can be done manually.
The following are some kinds of tests that will save time and effort once automated:
- Tests that tend to cause human errors
- Repetitive tests that run on multiple builds
- Frequently used functionalities that increases the risk factor
- Tests that run on multiple data sets
- Tests that run on different hardware and software configurations and platforms
- Tests that take a lot of time and effort when performed manually
- Tests that are impossible to perform manually
Be Prepared to Supplement Automation with Manual Testing
The overriding need to get to market as efficiently as possible has led to the release of tools that will automate nearly every aspect of your test suite. Experience has taught us, however, that speed should not always be our first priority. Some areas of your test suite, especially those related to the user experience, still benefit from the attention of a skilled human tester.
Notice we used the word “skilled.” Manual testing is a resource- and time-heavy endeavor, and you need the test modules to be written by an expert so they accurately represent the user experience and mimic real-world conditions. Otherwise, you are just wasting time and money.
For the foreseeable future, you will achieve the best possible results when you supplement automation with a manual testing component. Just make sure both forms of testing are administered by an expert.
Find the Right Tools for Your Product, Objectives and Workflows
As we mentioned above, the industry is currently awash with automation test tools. These offerings vary wildly in their cost, flexibility and ease of use. Fortunately, that variation means it is possible to find the solution that best suits your project. There is no such thing as a QA “silver bullet” that should make you change your ways in order to suit a specific tool.
The right tool for you will:
Be compatible with your preferred languages, platforms and devices
Have a report feature that suits your stakeholders’ needs and knowledge
Effectively test your product’s core business functions
Fit your budget limits
If you are outsourcing your QA, make sure you choose a provider that is tool agnostic and will approach your project with an open mind. You do not have to sacrifice your test strategy in order to meet someone else’s ideas of best practice.
Develop an Effective Reporting Strategy
Communication is vital to a successful test automation suite. Whether you employ the advantages of a collaborative Agile test environment or not, every member of your team has to be aware of their role, responsibilities and reporting lines.
Your reporting strategy keeps everyone informed of your project progress, alerts stakeholders to potential bottlenecks and delays and underpins the flow of information between your developers and QA testers as they search for defects and solutions.
Be aware that every test automation tool has its own reporting pros and cons. If you are working within an Agile environment that takes in non-technical team members, be sure to use simple language reports and test cases.
Maintain an Expert Partner to Leverage Their Experience and Perspective
The best way to ensure you execute your automated test suite like a pro is to keep one around throughout your product journey. Outsourced QA professionals should be thought of as members of your own team who allow you to scale your test capacity up and down as necessary. By maintaining an ongoing relationship, you get to access the time and resource advantages of a QA expert without carrying the longer-term resource burden or having to establish your own test infrastructure.
Create Automated Tests That Do Not Change With UI Updates
Automated test cases created with scripts or keywords are dependent on the application that is being tested. In the early stages, the user interface of the application may change frequently between builds. As a result, these changes may have an adverse effect on the test results, and automated tests might not work on updated versions of the application.The problem here is that automated testing suits use a series of properties, like location coordinates to identify and locate an object. For instance, if the location of the control caption has changed, the automated test will no longer be able to identify the object when it functions.
To run the automated test successfully, the first step that testers need to take is to replace old names with new ones in the entire project. Unique names makes your automated tests resistant to frequent UI changes and ensures that your automated tests work without having to make changes to the test itself. This helps to eliminate the need for automated tests to rely on location coordinates.
Your QA partner can guide your test plan and strategy decisions, help you decide between manual and automated testing and, most importantly, get your product to market quicker.
With QA experts on your long-term team, you can future proof your automated testing to lower maintenance costs, increase test coverage and turn your ideas into marketable customer applications faster.
In the end, you just want a chance to put a quality product in your customer’s hands.
QASource’s engineers are experts in developing automated test suites with a proven track record of producing results for cutting-edge software developers. Get a free quote, or call +1.925.271.5555 today and start modernizing your development approach.