Pros and Cons of Selenium Automation Testing

Timothy Joseph
Timothy Joseph | March 28, 2019

Pros and Cons of Selenium Automation Testing

Selenium is one of the great success stories of the open source era. The web app testing framework has been with us since shortly after the turn of the millennium and has grown to become the dominant QA tool in its field.

It is a symbol of the revolutionary potential we all once saw on the internet, a free tool built and modified by and for a community of developers that stretches around the world.

More importantly, it works. The Selenium suite, most notably Selenium WebDriver or Selenium 2, supports a variety of languages, platforms, and browsers. It is compatible with a range of third-party plugins and can handle execution of tests in parallel, reducing the test execution time.

Unfortunately, certain limitations could significantly affect your QA goals if Selenium is the only tool you use. It is a web-only automated testing tool, and there is no wealth of tech support resources. When used within a broader QA approach, however, Selenium automation testing is worthy of your consideration.

The Benefits of Selenium Automation Testing

Selenium automation testing comes with a lot of upsides. The wide range of practical applications means it is still the most popular tool in its class even 15 years after its initial release. According to iDataLabs, it is regularly used by almost 30,000 companies and owns a 27% market share.

The reason for that high usage begins with the price.

Selenium Automation Testing Is Free

As an open source application, Selenium is free to use and to modify to the needs of your product. In an industry where some automation tool licenses can cost as much as $10,000, that is a big advantage. The price tag is relevant only because the software is competitive against the leading paid products—in fact, Selenium is the only open source product that should be compared to its paid counterparts.

Flexible QA Testing

One of the great strengths of Selenium automation testing is the flexibility of the software. Out-of-the-box or with additional plugins, it can support all the leading languages, platforms, and browsers, including:

Languages Platforms Browsers
Java, C#, PHP, Ruby, Peri, Python, JavaScript, Objective-C, Haskell Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iOS Chrome, IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera

 That flexibility is the secret to Selenium’s longevity and its continued relevance in the QA field.

Selenium Supports Parallel Testing

Parallel testing allows you to significantly reduce test time and test more efficiently. It also provides for a much faster feedback loop as the entire test suite is cut up and run on separate or similar hardware simultaneously rather than being run as one sequential data flow. Cut into small enough pieces, you can have access to test case outcomes in a fraction of the time it would take to run a suite in its entirety.

Third-Party Plugins

There are dozens of Selenium-endorsed plugins available to shape your QA process to the specific test environment. These drivers optimize the software for use on specific browsers, platforms, and languages—or toward more specific ends such as dealing with legacy issues or data formatting/conversion. Such plugins have become a staple of the open source environment and refine Selenium’s potential to meet your solution.

Supports Test Automation Frameworks

Selenium can be integrated with Maven or ANT framework for source code compilation. It can also be integrated with popular and widely used testing frameworks such as TestNG and RSpec for testing applications and reporting purposes. Further, it works well with Continuous Integration Tools such as Jenkins and can even integrate with other open-source tools to supports other features.

Thanks to its reasonable age, Selenium has great support for features, as well as for implementation and automation of various test scenarios.

The Disadvantages of Selenium Automation Testing

Selenium is not a one-size-fits-all solution to your QA process. No tool is. That is why it is best to consider Selenium as just one of many potential software solutions to your QA process.

Selenium’s biggest weakness stems from its greatest strength—it is an open source product, but that means you are on your own.

Limited Support Behind the Scenes

Selenium is one of the most widely used pieces of testing software in the industry, but its impact far outweighs its infrastructure. As an open source tool, the team behind it is voluntary and tiny. Throughout 2018, there were only around a dozen people making regular contributions to its evolution. And since 2016, only one person has been maintaining the integrated development environment (IDE). As a result, the IDE briefly fell off the Firefox compatibility ranks in late 2018. Things have since improved, but change and improvement can come slowly to open source tools, and there is certainly no tech support.

Web Only

Selenium is a web-only automated testing tool. With additional plugins, it can be used for testing mobile web apps but cannot support mobile native apps or mobile hybrid apps. It doesn’t support desktop applications at all. That limitation alone may remove it completely from many QA projects.

No Native Report Function

Selenium does not have a built-in result report function. That goes to the very heart of the QA process—if you cannot accurately communicate the results of a test case, there is little to no point in running it. Selenium instead relies upon moment-of-fault screenshots and manual reporting to convey outcomes. However, quite a number of open-source third-party tools—such as JUnit—are readily available that integrate seamlessly with Selenium for clean, detailed, and efficient reporting.

Steep Learning Curve

Finally, Selenium demands a lot from QA testers. As we mentioned earlier, there have been consistent problems with the IDE so Selenium often operates as a programming interface only. In an era of codeless automation, Selenium is something of an anachronism. Testers have to have an expert proficiency with one of the programming languages to get optimal results, and that restricts the number of people who can effectively use the software.

These issues make Selenium something of a specialist software. Selenium automation testing is still highly valuable, but it is best thought of as one of many potential QA solutions.

The Best QA Automation Tools

Despite the continued evolution of the open source philosophy, there are not many examples of free, professional-grade QA testing applications currently available. Appium is a consideration for testing native, hybrid, and mobile web apps, but beyond that, you move into the paid arena.

Finding the right automation test tool depends entirely on your product. You should always consider the versatility, platform compatibility, ease of maintenance, and cost of any tool before you put it to work. We have outlined a few of our favorite tools below, but if you are outsourcing your QA process, you should always consult your external team before engaging with a product.

The following products are best used within a specific context:

UFT – One of the most popular frameworks for functional, regression, and service testing. Formerly known as Quick Test Professional.

Ranorex – A GUI automation framework for desktop, mobile, and web.

AutoIT – General scripting and automating Windows GUI.

Squish – Cross-platform and cross-technology GUI test automation.

TestComplete – A comprehensive tool for testing desktop, web, or mobile client software.

Calabash – Cross-platform framework for hybrid and native mobile apps.

Telerik TestStudio – Desktop, web, and mobile tool that can automate tests for a broad range of technologies.

One of the chief advantages of outsourcing your QA process is that you can employ a domain expert to select and apply any one of these automation test options to your product.

Ultimately, tools like Selenium and those outlined above are effective only when applied to the right solution. It takes an expert eye to see the best fit for every application.

Selenium Automation Testing Is One of Many Options

The fact that Selenium automation testing remains highly popular as it enters the midpoint of its second decade is a testament to its effectiveness. A pillar of the open source era, its pros and cons are tied directly to its origins. It is free, flexible, and can be modified to suit a specific product. On the downside though, it is of little use outside of the web application domain and can be cumbersome to all but expert QA testers.

QASource has the expertise and experience to draw from a wide range of automation test tools to build the perfect framework for your QA needs. Let our QA experts guide you through all the leading framework and test tool options with a Free Quote, or call +1.925.271.5555 today.


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