Quickly starting with Test Automation, part 1

Efficiency: A word that every organisation knows all too well. Today’s fast-paced, digitised world demands it now more than ever, as companies continually expand their technological terrain for (to quote Daft Punk) “Better, Faster, Stronger” deliveries with each release cycle, and executing vital changes based on business requirements at the drop of a hat.

Test automation is not a new concept, it’s been around for many years now, working as an enabler for change, agile delivery, and consistent results by using tools to carry out scripted tests of critical software or system functions.

The benefits of implementing an effective test automation solution far outweigh the initial challenges you will face. However, the path towards building the skills and capability you or your team will need can often be an intimidating one.

If you’re new to this or looking to brush up on the basics, we’re here to get you started with test automation!

Click to view part 1 of our automation tips, download link at end

Pick a coding language

The very first thing to do is learn how to code and most importantly choosing a tool that adds value to your testing strategy and project. The advantages of this is helping new testers integrate more easily with a familiar language and using it as a source to refer back to.

Automation tools like Selenium allow you to write code in a number of languages to fit nicely into your existing ecosystem. So, if you have a language in mind, then you can align your learning. If you don’t, consider using one of the more popular ones like Java, C#, Python or JavaScript.

In our opinion Python is a great place to start as it’s an interpreted language (processed by the interpreter at runtime) and variable types (string, int) are declared automatically when a value is assigned. Furthermore, it is very portable when running on a wide variety of platforms like UNIX, Windows, and Macintosh, supports larger programs than shell scripting and is easy to maintain.

Complete an online course

Everyone has their own style of learning and some may prefer reading rather than watching. A wealth of information is available online and technical videos are often more comprehensive to explain the context around what you are doing and why you are testing so we would recommend this approach. Udemy offers great courses but there are also plenty of free ones available which will provide you with the fundamentals you will need.  For example https://testautomationu.applitools.com/python-tutorial/

So, follow the path that works for you and complete an online language course before you even think about automation at this stage. Once you have mastered the basics, you’ll then see how it all fits together and the automation elements won’t seem as complicated.

Reinforce your knowledge

Now that you have some basic coding skills down, try to enhance them by setting yourself some challenges to really get comfortable and familiar with the coding part. Automation will throw up many challenges over and above just the coding itself so make sure you really understand this part first before moving onto the next section.

Automation engineers use a much smaller subset of the coding language than developers as we are not building full stack applications. Therefore, it’s best to start small. Create a Windows utility that performs a basic task, a small program that performs calculations based on input data or write a program that writes out data to an external text file.

Remember, continuous improvement, practice and innovation should be part of your everyday working routine when discovering which solutions work best, trying out different features of your coding language to expand your knowledge, or thinking of ways to make a program better with less variables or fewer lines of code for example.

Understand the problems you are trying to solve

At its core, automation is coding. But we need to really understand not only the code side, but the business challenges we are aiming to solve by using it. All too often we see automation fail because this fundamental part was overlooked.

When building an application communication is king between developers and testers in knowing what is required or expected of the app’s functions and why. Approaching test automation in the same way will bring a number of benefits to any organisation when adopted properly, but poor implementations will cause more harm than good.

Test automation should be saving us time and complementing our team’s focus on higher-value tasks. If the automation is taking more time to run/maintain than simply doing it manually, we have missed the mark completely.

Research the common challenges

Test automation is a tool we can use to help us in our day to day work. But it’s not smart, it will only do what we tell it to do and nothing more. When used correctly, test automation frameworks have the ability to boost the productivity of your team’s efforts and enhance the quality of your products to an end-user’s satisfaction.

If you have poorly organised test cases and you automate those directly you will just end up creating more issues down the line and not overcome them. Automation uses test data and lots of it, so if you don’t have a good strategy on how to manage your test data effectively, you’ll begin to hit a lot of challenges when writing/running automated packs.

An instinct for logical and analytical thinking when assessing the common challenges in test automation and knowing what measures to take to avoid as many problems as possible is essential – in other words, be prepared for whatever waves may come and you’ll sail on through much better.

Get more help

Being technical testing experts ourselves, we know that getting started with test automation can be a daunting prospect at first, but perseverance and the willingness to adapt will greatly reward you with all that automation has to offer.

Spike95 have helped a wide variety of sectors realise the benefits of test automation solutions for their own business. Our automation testing services bring you the confidence, speed, and scalability your software needs. Visit our automation page to learn more.

Click here to download a PDF copy of part 1 of our Quickly Starting Test Automation guide with our compliments

Watch out for parts 2 and 3!

For a quick chat or more tips and tricks get in touch below and let us know where you’re stuck or how you’re getting on.