Web application, test automation and testability

Posted: 26.11.2013 in Test automation
Tags: ,

Test automation and testability should be in same sentence. If the application is not testable, it will be hard to automate. This short blog entry lists few things which are benefiting the testability of web applications.

What kind of application is testable? The primary issue is that it is easy to test or it doesn’t need plenty of guessing. Test automation should be able to find easily the components which it clicks or edits. There should also be some easy way to check if the results are expected. Testable application aids to create test automation which tolerates the changes of the application.

Most web applications have forms. They are the most difficult part of test automation. Many modern web application frameworks are creating own strange names and ids for fields. When application is modified, the field names are change also or they can be more or less random. For example SharePoint based web application has field names like:’ ctl00_m_g_18447b1a_f553_3331_d034_7f143559a4fe_ctl01_stateSelection_input’. In worst case the content of field name is tied to session, or dynamically changed when page is revisited at later point of the test. Testable application should have simple and descriptive id or name parameter for input-fields and links. In this case it could b “stateSelection”. In most test automation frameworks it is much easier to refer to name-parameter than to some over cryptic xpath. It’s also more debuggable than e.g. //div[@id=’mainpart’]/table[0]/tr[1]/input[contains(@id,’stateSelection’].

Test should be able to assert if the response was correct or not. This is usually done by checking if some specific text or component is at the web page. To simplify the testing the html-code should be as simple as possible to avoid misinterpretations. It should contain e.g. html-comments to describe what the web application itself thought about the result. But no matter what the application does, it should never spit out the stack trace or some other error message which reveals the internals of application. That information belongs only to the logs. In error case the content should have something which can be easily linked to error log. It doesn’t help only the test automation, but it will also help to debug production time problems.

Proper server side logging and simplifying accessing to them increases also the testability. In case of failure the logs should have stack traces, exception information and other debugging information. It is very useful if test automation can retrieve these in case of error and add that to its logs.

Ajax is real pain for test automation, performance testing, manual testing and security testing. But developers and users love it! One major problem at Ajax is that web page loading is marked done before all content has been loaded. So it is very difficult for the automation to understand if the loading has succeeded or not. So there are couple things which should be done: First the agreement between testers and other stakeholders what is the maximum loading time the content can take. Second is some clear mark at dynamic content when it is loaded and rendered to the screen. This can be e.g. small comment at html-page. That way the test automation can have good timeouts, and it can detect the finished page.

This short blog entry describes just small part of web application testability. But my experience is, that these are the most common problems.

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