Automation Testing: An Essential Guide

The aim of software testing is to find defects in applications which can then be eliminated, preferably before the product goes to market, so specified objectives can be achieved.

Testing helps evaluate the usability and capability of any particular application. Although testing is an integral part of the application’s success, the whole process has an associated high cost that comes from identifying the defects to resolve them and to re-verifying them after the fix, along with signing off the testing process.

Testing can be done either manually or by automating some of the functionalities, which avoids the repetition of specific tasks, hence saving time and overall cost. It does not mean, however, that manual testing should be eliminated. Manual and automated testing go hand-in-hand, and together have the potential to provide enormous benefits to organizations, including cost-saving, time-saving, and by crafting team efforts in a smart way.

Testing has transformed from old school techniques to cater to the needs of rapidly changing technologies. In this article, we will analyze the current environment and discuss in detail the merits and demerits of automation testing.

Automation Testing: An Overview

An example of a job would be if you were given an application to test, which contained various forms, and each form had around 30 fields to be filled before proceeding further for the particular functionality to work. The testing cycle begins by opening the respective form and adding the test data step-by-step in every field. It should take about 10-12 minutes to complete this activity. When a form’s submit button is hit, you might catch a bug and report it in your bug management tool, also noting all the steps to reproduce that particular scenario.

Similarly, this repetitive testing cycle will continue for an extended time, and a few more bugs might be found. After the developer has resolved the found issues, the tester must verify the fixes, following the same steps as before. The quality of the application is now improved. Later, a new version of the application is released from the developer and the whole cycle begins again.

Continuous regression testing is tiresome and boring, and the tester will feel exhausted if the same activity continues for a very long time. There is also the chance that a tester may skip steps to generate results more quickly, which can be damaging for productivity, and eventually embarrassing for the tester if the defect arises in the live environment.

Every tester can relate to the above common scenario. We are humans and are unable to repeatedly do the same thing with constant accuracy, energy, and speed, which is why automation testing can help us with performing the testing process with repeated accuracy and effectiveness. If the above scenario is automated, it will most probably take one to two minutes to complete all the steps and generate a report.

Automation testing can help teams to turn their focus to other functionalities, freeing time for devising new strategies, which ultimately improves the overall testing process.

Kick-starting Automation Testing

Technology is a competitive tool, and the need for speed is the slogan of modern information technology. The cost of setting up an automated testing process is initially higher because of setting up the tools and training resources. As the system matures, the expense decreases gradually as the test team becomes capable of executing the test scripts with more efficiency and quickly.

When to Automate

Now that we have spoken about the benefits of automated testing let’s identify some cases that would be feasible to automate. Before you start to select, a useful approach is first to understand the objectives to be pursued. Examples of scenarios that make a good case for automation are:

  • When regression testing is time-consuming
  • When the project is long-term and complex
  • When resources with the right expertise are available

Not everything in testing can be automated, but the rough ratio is 60% of the application will continue to be tested manually with automation taking care of the rest. Automation should be done based on the following cases.

  • Regression Tests: Regression tests are needed whenever a new build is deployed in a testing environment. If we automate the regression test cases, then we can add more value to the rest of the application.
  • High-Risk Tests: Some scenarios need particular care due to associated risks. The approach is also called Risk-Based Testing, and often the functionality is critical and, if failed, can significantly affect the business. A good strategy is to automate these kinds of test cases to mitigate risk, so issues are identified as early as possible without disturbing the rhythm and focus of the team.
  • Repetitive Test Cases: As with regression testing, repetitive test cases requires the input of a large amount of data before proceeding. Engaging in the same flow can become tedious and time-consuming. However, by automating such test cases, we can save both time and effort.

When Not to Automate

If the behavior of an application is not adequately understood, then it is better not to automate in that instance. Various factors must be considered when deciding not to automate an application.

  • Unstable Design: Some applications do not have stable behavior, such as those that rely on real-time data to generate results. These cannot guarantee satisfactory results for automation.
  • New Tester: The first step towards implementing automation is to know the programming language. If the tester is not sufficiently trained or does not possess the technical details, then automated testing is not possible.
  •  Insufficient Time/Resources: If the manual testing in your organization rarely has enough time to complete, then automation testing is not the solution. Don’t expect a tool to help in automation if there is not enough time available or enough dedicated resources. Initially, automation testing consumes time because of set-up, but once the testing progresses, the time frame gradually decreases.

automation testing

Tool Selection

Selecting which tool to use for automated testing can depend on various factors such as budget, knowledge of the resources, project complexity, and the experience of all stakeholders involved in the project. Analyzing the right tool for the right environment can be a complicated activity because of the number of tools available on the market. Open-source and commercial tools are available with differing limitations and capabilities. To select the right tool, an evident and focused understanding of the project requirements is needed.

Some of the more popular tools used are Selenium, Katalon Studio, Appium, Ranorex, Watir, and TestComplete. They offer a variety of possibilities to help you succeed in automation testing.


Automation testing is successful when organizations have well-defined objectives. However, it can attract certain misperceptions such as ‘we can automate the whole application,’ ‘it will reduce time to a great extent,’ and ‘it will eliminate all the bugs.’

We should know that automation can save time but for those test cases which are repetitive and need to be repeated periodically. A lack of proper planning and an understanding of which test cases to automate can lead to more substantial maintenance of the scripts, which can be more time consuming than expected. Keeping in mind the discussion above can help you avoid a large number of bugs and deliver a better quality application.

Ali Imam

Ali Imam

Ali is an experienced software tester and has worked with in a variety of areas from e-commerce, healthcare and social networking.