The Essentials of Automated Web Application Testing

Positive Technologies, a renowned provider of cybersecurity solutions, reported that 82% of vulnerabilities it detected in 2019 were found in the code of web applications. The company also estimated that the systems it assessed contained, on average, twenty-two vulnerabilities, with four of them classified as critical. Automated testing is a powerful approach that can help organizations not only resolve many of these vulnerabilities in their web applications before it is too late but also verify many other aspects of the software. Read this article to learn the basics of automated web application testing.

The specifics of automated web application testing

Automated web application testing relies on an automated testing tool, whose primary function is to execute test scripts without human supervision. A test script is a set of commands that create instructions with outlined steps for execution without human assistance. However, human testers create test scripts and determine their quality and efficiency.

Additionally, testing tools can automate many other aspects of testing, including report generation, analysis, and test script maintenance.

Since the process of automating web application testing depends on the nature and features of the test automation tool, it is useful to know some of the common categories of these products.

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Proprietary and open-source tools

You can find proprietary test automation tools, which are often provided for a fee, as well as open-source tools that are free of charge.

Ready-to-use tools and frameworks

Off-the-shelf solutions usually do not require lengthy implementation and configuration. In contrast, tools distributed in the form of frameworks often require more extensive setup and customization to align with specific project requirements, which usually cannot be achieved without the assistance of experienced developers. On the downside, off-the-shelf solutions, unlike tools distributed as frameworks, may be more challenging to customize, if customizable at all.

Low-code, no-code, and developer-centric solutions

Automation tools for testing web applications require different levels of programming knowledge during test script creation. In many cases, testers have to write scripts manually using programming languages. However, low-code tools, such as Executive Automats, often provide a user-friendly interface that allows users to work without coding.

Application-specific and multi-application testing tools

It’s common to find testing tools designed specifically for validating individual web applications. For example, some popular platforms like enterprise resource planning systems or customer relationship management software, which often require post-implementation testing, have such dedicated testing products.

On the other hand, there are also many versatile testing tools that can be used across various types of applications.

Cross-browser testing and browser-specific testing

Modern test automation tools tend to support cross-browser testing, essential for ensuring the consistency and compatibility of web applications across different platforms. Browser-specific tools are their counterparts, focusing solely on testing within a specific web browser environment.

Types of web application testing that can be automated

Automation can be applied to various aspects of web applications, but it is most effective for repetitive, rule-based tasks that do not rely on human judgment and intuition. The primary types of automated web application testing include:

  • Performance testing;
  • Functional testing;
  • API testing;
  • Visual testing;
  • Security testing;
  • Regression testing.

On the other hand, many types of testing are either partially automated or not automated at all. These include user acceptance (UAT) testing, exploratory testing, ad hoc testing, and usability testing.

Possibilities and limitations of automated web application testing

Modern web applications often require automation for proper testing due to their complexity, ongoing optimization, upgrades, and evolving user preferences for internet browsers. As security threats continually evolve, applications once considered resistant to attacks can become vulnerable due to new hacking techniques.

Automation significantly expands the scope and coverage of testing, allowing companies to assess their web applications more frequently and reducing testing costs. However, automated testing has its limitations. Organizations planning to adopt this approach should be aware of these challenges to allocate the necessary budget and resources effectively.

Financial investment and maintenance

Automation comes with associated costs, whether you are using an open-source or proprietary tool. Even if you find a no-code closed-source off-the-shelf product without an upfront payment, which is hardly possible, you will still need to plan your budget for test maintenance costs.

In most cases, you will have to choose between paying for a ready-to-use, user-friendly product or investing in professional developers to set up a testing environment with a free framework.

Limited test coverage

As previously mentioned, web application testing tools cannot handle certain tests that require human judgment. Additionally, the manual effort required for creating and maintaining test scripts can limit the scope of testing. Consequently, companies often prioritize testing the most critical areas of an application first.

Conclusions

The efficiency, thoroughness, and precision in handling repetitive and rule-based tasks make automated web application testing a critical tool for maintaining efficient software performance.

However, while automated testing offers numerous advantages, it also presents certain challenges. The initial financial investment and ongoing maintenance costs, the inability to manage certain human-centric tests, and the reliance on manual testers for test script development are just some of the limitations of automated testing that companies looking for effective testing solutions should consider.