Modern technologies, regardless of the industry, often pose a challenge for creators to ensure quality in complex products. Automated tests offer a solution to these challenges by enabling quick and effective software checks. Companies, irrespective of their field, are increasingly leveraging test automation to enhance process efficiency and ensure better product quality.
The software development cycle of a single iteration comprises numerous steps, starting from conception and concluding with version retirement. Between the first and last stages—after the implementation of the concept but before the product installation and release—comes the testing phase. This phase can be likened to material durability testing and certification procedures. Initially, the software is tested under optimal conditions before being subjected to the worst possible configuration. Initially used as intended, it is then fed incorrect data or tasked with performing non-obvious operations. All this is done to ensure that the software can function predictably across various hardware configurations and will not lose stability should a user opt for less common options or make an error.
However, manual installation, execution, and running of diverse sequences of actions are both time-consuming and insufficient. Hence, automated testing is gaining increasing popularity. What are they and what benefits arise from their implementation?
As the name suggests, it involves procedures that execute automatically. An automated test is a script executed within a designated program that navigates through various paths, performs operations on the tested software, and retains the results. Such an approach comes with several benefits for both product creators and entities commissioning its development.
- Repeatability. Automated tests are conducted by machines following a pre-programmed scenario. This eliminates a significant issue in manual approaches – the human factor. Each test looks the same every time, eliminating the possibility of skipping a step due to fatigue or carelessness.
- Speed. Conducting a single automated test is significantly faster than executing the same algorithm manually. This applies not only to entering data and initiating various options but also to activities following the completion of the procedure. This results in quicker readiness for retesting and, in the long run, the ability to conduct a greater number of trials within a given timeframe.
- Preciseness. Automated tests are immune to the cognitive errors that humans are susceptible to. As a result, they can detect potential errors in the code and software operation long before a person might notice that something is amiss. For instance, a manual tester might click on an option on a web page with the cursor, and if an icon doesn’t respond immediately but with a slight delay – from a user’s perspective, it might not even be a noticeable difference. However, in reality, delayed execution of a procedure could indicate a deeper issue in the code. An automated test measures the time between an action and its response, thereby not only recording how many milliseconds it took to execute a function but also providing developers with crucial information. This data allows them to scrutinize the problem and optimize the code before hundreds of small errors turn any page into another Facebook.
- Multithreading. Among the benefits of automation, one cannot overlook parallel testing. Contrary to common belief, humans are unable to focus on multiple tasks simultaneously; they can only switch rapidly between different tasks. Nevertheless, this shifting of attention between several activities can lead to errors and oversights, ultimately slowing down the pace of work. Automated tests, leveraging multi-threaded hardware and software architectures, are not limited in the same way as humans. It’s possible to concurrently execute multiple algorithms, which proves beneficial, for instance, when assessing a new product version for backward compatibility.
There are no perfect solutions, and replacing humans with machines doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in efficiency without negative consequences. Automated tests are indeed very fast and accurate, but their greatest advantage is also their greatest drawback. They lack the human factor. At present, the majority of software is still designed to be user-friendly. Therefore, UX (User Experience) remains crucial—placing buttons, the size of the area around icons allowing for imprecise clicks, interface clarity, and many other aspects. In these matters, humans remain irreplaceable.