automated test cases best practices
November 12, 2019

Best Practices for Your Automated Test Cases

Automation

Test automation is undoubtedly a time-saving practice for DevOps. The ability to shift from manual tests that cost valuable time to automated tests that run like clockwork is the ideal state for development and testing teams.

The building blocks of fully functional test automation are the test cases. Creating test cases that ensure automated testing runs fluidly is only possible when best practices are followed. In this blog, we define the elements of agile software testing and how to use those elements to create optimized test cases consistently.

Introducing the Agile Testing Manifesto

Agile is now the leading software development methodology. You cannot have quality software development without solid software testing. Today, to correspond with the Agile development framework, there is software testing that is considered Agile.

Agile testing works in tandem with the Agile development cycle, creating a powerful methodology for application development and release. This “Agile testing manifesto” includes the following pillars:

  • Continuous testing that is prioritized over testing at the end of the software development lifecycle.
  • Embracing all testing activities over only automated functional testing.
  • Focusing on tests that deliver business value over simply testing everything.
  • Collaborative testing practices that include multiple departments instead of a siloed approach.
  • Attention to product coverage over code coverage.

Shift Left: Manual vs. Automated Testing Impact

In prior history, software testing was often left to the end of the development cycle. In today’s model of Agile development, software testing must “shift left” in the software development timeline. When testing is shifted left, defects can be found and prevented earlier, which improves overall quality of the shipped application.

When an organization has committed to Agile software testing and a shift left approach, there are several actions that must take place. To get started with continuous testing, organizations should follow a specific decision-making process.

Getting Started With Automated Test Case Creation

Test Case Objectives

You want to have some objectives in mind before you decide what to automate. It’s highly important that your testing stakeholders run through questions with a focus on value and context.

What value do we want to add by automating? What defects do we want to find and prevent? What areas of testing are highly critical to customer satisfaction?

Use your own business and departmental experience to establish your test objectives, so that at the end you experience meaningful results that the entire business can see. Keep in mind that such objectives must be tuned as the product lifecycle evolves to ensure the directions and focus are still relevant.

Prioritize Your Tests

Not everything that is automated needs to be part of your job or part of your CI. If a test is not important to CI in the long term, it will waste precious time to monitor and fix when in reality you simply don't need to fix the issue.

The bottom line is that you want to focus your time only on the important tests, so be very diligent in defining those tests that become part of your suite.

Reliability Across Platforms and OS

We are in a digital age, so everything runs on mobile platforms like smartphones, tablets, foldable smartphones, and desktop browsers.

You want to think with scale in mind when developing new test automation or even maintaining existing automation.

Time to Develop and Maintain

The time to develop and maintain a test is absolutely crucial. While you may have created a sophisticated test, if it was a time-consuming endeavor, it’s not realistic to use long term. You must balance the test creation effort with the overall resources you have available to keep an automation running. This is true test automation scalability.

In addition, test code MUST be treated as your production code to ensure it is backed up, has history, can be maintained and fixed easily, and more.

Coverage Area

Automated testing is also about test coverage.

First is platform coverage, which includes smartphones, browsers, and operating systems that should be covered when parallel testing. The other facet of coverage is test scenarios, which include the business flows in the product. Ideally, coverage encompasses the product and application scenarios that are critical for every single test cycle.

As an organization, you should know the level of coverage you currently achieve, and with test automation in place your coverage should be extended. Keep monitoring your coverage to know whether automation is achieving a lift.

Early Warnings and Flakiness

Additionally, something that people tend to neglect is the early warnings. When you are creating test automation for the first time, there will be important early warnings that convey test flakiness, inconsistent results when running against different platforms, latencies, and synchronization issues.

Keep early warnings in mind and when you see a test that is error-prone, keep an eye on the test. One way to address test flakiness is through test reporting, by adding relevant annotations and tags that can be filtered and examined.

Balancing Test Case Creation: The Three Personas

Every organization is unique, especially when it comes to the individual team members and their skillsets. When it comes to automated test cases, your team personas will have a major impact.

Here are the three business personas that contribute to the testing life cycle:

  • The business tester typically does not have programming or coding experience. They contribute to test cases when there are codeless tools available. The business tester brings business context and strategy to the test case creation.
  • The software developer in test (SDET) has coding skills and can create test cases with various test automation scripts.
  • The software developer is responsible for the heavy bulk of automated test case creation because of their coding knowledge.

test case automation best practices

Deciding Which Test Cases to Automate

When you have your automated test case plan set and your team in place, you can finally decide which cases to automate.

Instinct

The decision-making process starts with a test engineer’s gut instinct which is based on experience and test creation talent.

Risk

There should also be attention to the risk associated with a test and a defect. A test engineer will have a process for calculating the risk as a probability that an issue will occur and how it would impact customers.

Value

Value should always be a huge part of the automated test case development process. Testers should consider whether a test case will provide new information. If a test case were to fail, how long would a fix take?

Cost Efficiency

Return on investment is key when getting your automated test cases off the ground. If too much time is spent on test case creation, the value will quickly diminish. Keep in mind the pace with which you create your tests and how easy they are to script.

History

When thinking of creating a test case for a feature or functionality, weigh the volume of historical failures and frequency of breaks for the feature or function. If it is a highly sensitive or volatile area to test, it may not be a good candidate for test case creation.

Test Cases That Stand the Test of Time

It’s one thing to create valuable test cases from the beginning. However, writing test cases with longevity is the ultimate payoff. When creating test cases, it’s important to think about the impact of time.

Think about the future of the web or mobile applications. What changes are in the roadmap? Will the test case be compatible with those additional iterations?

Think about the organization and its evolution. Will the organization have the resources available long-term to support the test cases you create today?

Another consideration is how technology will change. Every few weeks you see a new device and a new operating system. Do your test cases match the technology, OS, and devices of today, as well as the technology that’s to come? For example, do you have test cases prepared for the eventual takeover of 5G vs 4G?

While it’s impossible to predict the future, spending time reviewing the possibilities of what’s to come for your software development organization will help. Test case maintenance is as important as test case creation. Consider all variables including the business personas on your team, the organizational roadmap, and tech changes on the way.

Measuring Your Test Case Value

If you’ve followed the guidelines in this article, your test cases should be well designed and prepared for scaled automation. At this point, you will be running many tests and gaining significant test case data.

This data is how you can discern if your test cases are really successful. Measuring test case value is the final piece of test case best practices. There are several elements to measuring the value of your test cases.

Consistently Track Test Case Success and Failure

An important test case measurement is DRE, or defect removal efficiency, which is a metric used in the software testing industry. DRE defines how well test automation performs in removing defects introduced to a software application.

The DRE equation is DRE = Ratio between the total defects found prior to app release to production /total defects introduced later in the cycle (Production/UAT))

A good DRE metric includes a minimal number of defects in the denominator, with higher number in the nominator field. When this occurs, “shifting left” is in progress. Ultimately, through monitoring the DRE and identifying defects prior to the release of the product, better overall test automation is achieved.

While each group will build out their process of measuring DRE, the key is to keep it formalized and ongoing. Establish a baseline DRE so your team can work to improve upon your average DRE every cycle. Periodically review the number and make changes accordingly.

Remember, it’s important to keep an eye out for test automation success metrics as well as failures. Check out this post for more: 4 Signs Your Automation Is Failing You.

Recommended Test Case KPIs

To get your team started, these are some recommended points of test case analysis. These KPIs all shed valuable insight on your test automation success.

How fast are testing activities moving

Application quality measurements

Pipeline efficiency measurements

Quality cost measurements

 

 

 

  • Number of escaped defects and in which areas
  • MTTD — mean time to detection of defect
  • Build quality

 

  •  Number of user stories implemented per iteration
  • Test automation as part of DoD across iterations
  • CI length trending
  • Lab availability and utilization

 

  •  Operational costs, lab availability issues
  • Cost of hardware/software
  • Costs of defects by severity and stage

 

 

While the process of test creation according to industry best practices can seem daunting, we hope this blog gave you a step-by-step path to get started.

Remember, each team has its own unique strengths, skills, and testing personas. Take time to assess your existing resources and software development processes and begin to create test cases according to these best practices.

Soon your test automation will be running with success, saving your team time, and helping you deliver best-in-class applications.

Amplify Your Test Case Creation and Automation Efforts With Perfecto

From test case creation to measurement, the process of implementing automated testing is essential to successful DevOps. Perfecto makes test authoring, maintenance, management, and measurement a seamless experience for your team.

With the Perfecto platform, your enterprise can expertly navigate and automate advanced test scenarios. Plus, we integrate with your existing testing frameworks including Selenium, Espresso, and Appium.

If you’d like to explore how Perfecto can help you build a cutting-edge automation process that gives maximum coverage and scale, sign up for a free trial today.

Start My Trial