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Vasyl Dushevin, Automation and Manual Quality Assurance Engineer

Mar 27, 2024 15 min read

How To Automate UI Testing: Best Practices In 2024

Graphical user interface (GUI) verifies that the application's user interface (UI) works as expected (helps the user achieve the goals) and is user-friendly.

Graphical user interface (GUI) testing is a vital part of a complex software testing process that helps to ensure the quality of all interface components of the application or website. It verifies that the application's user interface (UI) works as expected (helps the user achieve the goals) and is user-friendly. 

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about how to do UI automation testing, from the fundamental concepts to your first test. 

What is UI testing? 

UI testing is the process of an application's controls and interactive elements (visual indicators and icons, menus, switches, text boxes, checkboxes, toolbars, colors, fonts, and other decision-making elements) to verify that the UI displays the expected performance and functionality. 

5 aspects that UI testing validates:  

  • Visual design  
  • Functionality  
  • Usability  
  • Performance  
  • Consistency  

UI testing is performed manually and through automated methods. The purpose of UI testing is to ensure compliance with the specifications and no defects in the user interface.   

What is the value of UI testing for the company and the users?  

UI testing covers two main areas within the QA testing process:  

  • First, tests how the application responds to user actions from keyboard, mouse, and other input devices.  
  • Second, tests the correctness of the display and consistency of visual elements.  

In other words, it helps ensure the application meets functional requirements and corresponds to the user's business needs. For this reason, UI testing is crucial before releasing an application. 

Checklist how to automate UI testing: what to test first of all  

This section contains a basic list of GUI elements and possible tests from. The cases cover different aspects of the interface: images, color, page content, navigation, and usability.  

  • Data types. Ensure only valid values can be entered for certain data types, such as currency and dates.  
  • Field width. If a particular text field has min/max character limits, test them (For example, a field that allows 50 characters must not allow entry of more than 50 characters in the UI). A good solution would be to specify in the user interface that the data entered must not exceed the character limit.  
  • Navigation Elements. Ensure that all navigation buttons on the page work and redirect users to the correct page or screen.  
  • Progress Indicators. Sometimes, an app needs time to complete the assigned work. In such cases, add a progress bar. It will help the user that the work is still in progress.  
  • Input prompts. In an input dropdown menu with hundreds of items, verify that when you type the first letter, only those items that start with that letter are displayed. This way, you will save users from scrolling through a long list of values.  
  • Table Scrolling. When the table allows scrolling, ensure that the headers are fixed during the scrolling.  
  • Error Logging. When a fatal error occurs in the system, make sure the application records the error details in a special log file for later review.  
  • Menu items and mode. Ensure the application displays only those available menu items in a particular mode. 
  • Key combinations. Check key combinations to ensure they work correctly, regardless of browser, platform, or device. 
  • Action confirmation buttons. Ensure the UI has a working confirmation button whenever the user wants to save or delete an item.

Following this approach, you first collect a set of scenarios with high priority for your customers, then break them down into smaller tests to test UI elements included in selected scenarios.

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Important note. Make sure to include testing of end-to-end scenarios. These scenarios replicate the whole use case, ensuring the application allows the users to fulfill their business needs. For example, in the case of an online shop, it's essential to test the entire purchase scenario, not just the operation of individual buttons, price controls, and input fields. 

Approaches to UI testing of mobile applications and web interfaces  

We can distinguish three main approaches to application GUI testing:  

Manual testing

In manual testing, a QA engineer performs operations imitating normal user behavior to check whether the application works correctly and whether the graphical elements meet the documented requirements. Manual testing has significant limitations in interface coverage, depth, and time.

Testing with capture/playback tools

When testing with capture/playback tools, the tester has to perform a series of actions from the paragraph above only once. The tester's interactions with the application are recorded by specialized software. The recorded steps are then reproduced and executed, and the results are compared with the expected behavior. This kind of testing is crucial in regression testing because the tests are performed without direct human participation.

Model-based testing

As part of this testing approach, the quality assurance engineer builds models describing the system's behavior. This approach allows the tester to create high-performance test cases and provides a deeper understanding of the system. Models define system inputs and outputs, which are used to perform tests. Test simulation works as follows:

  • Create a model of the system.  
  • Define the input parameters. 
  • Define the expected results.  
  • Run tests.  
  • Test and validate the output of the system against the expected results.

The model-based approach is effective because it provides a high level of automation. It also covers more states in the system and increases test coverage. 

Format for describing UI automation testing scenarios  

First of all, testers need to prepare a test plan that defines the areas of the application to be tested and the resources available for testing. With this information, testers can define test scenarios (a document defining how an application should work in real life and real situations), create test suites, and write test scripts.  

For example, a test scenario in most applications will look like this, "Users will successfully log in with a valid username or password and ID". The following test case map emerges:  

  • The user tries to log in with a valid username and password combination.    
  • The user tries to log in with an invalid username and a valid password.   
  • The user tries to log in with a valid username and an incorrect password.    
  • The user tries to reset the password.   
  • The user tries to copy the password from the password field.   
  • The user tries to paste the password into the password field.   
  • The user clicks the help button to get help logging in. 

Scripting is a base for creating test scripts (scripting), as shown in the diagram: 

Example of preparation of test scenarios

These test cases cover the core aspects of login functionality and provide the basis for thorough security and usability testing of authentication features. By developing detailed test cases, testers can ensure that the authentication system works correctly in various situations, increasing the security and reliability of the application. 

What is important to consider in UI testing  

When performing UI tests, testers face several nuances. Here are some of the most notable stories:  

  • Constantly changing UI. Typically, apps are actively evolving and updating to meet new market requirements. With frequent updates, performing complex UI tests becomes a daunting task, especially in web and mobile apps where there is an active culture of A/B testing of small layout changes in UI.  
  • Increasing complexity of testing. Modern applications have significant functionality: frames, flowcharts, maps, diagrams, and other complex controls.  
  • Time-consuming UI tests. Crafting and running UI tests can take time, especially without the right tools. 
  • Maintaining UI testing scripts. As developers change the UI, the base of test cases on maintenance becomes larger.  
  • Calculating ROI for implementing automated UI testing. As the UI evolves, the automated tests also have to change. This increases the time for refactoring and affects the release lines. Eventually, it becomes difficult to calculate ROI for the continuous execution of UI tests.  

Successful UI testing requires considering the adaptability of tests to changes, the possibility of using automation tools to speed up the process, and a deep understanding of the user experience to effectively test complex UI elements. Attention should also be paid to maintaining and updating test scripts in line with UI changes and evaluating the ROI of test automation to ensure value for money. 

Best practices for organizing UI testing  

Keep practical tips to help deal with the increasing complexity of UI testing:

01

Choose the right UI test automation tool. The first step is to choose the right UI testing tool. Many testing tools available in the market are suitable for project applications. An excellent tool should make your workflow better. A UI test automation tool should have record/replay capabilities, support reusable tests, and not create additional reasons to call tech support. It should also support reporting and have defect-tracking capabilities.

02

Use a shared repository to store test scripts. One approach to reduce test maintenance and associated costs is to use a shared repository to store created UI automated scripts. It is also recommended to start with a small number of the most crucial UI test cases in the initial stages and then increase the coverage as you move forward. This ensures a higher success rate in your test cases.

03

Review standards. A programming culture significantly impacts how well teams handle the testing process in the application development cycle. For this reason, companies should focus on educating teams on best practices for test automation and implementing certain criteria for enterprise-wide code reviews or changes. A good approach is to involve test automation experts in brainstorming sessions. 

To effectively organize automated UI testing, it is necessary to introduce a code review culture and train teams in modern automation methods. This will help improve the quality of tests and make the testing process more efficient and less time-consuming. 

Automated web UI testing and mobile apps: when to do? 

Clients are looking to automate UI testing for several reasons. Here are some reasons for test automation services

  • Time. Manual testing is generally a slow process and usually doesn't keep up with releases at full speed.   
  • Cost. Manual testing requires significant human resources, which raises the costs.   
  • Accuracy. Manual testing is prone to human factors, which leads to more errors when performing repetitive tasks. Automating repetitive tasks reduces the likelihood of these errors.   
  • Scope. The more complex the tested scenario is, the harder it is to execute it manually without having human factor-driven mistakes. Automated tests do not have those risks.   
  • Trend. Most organizations have realized the benefits they can derive from automated testing.   

Using the table comparing manual and automated testing, let's look at when to use automated testing:

Criterion 

Manual testing 

Automated testing 

Speed 

low 

high 

Accuracy 

high 

high 

Scalability 

low 

high 

Return on investment in short-term testing 

high 

high 

Return on investment in long-term testing 

low

high 

Ability to reuse the test 

high 

high 

Test coverage 

high 

medium 

Entry threshold 

easily master 

an effort is required 

Clarity 

rather low 

rather high 

Adaptivity 

high 

an effort is required 

Best suited for

usability testing, exploratory testing, early stages of development, frequently changing environment, ad-hoc tests 

through testing, regression testing, testing of stable application versions 

Automated testing is recommended for:  

  • use in cases where high speed of test execution is required,  
  • reducing long-term costs,  
  • increasing testing accuracy by reducing the human factor,  
  • enabling testing on a large scale and complexity,  
  • enjoying the benefit of modern tools and useful features in software development.  

These aspects make automating UI tests the preferred choice in environments with frequent releases and complex projects. To streamline the process of UI testing, especially when dealing with vast amounts of textual data, integrating text automated UI testing software into your QA strategy can significantly reduce manual effort and increase accuracy. 

Automation methods   

Let's look at methods that will help you understand how to do UI automation testing: 

01

Recording and replaying. In this method, the tester utilizes specialized software to record a sequence of UI interactions in the application and save them as a script. This script can then be replayed on demand to perform the same set of actions again. Recording and replaying is a simple and effective automation method, especially in the initial stages of testing. 

02

Scripting. This method involves writing test scripts using special keywords (like Gherkin syntax). Such scripts allow for more flexible control of UI elements, handling different situations, and checking the expected results. Creating scripts requires certain programming skills but allows you to automate more complex testing scenarios.

03

Test data generation. For automated testing, it is necessary to have test data. Manual creation of all test data can be time-consuming. Therefore, special tools or scripts are often used to generate different test data automatically. This greatly speeds up the testing process and allows you to test the program on a large data set.

04

Integration into the build and continuous system. Automated UI tests can be integrated into build and continuous integration systems. In this way, every change in the program code can trigger the tests to run automatically, which allows to detect and address discovered bugs in the early stages of development.

UI automation testing tools  

As the name suggests, the UI automation testing tools help automate routine tasks like smoke testing/regression testing. The testers can focus on the tasks that cannot be automated or require special attention (like testing newly developed functionality or retesting fixed bugs), which, in the long run, allows them to improve the quality of the product. To understand how to automate UI testing, there are many tools and methods. Below are the main ones with a brief description of the key features:  

Selenium is one of the oldest and the most used tools for automating UI testing. It provides a rich set of functions for creating and running test scenarios on different browsers. Selenium allows you to interact with web browsers and page elements, perform user actions, and test the expected results. 

Appium is a tool for automating mobile app usability testing on various platforms, such as iOS and Android. It allows you to create test scenarios interacting with mobile app UI elements, perform various custom actions, and verify expected results.  

Cypress is a UI testing automation tool that allows you to create efficient and reliable test scenarios for web applications. It features a user-friendly interface and lets you use simple syntax to interact with web page elements. Cypress also provides various functions to perform various checks and assertions on a web page.   

These are just a few examples of basic tools to automate UI testing. The of a specific tool depends on the testing team's preferences and the testing team's preferences and project's needs. Choosing a suited tool case is essential to perform UI testing efficiently and reliably. 

Steps to implement automated UI testing 

 Let's look at how to conduct usability testing step by step: 

IMPLEMENTATION STEPS

1

Analyze the requirements: Before creating tests, you should thoroughly analyze the project's requirements. This will allow you to determine the functionality that needs to be tested first and develop appropriate test scenarios. 

2

Create test scenarios: Based on the requirements analysis, you will create test scenarios that will cover the core functionality of the UI. These tests should be easy to read, automate, and maintain. 

3

Select suitable tools: You need to choose tools for automating UI testing that suit your project's needs (for example, Selenium WebDriver or Appium). The selected tools allow you to create and maintain your tests quickly.

4

Development of automated tests: Automated tests will be developed based on the test scenarios created. These should simulate the user's behavior by interacting with the UI, performing actions, and validating the results. The tests should be robust, data-agnostic, and resistant to changes in the user interface.

5

Running the tests: Once automated tests have been developed, their configuration should be based on specific events or schedules. This can be achieved by integrating tests into the CI/CD system or configuring tests that will be run manually. Reporting may also be done to obtain test results.  

6

Support and Update: Once the automated tests are created, you must monitor and maintain them. If there are changes to the user interface or requirements, the tests must be updated and tested to ensure they are still valid. 

With every step, your application becomes more attractive to users. 

Requirements for automating how to automate UI testing 

Check out some recommendations:

01

The first and most important requirement is accuracy. Automated tests must be rigorously configured and validated to ensure the accuracy of the results. Inaccurate results can lead to an incorrect and unreliable assessment of UI quality.

02

The second requirement is reliability. Automated tests must be stable, data agnostic, and reliable so that their results are consistent and do not change from run to run. Reliable tests allow you to identify bugs in the user interface faster by capturing the circumstances of the failed test run (create screenshots of failures and logs).  

03

The third requirement is related to maintainability. Automated tests should be easy to use and maintain (i.e., update when the user interface or requirements change). If tests are difficult to maintain, automation will only add unnecessary complexity and cost to the development process. 

04

The fourth requirement is modularity. Tests should be divided into modules or functional blocks so that they can be run independently. This makes debugging and identifying problem areas in the user interface easier. 

05

The fifth requirement is simplicity. The tests should be as simple as possible. Huge complex tests are more error-prone and, therefore, less reliable. Such tests also take significantly more time to create and execute, which can be problematic when integrating into CI/CD systems. If possible, such complex scenarios should be split into smaller ones, which are easier to create and maintain and take less time to run. 

Following these basic guidelines will allow you to create efficient and reliable UI tests that detect problems before they reach the user. We do not mention many more requirements regarding how to do UI automation testing. 

The benefits of UI testing automation  

The benefits of automated UI testing can be:  

  • Increased test execution speed.    
  • Improved test coverage for various UI elements, such as text, images, buttons, and interaction forms, that might be overlooked during manual “testing under pressure”.  
  • Improved chances to detect the defects that may be missed during manual testing due to human factors.   
  • Speeding up the software development and release process.   
  • Improved UI reliability and stability.   
  • Improved quality of the developed software.   
  • Optimization of testing costs. 

In summary, the benefits go beyond simply speeding up test execution and increasing the accuracy of validating UI elements. Automation helps identify defects that may be missed by manual testing, making it a cost-effective strategy for maintaining high standards in software development.

Conclusion and recommendations on how to automate UI testing 

UI testing is a powerful driver of effective testing and, as a result, customer satisfaction. The main task of QA engineers here is to ensure the user interface works as expected in all browsers and on all platforms.  

A strong QA engineer understands the importance of automated UI testing, knows how to do UI automation testing and can enhance the product quality (through the automated UI testing process) so that customers are happy and tech support receives fewer complaints. And, of course, they will need less time to do it, as they appliy best practices for automation testing. Talk to us how start UI testing. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can UI testing be automated?

Yes, UI testing should be automated to enhance efficiency and coverage.

How do you automate GUI testing?

You can automate GUI testing via tools that simulate user interactions with a page or an application.

How can you automate the testing of a web interface?

You can automate web interface testing by using tools that interact with browsers and web elements on the page

Can we automate UI testing using Selenium

Yes, Selenium is widely used for automating UI testing for web applications.

Which is the best tool for UI automation testing?

The best tool depends on project needs. As we said it above you should choose the framework that will suit your paricular needs best.

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