How to Get Started Testing: Best Test Cases to Automate
Test and Monitor | Posted November 19, 2020

Testing is a critical step if you want to ensure quality in your products. It’s crucial to test your applications to make sure they work properly – otherwise, customers are less likely to buy or continue to use them. While important, software testing can be a repetitive process that takes time and resources you’d probably rather use for tasks that deliver innovation to the functionality or performance. This is where test automation comes in. In order to automate testing, teams will use tools to run time consuming tests automatically. This frees up valuable time and resources, while also ensuring better software quality along the way.  

Not all tests can be automated, though. Because of this, it’s valuable to spend some time determining what test cases will be benefited the most by automation.  

Which Test Cases to Automate?  

If you want to be successful with your test automation, you need to have a plan that helps you get the most out of your automated tests. Because not all tests can be automated, choosing the right test cases to automate early on is an important step in creating your automation plan. 

You don’t have to start from scratch when determining which tests cases to automate. There are defined best practices for automated testing, including how to choose which tests to automate. To help get started, here is a general checklist of types of tests where automation can streamline your process the most. You’ll want to keep an eye out for: 

  • Repetitive tests that run for multiple builds 
  • Tests that tend to cause human error 
  • Tests that require multiple data sets 
  • Frequently used functionality that introduces high risk conditions 
  • Tests that are impossible to perform manually 
  • Tests that run on several different hardware or software platforms and configurations 
  • Tests that take a lot of effort and time when manual testing 

Know When Manual Testing is Still Best 

Some tests are simply impossible to perform manually, such as load and performance testing. With other tests, automation might be possible, but the short amount of time you would save wouldn’t be worth the investment needed to create the automated tests in the first place.  

In certain cases, manual is still best. When working on a very new app, for example, it’s likely to be subject to frequent changes - automating too soon would be a poor investment of time.  

When testing particularly complex functionality, test automation can be a real challenge. Here you need to plan carefully and evaluate the risk that the initial time and cost investment will end up outweighing the potential time saved later. 

Likewise, things like the overall usability and look and feel of the UX require manual, human testing. Your end users will be human, after all! 

Let’s Break it Down 

Now that you have an idea of the types of tests that benefit from automation, let’s see what that looks like in the context of the application development process. Testing generally falls into4 development stages: Unit testing, integration testing, system testing, and acceptance testing.  

Let’s go through these stages in order and see where automation may be beneficial.  

1. Unit testing 

Unit testing happens when smallest testable parts of an application are individually and independently tested to make sure they are operating properly. These tests are typically performed by the developer with the goal to find errors as early as possible, as the cost of finding bugs when the code is written is considerably less expensive than detecting and correcting the bug later. 

Unit testing can be done manually but is usually automated. Unit testing is a part of the test-driven development (TDD) methodology that requires developers to first write failing unit tests. Then they write code in order to change the application until the test passes. Writing the failing test is important because it forces the developer to take into account all possible inputs, errors and outputs. 

2. Integration testing 

In integration testing, different software modules are combined and tested as a group to expose any issues in the interaction between the integrated units. When automating integration testing, a best practice among many DevOps teams is to perform Shift Left testing, moving the integration testing as close as possible to the build process so that they can get important feedback faster.  

3. System testing 

System Testing includes numerous software testing types that are used to validate software as a whole (software, hardware, and network) against the requirements for which it was built. Different types of tests (Functional Testing, Data Driven Testing, Keyword Testing, Regression Testing, Black Box Testing, Smoke Testing, etc.) are carried out to complete system testing. Automation looks different for different types of tests within this step.  

Functional Testing, for example, verifies that each function satisfies the stated business requirements and works as expected. These tests can be easily automated using tools that have Record and Playback features

Regression Testing is used to confirm that recent code changes to the system to do not adversely impact the functionality. For this type of testing, new test cases aren’t created, but rather full or partial selection of previously created test cases are re-executed. Regression tests are a great example of tests that can be automated. 

4. Acceptance testing 

The goal of acceptance testing is to make sure the software conforms to the business requirements provided. Acceptance tests focus on inputs and outputs of a system as a whole rather than individual internal parts of the software program. Out of all the four stages, this one can prove one of the hardest to automate since success is criteria can be subjective.  

Conclusion 

As teams and organization are constantly striving to push out applications and products faster to meet market demands, it’s extremely beneficial to find ways to make the development process as efficient as possible to ensure quality. More and more, test automation proves a crucial strategy to accelerate development. Since testing is such a complex and multi-faceted process, knowing where to start your automation strategy can be tricky. Luckily, there are criteria that those new to automated testing can follow when getting started on their automation strategy. Test automation is most beneficial when test cases are repetitive, high risk, or difficult to perform manually. Once you identify which specific tests to automate, you can get started on fleshing out your automation plan and putting it to use.  

Hopefully this blog gave some brief insight into how you or your team can begin to take steps to assess which test cases to automate. Happy automating!