Automation Testing Guide

Nobody wants to find bugs in their application, especially not customers. This is why testing is a necessary step in the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It ensures that your application looks and functions as expected, maintaining customer satisfaction.  

There are two different ways to test an application: automated and manual. Read on to learn about each method, some common testing misconceptions, and how to get started with test automation.  

What is Automation Testing?

Automated testing is the implementation of an automation tool to execute test cases.  

This is well-suited for projects that are large or require testing to be repeated multiple times. It also could be applied to projects that already have been through an initial manual testing process.  

Not sure which tests to automate?  Click here. 

By employing automation, the tester can spend more time on high-value tasks. While this does require the tester to maintain test scripts, it ultimately will help increase application quality, test coverage, and scalability.  

What is Manual Testing? 

Manual testing is when a human tests the functionality of the software.  

To do this, the tester goes into the application and clicks through it in the way a user would. Manual testers also need to record their findings. This involves checking log files, external services, and databases for errors. It requires physical time and effort to ensure the software code does everything it’s supposed to do. 

After a while, this process becomes tedious and repetitive. However, the benefit is that the human mind can draw insights from a test that test automation could miss. 

Implementing a Test Automation Strategy 

Many agile teams have adopted a testing pyramid strategy. This categorizes testing types into four major groups: unit, integration, API and UI.  

Unit tests represent the biggest percentage of the strategy and should be completed first. UI tests represent the smallest percentage of the strategy and should be completed last. Following this model helps agile teams prioritize testing tactics and provide rapid feedback on application function.  

There are variations of this pyramid, but it often looks like this: 


Let's break down each test group:  

  • Unit tests: The smallest piece of code you can test  
  • Integration: Several components of code are combined and tested together as a group 
  • API (Application Programming Interface): APIs allow two software programs to talk to each other. Different types of API testing include functional, security, and performance. These are often run as end-to-end tests.
  • UI (User Interface): The UI is the part of the application a user interacts with. Different types of UI testing include functional, visual, and performance. These are often run as end-to-end tests.

Who Should Be Involved with Test Automation? 

Testing in short agile iterations often means taking a “shift left” approach. 

In agile development, “shifting left” means starting tests earlier in the application lifecycle. As a result, developers often collaborate with testers.  

When evaluating a testing tool, be sure it fits the needs of all team members involved in the testing process. These needs may include:  

  • Manual tester: Record and replay functionality. This is a codeless test automation method allowing users to record manual actions and replay them as automated tests.
  • Automation engineer: Robust support for scripting languages, integrations with CI/CD, and the capacity to scale tests.
  • Developer: The ability to conduct tests within IDEs such as Eclipse and Visual Studio.

Common Misconceptions About Test Automation 

Before starting out with test automation, it’s important to know what it is. But it’s equally important to know what it’s not. This helps to set realistic expectations about what test automation can do (and can’t do) for your organization.  

Test automation eliminates the need for all testers  

Manual testers devote most of their time to exploratory and functional testing in search of errors. Once that process is complete, they must repeatedly go through the same steps over again.  

With automated testing, that time is cut down drastically. Once the test is complete, it can be reused so the process doesn’t have to be repeated multiple times.  

However, the automated tester still has work to do. The leftover time is spent checking test results, coding more tests, and maintaining test cases. This time is also allocated to trouble shooting and focusing on other business tasks.  

Automated testing tools cost too much money  

At first, manual testing seems like a less expensive solution than test automation. However, analysis shows that over time, automated testing actually can save your organization time and money.  

Manual testing doesn’t require spending money on a tool. But it does require paying a manual tester to spend hours repeating the same tests.  

Automated tests can be run repeatedly, even when the tester isn’t there. It also increases test coverage and eliminates human error, reducing the number of costly bugs that leak through into production.  

Parallel testing is another way to see ROI from your investment in automated testing. Rather than running individual tests one after the other, parallel testing enables you to run multiple automated tests at the same time. This cuts down on the time it takes to execute automated tests. 

Test automation completely replaces manual testing   

Both manual and automated testing have their roles.  

Automation takes care of time-consuming and repeatable tests, such as regression tests. They can even be run on multiple computers with different configurations.  

After using an automated testing tool, manual testing has proven to be an effective way of double-checking the software. Some beneficial types of manual testing include exploratory tests, user-acceptance tests, and usability tests.  

Together, manual and automated testing can help produce a high-quality final product. 

Automated testing inhibits all human interaction 

Automated testing does eliminate some human interaction.  

However, it doesn’t replace the face-to-face communication that’s a necessary part of software development. Instead, it enhances that aspect by providing another channel through which to communicate. Think of it this way: Email didn’t replace the telephone; it was just an additional communication tool.  

Test automation tools like TestComplete are designed to facilitate a collaborative approach to software testing. This tool allows collaborators to go through a piece of test coding and comment on the script. This helps improve communication rather than replacing it altogether.  

Getting Started with Automated Testing 

The first step towards implementing test automation is choosing the right automation tool for your organization. This will differ depending on the size, skill level, and varying needs of the team.  

Other factors to consider when choosing a tool include: 

  • Budget
  • Application type
  • Development model
  • Learning curve and ease of use
  • Test maintenance and reusability
  • Support for integrations
  • Support and documentation
  • Reporting capabilities

Automated testing with SmartBear tools  

With SmartBear tools, the evolution from manual to automated testing is simple.   

TestComplete is an automated UI testing tool that caters to testers of every skill level. The record-and-replay feature in TestComplete is especially great for manual testers learning to automate. It allows you to see every action you make, either while generating test code or administering tests. If you eventually want to try scripting tests, TestComplete allows users to script in modern languages like JavaScript and Python.  

Want to get started with TestComplete? Click here to start a free trial.