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Testing the user interface (UI) of an application is a critical part of the software development lifecycle.  Most end users focus on the usability and aesthetics of the applications they interact with and are blind to the underlying source code and other technical aspects that make those apps functional. A poorly designed UI will undoubtedly lead to unhappy customers, so it’s important to test early and often to prevent as many bugs as possible from reaching the UI level.

Graphical user interface (GUI) testing is the process of testing an application’s visual elements to ensure the images and other features that are visible to the customer behave and look as expected. This article describes what GUI testing is, its importance, and what features your GUI testing tools should have to help you ensure proper test coverage.

GUI testing involves testing visible design elements such as the size, color, font, or formatting of screen features like buttons, menus, icons, and toolbars.  It also includes testing more complex aspects of the user interface, including:

  • Image clarity
  • Consistency across fonts, colors, abbreviations etc.
  • Consistency across data types
  • If the font is readable
  • The alignment of images, text, and buttons and their correlation to each other
  • Whether page elements like check boxes are overlapping or not
  • Drop down list boxes
  • If the application is visually appealing
  • If the user interface is easy to understand and interact with
  • Grammar and spelling
  • Whether error messages appear or not
  • Screen resolutions when zooming in or out

While testing the functionality of an application is necessary to ensure everything works per the requirements, the end users don’t see the code. They only interact with the interface of the finished piece of software and even minor issues with the GUI could ruin the user’s experience.  This makes testing the graphical user interface of an application crucial for any QA team.

When to Conduct GUI Testing

Much of the user interface is hard to test with scripts and often requires a human touch.  This can make the process incredibly time consuming and in non-agile environments, many teams put a lot of emphasis on testing the UI level first.  However, most UI tests are brittle and break easily, so it’s important to choose a test strategy that will minimize these risks, bugs, and the time associated with finding them.

Agile teams that have adopted the ‘test automation pyramid’ as a strategy will start by running unit tests after every build. These are easier, faster, and cheaper to run with the right tools and will provide feedback immediately, allowing teams to prevent more bugs from ever reaching the UI. They will run GUI tests last and conduct manual or exploratory testing at the end of the development lifecycle.

If bugs are not discovered early on, they become harder to find when they reach the UI level and teams will spend more time and money than needed to fix them.  This strategy can be difficult when only conducting GUI testing manually.

Part Two: Manual Vs. Automated GUI Software testing >