Test Automation:

nearly everything you need to know
Test Automation:
nearly everything you need to know

If your work involves, or even interacts with, software development or quality assurance software testing, then you are probably no stranger to the term test automation or automated testing. 

For software testing to even keep up with the modern development methods of Agile and DevOps or to cope with development practices like Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), automation is mandatory. 

Test automation is fairly new, and it is continuously evolving as tools and processes are created to support it. For this reason, we at spriteCloud have decided to create this massive resource of our Test Automation knowledge. This page will continue to change as we update it with our test automation knowledge and experience. This page will cover the topic of Test Automation broadly with links to more in-depth posts and articles where possible. 

If you’ve landed on this page because you need help with implementing test automation in your development project, consider contacting spriteCloud about requesting test automation training and test suite set up assistance. You can also outsource automation to our testing experts. 

Share this guide:

Table of Contents

What is Test Automation?

Test automation means using automation tools to execute pre-scripted tests. In other words, automated software is used to test predetermined functions of the System Under Test (SUT) to check if an application performs correctly after changes are implemented. 

Test automation is very useful because it can automate some necessary but repetitive tasks of testing processes that have already been established. They are also helpful in performing additional testing that would be hard or time-consuming to do manually.  

Test automation is typically implemented after initial manual testing has been completed. A test script (usually written in a programming or scripting language) is used to navigate through the SUT and to compare pre-defined expected outcomes with actual outcomes. These results are recorded to a test log, and the scripts can be changed or reused to run additional scenarios throughout the system. 

In layman’s terms, manual testing identifies the method/process of how a function is to be tested, and then a script is written to replicate that process to make it possible to be run automatically. Scale this up to dozens or hundreds of tests scripts, and you have test automation suite that allows you to monitor your software development effectively with little human intervention (for a time anyway). The differences between manual and test automation testing will be discussed later. 

Automation is now a very crucial part of the software development lifecycle as it allows for frequent and efficient testing of business-critical functions that befit the speed necessary in modern software development projects. Automated testing is meant to make software testing quicker and more efficient in repetitive and difficult areas, not to replace manual testing entirely. 

Now that we understand what test automation is, it is important to know why, with all the potential for cost overruns and difficulties, test automation is important in software development projects.

Why Implement Test Automation?

The goal of a software development team is to deliver software that works as expected. Still, due to the rapid pace of development, large teams of developers, and cost constraints, defects will invariably slip through. When a defect slips through to the production environment, it can result in:

  • Loss of money
  • Loss of time
  • Loss of business reputation
  • Injury or death
Introduction of Defects at Different Development Stages

The costs associated with fixing software defects (read bugs) often depends on which stage of the development process the defects were discovered. As shown in the image above, most defects are introduced during the coding phase. As indicated by the red line, the later defects are found, the more they cost to resolve. Ideally, testers want to find as many defects as possible during unit testing when they are still relatively cheap to fix. This is where the concepts of automation and specifically test driven development come into play. 

Manual testing may be the most thorough process for catching defects, but it is incredibly time-consuming for a tester to manually test and record outcomes at the scale and scope of modern software development projects. 

Automating tests is, therefore, the best way to increase the speed, efficiency, effectiveness, and coverage of your software testing efforts. Test automation allows your team to perform more tests in less time, free up human testers for more high-level testing, and increases coverage. Automated tests can also be run outside of working hours to minimise the impact on other project stakeholders. 

Due to these reasons, test automation is considered critical for big software development organisations. As the test automation market diversifies, costs are coming down, making it more affordable for smaller organisations. 

Test automation still has its barriers preventing organisations from adopting it, however, software testing service providers like spriteCloud can help development teams with test automation in multiple ways. spriteCloud can work in a consultancy capacity by helping to set up your automation suite and train your staff, with the idea to hand it off to your team late. Alternatively, spriteCloud can take over your test automation processes entirely allowing your team to focus on development; we often refer to this as Test Automation as a Service (TAaaS). Find out more about spriteCloud’s Test Automation Services.

No and low-code solutions are also becoming increasingly available, though they are often limited to specific ecosystems.

For a more detailed explanation of test automation, including the required competencies, development guidelines, and automation implementation timelines, read this post from our Chief Technology Officer, Mark. 

The Differences Between Manual Testing and Test Automation

While test automation clearly has its benefits, it is not a replacement for manual testing. This idea of automated testing taking over entirely from manual testing is a foolish idea.  Test automation is a process and toolset for supporting and increasing the efficiencies of testing as a whole. Test automation is designed to take easily repeatable tests and perform them much faster for the tester. 

In doing this, a testers time is freed up to increase the coverage of the tests via exploratory testing. A (manual) tester’s time is then typically split between developing and maintaining test scripts (maintenance), 80%, and performing manual (exploratory) testing, 20%. With modern Agile and DevOps methodologies, test automation is a more important tool in the quality assurance toolbox, but it still requires an operator.

Curious to understand the differences between manual testing and automated testing? Read more about the differences between manual testing and test automation in our in-depth article.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Test Automation

Like all processes, test automation possesses a duality. 

When done correctly, automation can significantly increase your testing team’s performance. On the other hand, test automation can also be challenging to implement and keep costs under control, especially with an inexperienced team and over-ambitious project managers. Below are some of the more prominent pros and cons of automationfor a more in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of test automation, continue reading our post on the topic. 

The benefits of test automation