Harnessing Automation Testing Frameworks to Streamline Test Automation

Previously, companies heavily relied on manual testing alone. However, manual testing has notable drawbacks: it’s laborious, time-intensive, and demands significant investment in human resources.

The ongoing debate between manual and automation testing continues, with many still unclear about automation.

This blog aims to offer a comprehensive guide to test automation frameworks.

What is a Test Framework?

A test framework is essentially a set of guidelines and tools that help testers perform software testing more effectively. Rather than an ad-hoc approach, a test framework provides structure and established practices for testing activities.

A framework can be considered a blueprint or instruction manual for testing. It outlines recommended approaches for various testing aspects, such as writing test cases, handling test data, storing test results, and accessing external resources with which the software may interact. Following these standardized practices typically leads to a smoother and more streamlined testing process.

It’s worth mentioning that a test framework isn’t a rigid set of rules one must follow. Testers can conduct testing without sticking to a framework, but this approach might mean they miss out on the advantages of a structured framework.

Frameworks typically include coding standards to ensure consistency in test scripts. They often provide centralized repositories for storing and easily locating the user interface elements being tested. Frameworks may also offer methods for effectively managing the diverse data required to run different test scenarios.

Benefits of a Test Automation Framework

The following are the benefits of the test automation framework:

Organized Storage

A test automation framework allows you to store all your test scripts and artefacts in a single, organized location. This centralized repository eliminates the need to search multiple folders and directories for specific tests or components.

Streamlined Maintenance

As the codebase evolves, the automation framework facilitates seamless test suite maintenance. With structured artefacts, updating the tests with code changes becomes easy and efficient.

Maximized Reusability

Test automation frameworks vastly increase the reusability of test scripts by creating components that can be utilized across multiple software functions. This approach eliminates redundancy and reduces the overall development effort.

Scalable Testing Capabilities

The dynamic nature of software development often necessitates scaling testing capabilities up or down based on changing scenarios and requirements. A test automation framework minimizes the effort required to scale testing efforts, enabling seamless execution of various tests, including load testing, functional testing, and unit testing.

Foundational for DevOps

Given their contribution to improved test accuracy and efficiency, test automation frameworks have become crucial to modern DevOps practices. Many enterprises leverage paid and open-source testing tools to execute automated application tests.

Types of Automated Testing Frameworks

There are six common test automation frameworks, each with a unique architecture and benefits and drawbacks. Selecting the right framework is crucial for success when creating a test plan.

  1. Linear Automation Framework
  2. Modular-Based Testing Framework
  3. Data-Driven Framework
  4. Keyword-Driven Framework
  5. Library Architecture Testing Framework
  6. Hybrid Testing Framework

Linear Test Automation Framework

The linear or record-and-playback framework is one of the simplest approaches to test automation. With this method, testers essentially record their actions on the application under test, capturing steps like clicking buttons or entering data into forms. The recorded steps are then played back to execute the test case automatically.

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While exceptionally easy to implement, linear frameworks have significant downsides related to maintenance and fragility. Any minor change to the application’s user interface or code can potentially break recorded tests, requiring labour-intensive updates or complete re-recording of test scripts. This makes record-and-playback ill-suited for complex applications that evolve rapidly.

Despite the limitations, linear frameworks can provide value in certain narrow use cases:

  • Learning Purposes: For testers new to automation, recording tests offers insights into underlying code, objects, and automation architecture. Examining how steps translate to scripts builds foundational skills.
  • Static Applications: Applications with stable UIs and infrequent changes may tolerate the high maintenance overhead. However, even minor updates risk rendering linear tests useless.

Modular-Based Testing Framework

The modular-based testing framework requires testers to divide larger test scripts into smaller, manageable units, sections, or functions. Each smaller module is independently tested using incremental and non-incremental approaches. These modules essentially represent the test cases broken down by the testing framework.

One of the key advantages of this approach is that QA professionals can store individual scripts in a function library after writing them. This allows them to easily change a specific script without accidentally modifying other areas, thus reducing risks and potential issues during testing. However, this approach also requires a good understanding of the application or software code to identify reusable test artefacts and flows.

While the modular-based testing framework offers numerous benefits, it does require a higher level of programming skills and a deeper understanding of the application’s architecture and code structure. Testers must be able to effectively identify and encapsulate reusable components and manage dependencies between modules to ensure accurate and reliable testing results.

Data-Driven Testing Framework

The test data is separated from the test script logic in data-driven testing frameworks. Common data sources used for this approach include Excel or CSV files, GraphQL, Oracle SQL databases, or any database accessible through JDBC drivers.

While linear and modular-based testing frameworks allow for changes to individual scripts, the data-driven testing framework takes a different approach. It allows testers to store and transfer data from external sources like Excel sheets, CSV files, text files, ODBC repositories, or SQL tables to the test scripts.

The test scripts then read the necessary input and expected output parameters from these data sources and execute tests across different scenarios efficiently. This separation of data and logic provides several advantages:

  • Reusability: Test scripts are reusable with varying data sets, reducing the need to create new scripts for similar functionalities.
  • Maintainability: Updating test data is simplified, as changes can be made in the external data sources without modifying the test scripts.
  • Scalability: Adding new test scenarios is easier, as testers only need to provide the required data from external sources without modifying the script logic.
  • Efficiency: By utilizing external data sources, testers can quickly execute tests across various scenarios, improving testing coverage and reducing overall testing time.
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Keyword-Driven Testing Framework

The keyword-driven testing framework utilizes predefined actions and methods represented by keywords. This framework is particularly useful for teams with mixed coding expertise, as it allows non-technical team members to contribute to writing test scripts.

In a keyword-driven framework, keywords represent different actions or operations performed on the application’s user interface (GUI) during testing. These keywords can be simple and self-explanatory, such as “login” or “click,” or more complex, such as “verifyText” or “clickLink.”

The implementation of a keyword-driven framework typically involves the following components:

  • Object Repository
  • Keyword Library
  • Test Scripts

During test execution, the keyword-driven framework interprets the test scripts. It executes the corresponding actions defined in the keyword library, interacting with the UI objects referenced in the object repository.

Library Architecture Testing Framework

The library architecture testing framework follows a similar approach to the modular framework but provides additional benefits for testers. Instead of dividing an application into various scripts, this framework identifies, groups, and stores similar tasks or functions within scripts in a common library.

This common library is a centralized repository from which necessary functions can be called and utilized when creating test scripts.

Like the modular test automation framework, the library architecture framework promotes easier test maintenance and scalability. However, since test data is typically hard-coded into the scripts, any changes to the data will eventually necessitate modifications to the scripts themselves.

Hybrid Test Automation Framework

A hybrid test automation framework combines various framework types, providing QA teams with a time and cost-efficient approach to testing. It mitigates the limitations of each framework by blending their respective advantages, thereby improving overall testing efficiency.

As the need for test automation continues to rise, hybrid frameworks have emerged to address the diverse issues and challenges testers face during the testing process.

For example, a hybrid framework might utilize the simplicity of linear tests for straightforward scenarios while incorporating modular and data-driven components for more complex use cases. Additionally, it could leverage keyword-driven principles to promote collaboration between technical and non-technical team members.

Best Test Automation Frameworks

The following are the test automation frameworks:

Selenium

What is Selenium? It is a widely adopted open-source automation testing framework that supports multiple programming languages and browsers. Selenium provides robust reporting capabilities, generating detailed test execution reports and facilitating easy tracking of test results.

Advantages:

  • Cross-browser support (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Internet Explorer).
  • Multi-language support (Java, C#, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, Perl).
  • Built-in test reporting.
  • Support for parallel test execution.
  • Integration with multiple test frameworks (JUnit, TestNG, NUnit).
  • Built-in support for headless mode.
  • Easy integration with CI/CD tools.

Limitations:

  • Limited support for automating dynamic web pages.
  • Limited support is available to handle file uploads and downloads.
  • Limited support for handling browser-specific features.
  • Limited support for performance testing.
  • Relatively slow compared to other frameworks, especially on older browsers.

Cypress

Cypress is a modern JavaScript-based end-to-end testing framework renowned for its simplicity and developer-friendly features.

Advantages:

  • Real-time reloading for efficient test development.
  • Time travel for debugging previous test states.
  • Real-time error reporting for effective troubleshooting.
  • Built-in network stubbing and mocking.
  • Built-in screenshots and videos for test artefacts.
  • Built-in code coverage.
  • Automatic retries for reducing flaky tests.
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Limitations:

  • Limitations with browser automation and interacting with browser-specific features.
  • Limitations with handling file uploads and downloads.
  • There is no support for testing in Internet Explorer.
  • Limited support for non-web applications.
  • Limited support for older browser versions.

Playwright

Playwright is a relatively new entrant in the end-to-end testing landscape, created by Microsoft in 2019. It stands out for its robust cross-browser support, allowing developers to write and execute tests across multiple browsers.

Advantages:

  • Cross-browser support (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge).
  • Multi-language support (JavaScript, TypeScript, Python).
  • Concurrent test execution for faster testing.
  • Support for headless mode.
  • Support for running tests in cloud providers.
  • Built-in DevTools protocol for debugging.
  • Built-in support for visual testing.

Limitations:

  • Limited support for older browser versions.
  • Limited support for parallel test execution on cloud providers.
  • Limited support for testing native mobile applications.
  • Limited support for some cloud-based providers.

Appium

Appium is an open-source mobile application testing framework that allows developers to write and run tests for iOS and Android platforms using the same API. It was created by Dan Cuellar in 2011 to automate mobile application testing.

Advantages:

  • Cross-platform support for Android and iOS.
  • Can test native, hybrid, and web apps.
  • Automates mobile web browsers like Safari and Chrome.
  • Easy integration with CI/CD tools.
  • Simple and easy-to-use API.
  • Session-based API for parallel testing.

Limitations:

  • Limited support for Windows mobile apps.
  • Limited support for images and videos.
  • Limited support for performance testing.
  • Requires additional setup (Android SDK, emulators, etc.).
  • Limited support for older mobile OS versions.
  • Limited ability to test desktop applications.

Cucumber

Cucumber is a testing framework focused on behaviour-driven development (BDD). It was created by Aslak Hellesøy in 2008. Cucumber uses Gherkin, a simple language for writing test scenarios that non-technical users can understand. 

Advantages:

  • Business-readable Gherkin scenarios.
  • Cross-platform support.
  • Enables BDD collaboration between teams.
  • Reusable step definitions.
  • Clear and simple syntax.

Limitations:

  • Complex tests can be difficult to express in Gherkin.
  • The steep learning curve for Gherkin.
  • Limited support beyond acceptance/functional tests.
  • No built-in test data management.
  • Limited power for API and non-web app testing.

Conclusion

Assessing current and future testing requirements is crucial when selecting a framework. Your organization’s specific needs should drive the selection process. While it may take time to compare options thoroughly, it’s worthwhile to ensure you choose the best fit.

A practical approach involves gathering testing requirements, understanding your organization’s full scope, conducting smaller proof-of-concept tests, and then making an informed decision on the framework to use. Any commonly used frameworks that align with your requirements could suit your needs.

Integrating cloud-based testing platforms such as LambdaTest can significantly boost test automation. LambdaTest is an AI-powered test orchestration and execution platform that lets you run manual and automated tests at scale with over 3000+ real devices, browsers, and OS combinations. It also supports testing frameworks, including Selenium, Cypress, Playwright, and Appium.