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Test automation pyramid 101

Have you ever heard of the test automation pyramid, a model for devising a test strategy? It was created by Mike Cohn and used a visual representation (Triangle) to depict the various types of automated tests that should be incorporated into an all-encompassing test suite.

The pyramid is divided into multiple layers, each representing different levels of specificity and granularity. The lowest level consists of unit tests, which are minute tests that verify the behavior of individual code units.

The middle layer includes integration tests, which scrutinize the interactions between different code units. Finally, the pyramid’s apex comprises end-to-end tests, which assess the entire system from the user’s perspective.

For instance, when examining an MVC web application,

  • The unit tests evaluate individual components of the application, like models, validations, routes, controllers, and business services.
  • Integration tests examine the interaction between application components, such as object lifecycle and identity management, and the connection to the database.
  • End-to-end tests are carried out to test the overall application from a user’s standpoint, where successful account creation, login, and other site activities are verified.

Want to know more? Continue reading…

What is the Test Automation Pyramid & Why it Came into Existence?

 The Test Automation Pyramid is a testing framework that helps balance different types of automated tests, enabling better test coverage and faster feedback.

The following are the layers in the test automation pyramid:

  • Unit Tests

The Test Automation Pyramid has its foundation in the unit test layer. In this layer, individual code units are tested in isolation from the rest of the system, ensuring each piece of code functions correctly before being integrated with other components. This approach is crucial for maintaining the integrity and functionality of the software.

 Developers typically write tests and execute them frequently during the development process to ensure that each code unit works as intended before integrating it with other units. They help identify bugs and errors early in the development cycle, which reduces the cost and time required to fix them.

 Unit tests typically use frameworks like JUnit, NUnit, or pytest. These frameworks offer tools and conventions for writing and running tests, including assertions to verify expected results, setup, and teardown methods to prepare the test environment, and test runners to execute the tests.

  • Integration Tests

 Integration tests occupy a critical position in the Test Automation Pyramid, as they are designed to evaluate the interactions between distinct components or modules of a system. These tests assess the functionality of APIs, databases, or other external systems and are typically authored by developers or QA specialists.

  • End-to-End Tests

 The End-to-End Tests layer is the highest stratum of the Test Automation Pyramid and covers the entire application or system. These tests emulate real-world scenarios and interactions among various system components.

Technically, End-to-End tests are typically scripted using Selenium or Cypress tools. They interact with the system through the user interface, performing actions like button clicks, data input, and result verification. Such tests require significant setup and configuration, including the setup of test data and configuration of the test environment for simulating a realistic user experience.

They are often time-consuming and require substantial resources, such as dedicated test environments or cloud-based testing solutions.

Ready to improve your testing strategy and streamline your development process? Check out our listicle on why the Test Automation Pyramid was created for developers:

  • A solid foundation of unit tests.
  • Minimize the number of end-to-end tests.
  • Automate tests at varying levels of the application.
  • Reduce the overall cost of testing.
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of testing.
  • Provide quick feedback on code changes.
  • Increase the reliability of the test suite.
  • Promote good coding practices and maintainable code.

Traditional Test Automation Pyramid

 The Traditional Test Automation Pyramid is a testing approach that requires development teams to manually check software, consuming significant time and effort, making it an ineffective way to test software.

Although some teams may attempt to add automation, they may quickly fall into an “automation paradox,” where the setup and maintenance of test automation take up more time and resources than what can be saved by automating. The Traditional Testing Pyramid consists of three layers:

  • UI Tests

The UI tests layer of the conventional test automation pyramid bears the onus of ensuring the proper functioning of the application’s user interface. This layer encompasses all tests that exercise the GUI elements of the application, such as forms, dropdowns, buttons, and other UI components.

The UI tests layer typically employs automated testing tools, including Selenium, Appium, or TestComplete, to simulate user interactions with the application and verify the accuracy of UI components.

These test automation tools are not limited to desktop applications as they are usable for mobile applications. However, the UI tests layer is the slowest and most expensive layer. It is due to its interaction with the application’s graphical user interface, making it slower to execute and requiring more resources than tests at the pyramid’s lower layers.

To mitigate the sluggish processing, leverage test data management, optimize test suites, perform parallel testing, and proficiently manage test environments.

  • Service/API tests

 Service/API testing is a type of software testing that focuses on the services and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that are exposed by an application. These services and APIs are used to access data or functionality from other applications to be tested as part of your overall integration testing.

Service/API testing helps ensure your product works with others in your organization’s ecosystem and third-party systems like payment gateways or customer support platforms.

Service/API tests are usually automated tests written in a language like Selenium WebDriver or Appium that simulate user actions such as clicking buttons and filling out forms on web pages; however, manual test cases may also be included if there aren’t any automated ways to verify certain scenarios (for example, if you need someone on hand who knows how to use the service).

The technical aspects involve:

  • Test Frameworks

Service/API testing frameworks can design and execute test cases in Java or Python. These frameworks are engineered to support various data formats, such as JSON or XML.

  • HTTP Clients

Postman or URL enables developers to send HTTP requests to APIs and inspect the resulting responses. These clients can verify API functionality, debug issues, and perform load testing.

  • Mock Servers

A mock server is a simulated API behavior that emulates the functionality of an actual API without directly connecting to it. It is a beneficial tool for testing API integrations in isolation and detecting and resolving error scenarios that are difficult to reproduce in a live environment.

  • Continuous Integration and Delivery (CI/CD) Tools

The tools ensure that modifications to the codebase do not disrupt the existing system functionality. CI/CD tools, such as Jenkins or CircleCI, can be configured to execute automatically whenever new code is pushed to the repository.

This approach affords a watchdog-like mechanism, which vigilantly monitors changes for anomalies, ensuring a smooth and seamless integration process. Here are some  technical features of Service/API testing:

  1. Verifying the correct response ( Verifying that the response contains the correct data, status code, and headers. )
  2. Testing edge cases ( Edge cases such as invalid input, timeouts, or network errors. )
  3. Test data management
  4. Integration with other systems
  • Unit Tests

Unit tests are automated tests that target individual units or components of a software system. A unit can be in the form of a function, method, or class.

Unit testing aims to validate that the units work as expected and meet their defined specifications.

Here are some features of unit testing:

  • Test Frameworks

Test frameworks provide the infrastructure to write and run unit tests. Some popular unit testing frameworks for different programming languages include JUnit for Java, NUnit for .NET, and Pytest for Python.

  • Mocking

Isolating the unit tests from external dependencies like databases or web services is essential. Mocking frameworks, such as Mockito for Java or Moq for .NET, allow you to create fake objects that mimic the behavior of real dependencies. Hence, making only the required code within the unit being tested.

  • Test Coverage

Test coverage measures the percentage of code executed during unit testing and ensures that all the code is tested and there are no untested paths. Tools like JaCoCo for Java and Coverlet for .NET can help measure test coverage.

  • Continuous Integration

Integrating unit tests into the software development process is essential to run automatically during code changes. Continuous Integration (CI) tools like Jenkins or Travis CI can help automate the build and test process.

  • Test Doubles

Test doubles are objects that replace real dependencies in unit tests. There are several types of test doubles, including stubs, fakes, and mocks. By using test doubles, you can control the behavior of the dependencies and create predictable test scenarios.

Inverted Test Automation Pyramid

 The inverted test automation pyramid is a concept that challenges the traditional test automation pyramid. The traditional test automation pyramid suggests that most automated tests should be unit tests, followed by integration and UI tests.

However, the inverted pyramid flips this on its head, suggesting that UI tests should be the primary focus, followed by integration and unit tests.

  • Requirements For The Approach

 From a technical perspective, the inverted test automation pyramid requires a shift in the type of tools and frameworks used for testing. UI testing tools such as Selenium, Cypress, and TestCafe are critical for creating automated UI tests.

Integration testing tools such as REST-assured, SoapUI, and Postman are essential for testing APIs and other integrations between different components. Finally, unit testing frameworks such as JUnit, NUnit, and pytest are necessary for testing individual application components.

  • Process Of The Approach

The testing team creates the test plan, identifies the locators to be added, and creates page classes, rest API wrappers, and test stubs for the automated tests.

With this approach, automation is complete soon after development is complete, and bugs are caught early in the cycle, rather than starting automation once development is complete and taking a lot of time for that and then catching bugs pretty late in the cycle.

This approach helps to avoid the automation backlog, which can become big if bugs are caught late in the cycle.

Benefits of the Test Automation Pyramid

 This section will explore some key benefits of implementing the Test Automation Pyramid in your testing strategy.

  • Improved test coverage
  • Faster feedback loop
  • Increased reliability and stability of the test suite
  • Better scalability of the test suite
  • Improved collaboration between developers and testers
  • Better alignment with Agile and DevOps practices
  • Reduced execution time of test suites
  • Better identification of defects and regression issues
  • Reduced manual effort required for testing
  • Enhanced test maintenance and reusability
  • Better alignment with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery practices
  • Improved accuracy and reliability of test results
  • Reduced risk of production failures due to comprehensive testing

Wrapping Up!

Zuci Systems is a leading technology services provider that offers a wide range of services, including test automation. With a team of highly skilled engineers and a passion for excellence, Zuci Systems is committed to delivering the highest quality solutions to its clients.

Whether you need help with test automation for web or mobile applications, Zuci Systems has the expertise and experience to get the job done right. Choose Zuci Systems for top-notch test automation services and experience the difference in your software development journey.

Keerthi Veerappan

An INFJ personality wielding brevity in speech and writing. Marketer @ Zucisystems.

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