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Test Automation Framework
31st March 2022

Complete Guide to Automation Testing Framework

Automation testing frameworks are an integral part of any automated software testing project. Irrespective of your application's purpose or what programming language you wrote it in, it has to be tested to ensure that it is of high quality and serves the purpose you developed it for.

The way development and QA teams test software has drastically evolved, and a robust testing framework helps reduce time and effort and will help QA teams optimize their processes.

What We'll Cover in This Article

This article will begin by defining automation test frameworks and illustrate why it's crucial to any software development team. Then we'll walk through different types of test automation frameworks and take a close look at some of the benefits and drawbacks of each of them.

We'll explore the hybrid framework, linear automation framework, keyword-driven test framework, data-driven test framework, behavior-driven development framework, and library architecture framework.

Then we'll cover some of the most popular test automation frameworks and give you some tips on testing the automation framework before using it. 

In conclusion, we'll briefly explain why automation test frameworks are essential. 

But before we dive into the details of the test automation frameworks available, let's define automation testing and explore the many benefits of using it when you put an application under test.

test framework

What is an Automation Testing Framework?

Software developers and QA teams use automation testing frameworks to make it easier to design and develop automated test scripts based on a qualified set of assumptions.

The goal of using software testing automation frameworks is to identify objects, arrange them to be used in test scripts, perform actions on the objects, and evaluate the outcome in relation to what is expected.

Ultimately, automation frameworks are there to analyze issues and bugs for the application under test (AUT.)

A software test automation framework is a platform that comprises a set of guidelines used to create and design test cases, various hardware and software resources, and other tools.

It includes testing tools, equipment, test data, test scripts, procedures, and QA engineers with good test automation skills.

Each framework is made up of practices and tools designed for maximum test coverage. The guidelines include:

  • Test data handling methods
  • Coding standards
  • Processes for storing test script results
  • Object repositories
  • Information on how test cases should access external resources
automation framework

Is it Important to Use a Test Automation Framework?

The rules around automation and test data are not set in stone. Testing teams can still create test scripts individually, run them, and record tests without following the framework's guidelines.

An organized framework just provides added benefits otherwise not accessible by just running tests. In the early days of software testing, manual testing was the only way to run test data.

Over the years, the industry has become increasingly competitive. The quest for higher-quality products and faster release times spurred massive change in software testing methods and turned manual testing of test data into an outdated approach.

Instead, test-driven development became the go-to. This method involves continuous testing throughout the development process.

A test automation framework is an integral part of test-driven development. It helps to create test automation scripts that are more efficient and help to improve test accuracy.

An automation testing framework also drastically reduces the risks involved in the testing process.

An automation testing framework can significantly reduce test maintenance costs despite the initial cost of setting it up.

Running each test case is only as effective if the appropriate test data is used and other elements are in place. A test framework gives this process much-needed structure.

The bottom line is that a software testing framework is essential no matter what programming languages you use or what type of software you're developing.

Why Test Scripts Need More Than Automated and Manual Testing

QA teams run software tests manually or automatically. Manual testing is essential when a test case only has to be run once or twice or when interactive testing is required.

Automatic testing uses test data to run multiple test scripts repeatedly with different scenarios.

Manual testing is essential when testing UI or UX and exploratory testing. Automated testing is vital because manually repeating tests can be time-consuming and costly.

Test automation can reduce testing times from days to hours.

Even though both types of testing are important, a test automation framework helps bring it all into a cohesive plan. Here's why;

  • Designing and developing automated test scripts become more straightforward because it makes it simpler to reuse components and code.
  • It gives the development methodology structure by creating uniformity across multiple test scripts.
  • It reduces dependency on QA teams preparing individual test cases to generate test scripts.
  • A module-based framework makes reliable bug detection achievable and delivers accurate root cause analysis with minimal human intervention.
  • The test scripts module in a framework reduces dependence on QA teams by automatically selecting automation tests to execute based on test scenarios.
  • Automation test scripts refine the test scope dynamically according to strategy and system conditions changes.
  • With more structure, it's simpler to create test specifications and prepare test scripts. Therefore a framework improves resource usage and enables maximum returns on effort investment.
  • It makes uninterrupted automated testing possible without interference or effort from resources.
test code

Why Are Test Automation Frameworks Essential for Enterprises?

An automated test framework is an essential aspect of automated testing and integral to a behavior-driven development framework.

By combining various automated tests, the framework helps to configure and create test suites required for enterprise-level development solutions.

An effective test automation framework will support rigorous functional testing and shorten design time.

It will also help ensure consistency across the organization and improve developmental activities through effective application testing.

Enterprises are faced with unique challenges in the quest to deliver quality applications while covering business needs.

They not only have to manage resources, but also costs, and this includes test maintenance costs.

Enterprises can significantly increase the testing process' speed and accuracy by selecting and rolling out an effective test automation framework.

This could deliver higher quality products and a higher return on investment.

What Makes a Test Automation Framework Good?

There is a reason why developers and QA teams use popular test automation frameworks - these frameworks are created with one goal: to ensure a successful testing process. These are the steps you should take to select an automation framework:

  1. Understand the need for automation based on the type of application, set clear automation priorities, and define goals.
  2. Plan the automated testing strategy.
  3. Select the correct automation testing tools and framework based on requirements.
  4. Define test cases that require automation.
  5. Develop high-quality test data.
  6. Ensure that each test script can withstand continuous testing and is resistant to UI changes.
  7. Execute each test script that was developed.
  8. Run the same test scripts and develop more to ensure continuous integration.
  9. Maintain test scripts for future use.

Now that we know why test automation frameworks are essential for any application development process let's look at automation framework types and explore their benefits and drawbacks.

testing code

Different Types of Test Automation Frameworks

There has been a notable evolution of test automation frameworks in recent years. Here are seven of the most important types of these frameworks:

#1. Linear Automation Test Framework

A linear scripting framework is suitable for introductory level testing and is known as a record and playback framework.

The QA team creates test scripts and runs them individually. It's simple to prepare test scripts with this type of framework because there is no requirement to write custom code.

Parallel testing is not possible because test scripts have to be run one at a time. However, testers don't have to be experts.

All they have to do is choose a functionality, write a script, and run the test. Here are some of the main benefits and drawbacks of the linear automation framework:

Benefits

  • Simple
  • Fast
  • Flexible
  • No need for technical knowledge

Drawbacks

  • High maintenance
  • Modular
  • Redundant

One of the most important perks of the linear automation framework is that it creates a speedy workflow.

#2. Modular Testing Framework

This framework breaks test cases down into smaller modules and then tests each module independently before testing the application as a whole. It makes every test independent.

Once a tester has completed a function, they can store a script within it. Benefits and drawbacks of modular testing frameworks include:

Benefits

  • A modular approach
  • Reusable
  • Scalable
  • Highly efficient

Drawbacks

  • Less flexibility
  • Complex
  • Requires technical knowledge

Since it is easy to make changes to one particular script, changing the entire application is unnecessary. Thus, the modular testing framework takes less effort and time than some other frameworks.

#3. Library Architecture Testing Framework

The library architecture testing framework identifies tasks with similar properties within each test script. It makes it possible for test engineers to group similar tasks together based on functionality.

The library then stores all the grouped functions making it easy to reuse code across various test scripts. The benefits and drawbacks of the library architecture framework are:

Benefits

  • Highly reusable
  • Cost-saving
  • High longterm ROI
  • Scalable

Drawbacks

  • Requires additional development time
  • Requires high technical knowledge
  • Complex

The library architecture testing framework is particularly useful when the application under test contains similar functions across different parts.

#4. Keyword-Driven Testing Framework

This framework separates test script logic from test data and stores the data in an external location.

The keywords associated with testing the user interface form part of the test scripts with the keyword-driven framework. Each keyword is associated with an action or an object.

The benefits and drawbacks of this framework are:

Benefits

  • Reusable
  • Low maintenance
  • Scalable

Drawbacks

  • High development time
  • Keyword-driven frameworks become more complex over time
  • Requires high automation knowledge

Since the testing team can use the same keyword with various test scripts, the keyword-driven testing framework is highly reusable.

#5. Data-Driven Testing Framework

The data-driven framework separates test data from test scripts and then stores the data externally. The goal is to create reusable test scripts to test various test data sets.

With the data-driven testing framework, testers can vary test data to alter test scenarios, ensuring the reusability of the code. Some of the benefits and drawbacks of this framework are:

Benefits

  • Faster testing
  • Scalable
  • Flexible
  • Requires fewer scripts

Drawbacks

  • High setup time
  • Requires high technical knowledge
  • Troubleshooting is tricky

Because the data-driven framework creates different parameters for various scenarios, it's possible to use different test data sets for the same code.

It reduces the cost of writing new test scripts every time the data changes and helps identify which data is the most important based on testing behavior.

#6. Behavior-Driven Development Framework

With this framework, you can create a platform that allows all stakeholders, including the development team, the QA team, and business analysts, to participate actively.

It increases collaboration between developers and testers and promotes a development environment driven by testing. Some of the benefits and drawbacks of the behavior-driven framework are:

Benefits:

  • Only requires intermediary technical skills
  • High levels of collaboration

Drawbacks:

  • Slower process
  • Requires previous experience in test-driven development

Because you use non-technical language instead of programming languages to create test specifications, this framework is one of the best test automation frameworks for those with intermediary technical skills.

#7. Hybrid Testing Framework

A hybrid framework hones in on the strengths of various testing frameworks and mitigates weaknesses.

This approach makes the hybrid testing framework significantly more efficient for cross-browser testing.

Besides the obvious advantages of this behavior-driven development framework, here are some other benefits and drawbacks:

Benefits

  • Scalable
  • Reduced costs
  • Faster testing

Drawbacks

  • Tests are fully scripted
  • Requires advanced technical knowledge

Although the hybrid test automation framework requires a high level of technical knowledge, it makes it easy to take a flexible approach by putting different parts of different frameworks together, harnessing each framework's advantages.

software developer

Examples of Popular Test Automation Frameworks

After determining which type of test automation framework you want to use for testing web applications and other software, the next step is choosing a test automation framework. Here are some of the most popular frameworks used by software and QA teams worldwide:

#1. Selenium Framework

What is Selenium? The Selenium framework is the most popular and widely used record and playback automation framework (there are Selenium alternatives). It increases code readability and improves test productivity.

Test cases and test data are kept separately to test the web page's efficiency. Developers and testers can also use this automation framework to execute test scripts from external sources.

#2. Google EarlGrey

EarlGrey is a native iOS UI testing framework that allows software teams to write clear and concise test scripts. It's easier to write and maintain scripts, and the framework has a powerful synchronization ability built in.

#3. Cucumber

This behavior-driven framework is mainly used to write acceptance tests for web applications. It gives users a quick and easy setup and allows them to reuse code across several tests.

#4. Robot Framework

As one of the most generic test automation frameworks, Robot Framework is invaluable in acceptance testing. It is ideal for cross-browser testing and provides simple tabular test data syntax. It's easy to integrate and offers clear testing reports and detailed logs.

#5. Appium

Mainly designed for testing mobile applications, Appium allows developers to modify the app and run tests without recompiling it each time. Test teams can use it across multiple platforms with the same API.

#6. Gauge

Known as an advanced but lightweight test automation framework, Gauge has simple, flexible, but incredibly rich syntax. Understanding test cases in this framework is straightforward, making maintenance a breeze. The modular architecture makes this framework highly scalable.

testing devops

Testing the Automation Framework

Just like any other software, it's essential to test an automation framework before using it to run automated tests. Some of the tests required to ensure a robust automation framework are:

  • Learning tests
  • Functional testing
  • Installability testing
  • Portability testing
  • Upgradability testing
  • Interoperability testing
  • Performance tests
  • Syntax tests
  • Suitability testing
  • Usability testing
  • Understandability testing
  • Static analysis

Automation Testing Frameworks are Essential

Test automation frameworks are essential for automated testing activities, with development best practices constantly shifting as industry demands grow. There are different types of test automation frameworks catering to various requirements.

It includes the hybrid test automation framework, keyword-driven framework, data-driven framework, module-based testing framework, linear scripting framework, and library architecture framework.

By using test automation frameworks, development companies can detect defects faster and more accurately, use reusable test scripts, and enjoy the benefits of continuous testing without allocating additional human resources. It helps improve software testing quality and ultimately ensures higher-quality releases.

bugs and software testing

Conclusion

Software development and QA teams can use all of these test automation frameworks to handle their code systematically. It's best to choose the type of automation framework based on your project requirements, budgetary constraints, the expertise of your team members, and available time.

Test automation frameworks boost productivity and quality and provide maximum test coverage in the development process.

Scriptworks builds on Selenium and Appium to deliver an elegant simple visual interface, empowering testers to use their domain expertise to design scalable and reusable automated test packs to address today’s continuous testing demands.

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Article written by Duncan Brigginshaw
Co-Founder and Technical Director

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