Automated functional testing: What it is & how it helps? | DeviQA
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Automated functional testing: What it is & how it helps?

Automated functional testing: What it is & how it helps?
June 6, 2024

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Software testing is a holistic procedure that comprises tests of the most diverse types. While all of them are vital, functional testing plays a pivotal role. Before checking properties, like security, accessibility, performance, usability, responsiveness, compatibility, etc., it is paramount to ensure that the functionality of the app operates as expected. As a rule, functional testing is labor-intensive and time-consuming, therefore its automation is a smart move to optimize the whole QA process. If you are interested in this topic, read on. This article outlines key points that you might find useful.

What is functional testing?

First things first. Let's give the definition of functional testing and explain its significance in software testing. As its name implies, functional testing verifies the work of software functionality against any predefined specifications. Usually, it neglects a code base or implementation details but mimics various users' interactions with a system.

Since any software is continuously evolving as more new features are implemented, manual execution of functional testing is often a rather time-intensive and prone to error process that requires an ongoing increase of human resources to handle the ever-growing testing scope within usually rather tight deadlines. On the flip side, automated functional testing provides an opportunity to run these tests without or with minimum tester intervention. In this case, the app behavior is checked by test scripts. Special automation testing tools and frameworks are needed to design, run, and maintain such test scripts.

Moreover, modern test automation solutions often go above and beyond, by offering a scriptless mode that lets users create automated tests without coding. It is obvious that automated functional testing immensely simplifies the work of QA experts and facilitates a QA process.

Key types of functional testing

All QA experts know that functional testing can be performed in different ways, with different goals, and at different phases of a QA process. Therefore, we can define a few types of software testing. Let's review them:

Smoke testing

Smoke testing focuses only on the key functionalities in a new software build to check its stability and readiness for subsequent, more in-depth tests. This is an essential part of the SDLC, conducted each time a new software build becomes available. That is why it is also known as build verification testing.

Usually, the execution of smoke testing is swift and takes up to one hour, unless the application under test is exceptionally complex and extensive. This quick check has a crucial purpose - identifying whether a build is stable enough or not. In the event of instability, more exhaustive and time-intensive tests are withheld, saving valuable time and resources. Essentially, smoke testing acts as a preliminary checkpoint, letting development and QA teams detect and fix critical issues promptly before investing additional efforts in comprehensive testing activities.

Sanity testing: Sanity testing is conducted a bit later in the QA process and has a narrower scope. It is laser-focused on a particular app feature or area to check whether a recent code modification has had the desired effect or whether a newly implemented feature works as planned.

Regression testing: Regression testing is definitely the most comprehensive form of testing that covers a broad spectrum of application features. As a rule, it is executed before every release to ensure seamless app operation as well as uncover bugs unexpectedly introduced by recent changes to a codebase. As you might guess, despite being rather time-consuming, regression testing is indispensable.

With regard to the inherent nature of software, even minor code modifications can potentially adversely affect previously well-working app functionality. Therefore, regression testing is a compulsory QA activity needed to identify and eliminate unanticipated consequences. With its help, QA and development teams maintain the reliability and robustness of the application throughout its development lifecycle.

According to the testing levels, we can also distinguish the following types of functional testing:

Unit testing: This type of functional testing is within the competency of developers who execute it as they write code and develop an application. Its purpose is to check the way separate software units function, making sure the anticipated outputs are provided after a set of inputs.

Integration testing: Integration testing ensures that separate software units work well when integrated. It is very important as separate software units can work correctly on their own while being unable to operate promptly when being combined.

System testing: In the course of system testing, an application is tested as an integrated system or unity in order to verify that all functional requirements are satisfied. It is also often referred to as e2e or end-to-end testing.

User acceptance testing: User acceptance testing is deemed to be the final phase of a QA process whose objective is to check whether the software aligns with business requirements and end users' needs. Its successful completion is a green light for software release.

As you might have noticed, the list of functional testing types is quite long. However, we must note that automated functional testing usually comes down to smoke testing and regression testing since they are frequently rerun.

Why is functional testing automation so important?

These days, automated functional testing is a crucial part of software development and quality assurance processes. There is a good reason for this - automated functional testing brings a plethora of benefits that enhance the efficiency of QA specialists and developers as well as enable business owners to reach their goals faster. Let's delve into these benefits to comprehend the real value of test automation:

Higher efficiency. To be honest, manual and automated functional testing are worlds apart. While manual functional testing is commonly time-sapping and prone to human errors, automated tests run swiftly and with minimum effort, providing results much faster. Compared to testers, test scripts are not exposed to fatigue and tediousness, therefore you can be confident in test accuracy. Also, unlike QA engineers, automated functional tests do not need weekends, holidays, or vacations, and they can be executed day in and day out.

Immediate feedback. The speed of automated tests, especially when they are integrated into a CI/CD pipeline, allows for really swift feedback. As a result, developers can quickly understand whether new modifications work well or fix unexpected issues in a timely manner. Therefore, automated functional testing optimizes not only a QA process but also a development process.

Shorter time-to-market. As mentioned above, the automation approach to functional testing enables quick test execution and bug resolution, saving QA engineers and software engineers a ton of time. This way they can provide more rapid and frequent app releases which is of utter importance for each business. If you wish to pioneer the market, functional test automation is one of the numerous things that deserve your attention.

Better test coverage. Without saying, high test coverage is a goal of every QA team. While executed manually, functional testing hardly can cover all test cases due to tight deadlines. Being pressed by the lack of time, testers usually end up testing only highly prioritized features. Automated tests efficiently address this problem. Moreover, with the help of automation, a whole bulk of functional tests can be run across all needed browsers and operating systems. Thanks to parallel test execution, it takes minimum time while increasing your test coverage.

Test consistency. Ensuring the consistency of your functional tests is paramount. Test scripts run exactly as they've been programmed every single time. This helps avoid human errors and guarantees that similar test outcomes are yielded across all test cycles. By implementing automated functional testing, one can be sure that every app feature is tested under the same conditions in every test cycle.

Better app quality. Test accuracy along with high test coverage lets you be confident in the excellent quality of your software product. All in all, automated functional testing is not only about high speed but also about top quality.

High ROI. While the implementation of automated functional testing requires substantial effort and considerable upfront investments, the benefits in the long run outweigh the costs. Test automation becomes more cost-efficient as projects scale. Once created automated tests can be rerun as frequently as required, whereas the manual approach necessitates continuous expansion of a QA team to manage the growing workload effectively.

Expert tips: How to optimize automated functional testing for your it product

Automated functional testing is a powerful tool on condition it is implemented and used properly. For beginners, it is easy to get stuck, frustrated, and inefficient. Therefore, we have compiled a list of a few valuable pieces of advice to help you navigate pitfalls and use the full potential of functional automation testing.

Select the most appropriate test automation tool: There is a good choice of test automation solutions in today's market. You may opt for Playwright, Cucumber, TestComplete, Cypress, or Selenium for functional testing. Test automation tools differ on price, set of provided features, supported languages and platforms, etc. Pick the one that meets all your needs and goals, both short-term and long-term.

Prioritize your test cases: As you know, not all test cases can be automated. Besides, it may not be practical to automate all automatable test cases. We strongly recommend you focus on those that are relevant and critical, for instance, test cases that are repeatedly run, time-incentive, data-driven, and prone to human error.

Write independent and autonomous tests: The stability and maintainability of automated tests are essential. Therefore, you should write as independent tests as possible, ensuring that each of them stands alone without relying on the outcomes of other tests.

Keep up with the latest updates: One more piece of advice for you is to regularly update your automation testing tools to the latest stable versions. Keep this tip always in mind to maintain efficiency because newer versions usually come with bug fixes, improved performance, and new features, helping you streamline processes.

Set up continuous integration and deployment: Integrate your automated tests into a CI/CD pipeline. An automated test run on each code commit ensures immediate feedback to developers, enabling early bug detection and resolution. This immensely speeds up the development lifecycle and facilitates the overall QA workflow.

Take advantage of parallel test execution: Employ parallel test execution to accelerate your QA process. By running your tests concurrently on several environments or browsers, you can significantly decrease test execution time and enable prompt feedback and quicker releases.

Review and update your test scripts on an ongoing basis: Your test scripts should align with all changes in the app, therefore you need to check and update them regularly. Take the time to ensure that your automated tests remain relevant and effective as the application matures. Do not neglect this to avoid test script obsolescence and maintain utter test accuracy.

Use headless testing: Use headless testing when tests can be conducted without a visible browser interface. This is a great way to optimize resources and accelerate a QA process even more.

Shift to cloud-based testing: Cloud-based testing solutions are getting more and more popular due to the scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness that they offer. With their help, QA teams can access different test environments and devices, which in turn, optimizes a QA process.

Encourage ongoing learning: Automation QA engineers must continuously polish and update their skills to adapt to emerging technologies and deliver excellent results. By staying at the forefront of advances in test automation, they can ensure that functional testing remains a reliable and effective element of your testing strategy. So, invest in training and foster your QA team to achieve new heights.

Conclusion

Obviously, any test plan includes functional testing. Its role cannot be overlooked as everyone needs an app with functionality working as a Switch watch. When it comes to large-scale and complicated software, functional testing can take plenty of time and resources. Fortunately, there exists an efficient solution - automated functional testing. With its help, executing time-sensitive functional tests, such as regression or smoke tests, can be considerably accelerated without compromising app quality.

Speed is only one of the numerous advantages of functional automation testing. Accuracy, efficacy, consistency, and cost efficiency are just a few more to mention. Still, to maximize its benefits it is better to adopt the best practices, like writing autonomous automated functional tests, updating tests regularly, integrating tests in a CI/CD pipeline, taking advantage of parallel test execution, using headless testing, shifting to cloud technologies, and others.

If you would like to ensure excellent product quality, save costs, and meet tight delivery deadlines, automated functional testing is the right approach. We believe that the insights we shared will encourage you to take your first step on this path.

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