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Do You Even Need To Bother Automating GUI Tests?

That glorious Automation!

What can I say? Automation’s in trend nowadays. Sometimes I think that all of today’s IT community is desperate for automation. It’s like a drug to many developers and testers. They are willing to spend hours automating processes that may be done in minutes manually. How so? We are automating simply because we love the sound of the word, seemingly. And it works for most managers as well. Magnificent, yet wrong to the very roots.

Don’t get this wrong. Automation is a necessity in today’s world of software development. It does make life easier and has tremendous benefits. But not all is to be automated as there are time when required resources are the price you simply can’t pay and you should not as well when manual methods will deliver you results faster. Let’s take GUI testing for example.

When would you really want to automate GUI testing?

Some people will even answer ‘never’ to that question. But such a position is as radical as the thirst of constant automation hence is wrong by all means. Surely automated unit tests are great and you have to accept it even if you hate all related to letters like TDD, etc. But GUI unit test automation may be and most likely will be a waste. Code coverage should be enough with primary unit tests and you have probably found most defects affecting GUI way earlier. This will work even better if you use more time on automating unit tests before testing GUI rather than doing this in the fairly opposite direction. The GUI layer is great for manual tests and it should be enough if you have done all right earlier. But there are still:

  • Integration tests. This stage is making sure the app is working as planned as a whole piece. Such GUI tests are quite worth large time investments and do deserve a decent load of automation. What is the GUI share of integration tests? You will be testing how everything works from GUI perspective.
  • Acceptance tests. You will need to check for a whole load of GUI parameters along the test flow. This is a nice field for some automation as well. Don’t get carried away though.

Bottom line: Not all is gold that glitters.


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