Codeless automation: how to capitalise on the next wave of testing technology

(Image credit: Image Credit: Cordis Technology)

It’s no secret that testing is the lynchpin of the product development cycle. In an era where a single bug can cause massive reputational and financial damage, making sure that quality assurance is prioritised just as much as velocity of release is, understandably, of paramount importance.

And in an Agile development cycle, where development and release cycles involve releasing a set of features and extending those sets in iterated releases, testing has become increasingly complicated. This complexity has made automation an unavoidable reality, and it’s here where the industry’s newest innovation “codeless test automation” can really help.

As the name suggests, codeless refers to an approach where test cases are automated with a minimum of code (though, of course, some might be required to handle the critical actions). Next generation codeless test automation still leverages record and playback, but unlike legacy tools that record “static” test cases, and which are prone to break upon any minor change in the app or element within the app, codeless tools are equipped with machine learning and AI capabilities which allow test reusability, provide stability, and call for near-zero test maintenance.

Newly developed codeless tools leverage a modern UI to record stable test scenarios with support for key features like data-driven testing, test assertions and more. In addition, they introduce the concept of a “self-healing” mechanism, which can dynamically detect UI changes in an app, and modify elements on the fly, without needing to change anything in the pre-recorded test.

For many, a move to codeless is attractive - it means increased test coverage and more efficient testing. So, let’s look at just what codeless has to offer, and how teams can capitalise on this new, and increasingly popular, approach - which works best alongside traditional scripted approaches.

Recognising the benefits

By using codeless test automation, Quality Assurance (QA) departments, and specifically business testers that are tasked with lots of manual testing, will be able to tackle some of the hurdles they face today.

Firstly, codeless introduces an opportunity for business testers to join the build cycle, and to capitalise on the continuous testing opportunities which come from automation, as opposed to running fragile manual testing. Indeed, by shifting manual testing into the cycle and automating these tests, the feedback loop and the overall testing activities timeline will dramatically shrink.

Codeless is also more user-friendly. It takes the hassle and frustration out of code-based automation with an intuitive graphical user interface. Test creation becomes faster, and easier to do — putting the power of automation into the hands of manual testers who may not have technical skills needed otherwise. Codeless tools empower users to build robust and reusable test automation by using machine learning and AI algorithms to manage, heal and maintain application objects and elements. And ultimately, combining ease-of-use with test robustness leads to trusted automation that can continuously be executed and deliver consistent results.

Another huge benefit is that the codeless approach provides full host of integrations and features, allowing teams to transform a basic testing platform into an entire testing suite. And finally, codeless facilitates Agile. Now, development teams - anyone from testers, to developers to project managers - can collaborate on the testing process regardless of their abilities and skill sets. This, along with detailed, easy-to-read test reports, keeps everyone on the team on the same page.

Making codeless a reality

But of course, any new way of working comes with some teething issues. It’s crucial to recognise and address these issues in order to capitalise on the potential benefits of codeless testing.

Maturity must be recognised. With the tried and tested traditional approach, there are use cases, best practices, and plenty of opportunities for teams to learn from their colleagues who have done it all before. To adopt a newer approach like codeless, teams have to make a leap of faith. This is why it’s crucial to seek advice and information from trusted third parties and tech experts in order to make decisions on how best to integrate codeless into your software development processes.

And, just as with any new ways of working, integrating codeless testing calls for a new mindset - and willingness to change. It’s necessary to adjust workflows in order for codeless to invade the continuous testing landscape, and that takes good leadership, collective motivation and a strategic and comprehensive plan for making the change.

So how can it work? Ultimately, codeless needs to be seamlessly integrated into continuous testing processes, sitting alongside, and complementing, scripted tests. Codeless is just part of smart automation - albeit a valuable one.

Codeless testing, just like code-based continuous testing, relies on four key elements to succeed: Creation, Execution, Lab, and Analysis. Connecting test flows to a reliable creation and skillset-matched tool, that can execute the tests reliably at scale from CI or other scheduler against a solid lab (preferably in the cloud), and which then delivers a single pane of glass from a reporting and analysis standpoint, is a significant leap towards mature continuous testing in DevOps.

Let’s expand. There are still many test cases that traditional code-based approaches will perform best, and the benefits of using software testing frameworks like Selenium shouldn’t be overlooked. Selenium is open source, supports plethora of languages, cross browser and cross OS tests. It offers flexibility to re-factor tests (allowing quick code changes, reducing duplication and improving maintainability of code), receives constant updates, is easy to integrate with different testing Ecosystem (Jenkins, Hudson etc) and easy to learn and scale. Therefore, frameworks like this will remain crucial in testing.

Similarly, there are some cases where codeless fits best. It’s the tests that are inconsistent in the results they deliver, flaky and / or failing. Some mobile testing, for example, fits into this category - pop ups create instability, and mobile use is unpredictable. Other test cases that lend themselves to codeless are those which can’t be automated because they are so complex. In these cases; whether it’s flaky tests or those which take too much time to maintain, the best approach is to exclude them from the Codeless Integration, make them codeless, then bring them back into the Codeless Integration at a later stage. In this scenario, codeless automation testing is vital.

So, it is clear that codeless is important - and it’s an innovation which is here to stay. We know that every firm wants to automate testing processes, but attempts to do so regularly fail because scripts are bad or unreliable. And it’s here where codeless can really help.

However, for the foreseeable future, the need for automation coders will not diminish. Indeed, codeless testing will be a tool for automation testers to fast track their jobs rather than replace them. In the future, it’s possible that tools will become smart enough that they will completely eliminate the need for test script coding, allowing testing instructions to be directly passed on to the system in a complete codeless package. But we’re not there yet. Right now, automated functional testing is the most important requirement of any Agile software development process, and codeless is complementary (but important) piece of the puzzle.

Eran Kinsbruner, chief evangelist, Perfecto
Image Credit: Cordis Technology