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Automatic testing – what is it and why should you put your bets on it?

Working as an automation tester is a career path that is becoming more and more popular. What is it that an automation engineer actually does, why is it so important for them to be precise, and what are the benefits of test automation?

What is test automation?

Following the latest trends in IT, we often see that some of its areas are gaining more popularity than others. Every day, applications are created that are used by thousands, if not millions of users. Before they are launched and released to the market, these applications must be tested to ensure an optimal experience for the end-user. This is where automation engineering comes in handy. Considering the high pace of software development and use it has become an indispensable part of the process, as manual testing is simply not enough. Thanks to testing automation we can now focus mainly on improving the production efficiency and computer processes, and in consequence, significantly increase the product quality.

In a nutshell - automatic test programmers monitor the quality of introduced changes so that they require as little human interaction as possible. This, in consequence, minimizes the chance of errors and allows the collection of significantly more data about the program's operation than with manual testing.

So right away, you can see that manually repeating tests is simply monotonous, expensive, and time-consuming. Once created, on the other hand, automated tests are not only faster, but can also be run over and over again at no additional cost. As a result, work that would have taken days can now take just a few hours.

Benefits of test automation

  • Bug reduction at the early stage of software development - test automation prevents errors from multiplying and accumulating into serious bugs that would take a lot of time to correct and hinder the application development. Regular testing of the software functionality greatly reduces the chance of errors going undetected. 
  • Better test scope - unlike manual tests, automatic ones are not subject to any limits. They can be run 24/7 if necessary. 
  • Possibility of multiple re-runs - when an application is frequently updated, you need a set of tests that will efficiently check its operation. There might be errors in its new functionalities, and a quick stability check of every subsequent version of the app allows spotting them almost immediately.
  • Faster access to information - automatic tests save time. They are much faster to perform than manual ones and allow us to free manual testers from tedious and repetitive tasks and redirect their attention to more interesting issues.
  • Greater test consistency - by always using the same set of steps, automatic tests guarantee repeatability. Unlike humans, they don’t get tired when performing the same test again and never miss any of the steps.

Automation tester - necessary skills

Source: Juniors Learn to Code

Are there any specific traits that define exactly what job you are best suited to? Definitely not. After all, the same person can find himself/herself in stereotypically different roles at the same time. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are no particularly relevant skills for an automated test developer. Here are the most important ones:

  • Patience - is particularly important in the case of regressive tests performed on each new version of the software. Even with minimal changes introduced during the development of the application (new names, DOM tree element nesting, or new functionalities), you need to introduce corrections in the code, so that they are taken into account. Working on the app development requires not only the implementation of new tests but also constant control of its operativity.

Additionally, patience will come in handy when dealing with developers and having to tell them there’s yet another error this week to be corrected.

  • Analytical skills - attention to detail will allow you to come up with and check various case combinations, which is especially important when covering a given area with tests as it translates into better error detection. The ability to analyze test results and modify tests to adapt them to the final test scenario is also important.
  • Precision - when checking the quality of the software, it is important to be meticulous. If not detected in time, small errors can lead to much bigger problems later on.
  • Openness to changes - software quality control requires flexibility both in terms of skills and approach. It is a great opportunity to learn many new technologies and tools that allow for further development and better work performance.
  • Communicativeness – especially important in the case of large projects involving many people. Testers need to deal with software developers or analysts on a daily basis and should therefore have good communication skills and be able to provide information in a simple and easy-to-understand way.

Software developer vs. automation tester - differences

The difference between testers and developers is between those who develop applications and those who build code to detect potential bugs in them. What do these differences look like in practice? From a technical perspective, they are not huge. Both positions require a similar scope of programming skills and code development control using various tools or programming languages.

However, when seen from a business perspective, these differences become much clearer. Software development generates business value when the software is put into use. Automating this software, on the other hand,  reduces product development costs. Software testing is not only about following a procedure for functionality recovery, but also about designing experiments to check how the software works under real conditions. Writing a simple test is easy - if you can code. But the trick is not only to design the test but to do it in a limited time making sure it works and is easy to maintain. And it's not that simple anymore. Test automation is not only about UI tests and often requires a lot of programming.

For the client the number of errors visible in the product is a reflection of the quality of the purchased product and people who worked on it. Too many of them can mean the end of cooperation, so an inseparable part of software development is its thorough testing. It is one thing to hand over a product that is completely functional and within the framework of continuing cooperation to add its new functions, and another to present the client with something that could be brilliant - if only it worked.

All that explains why software testing is such an integral part of its production. Test automation significantly improves product quality control, which clearly affects its final image and client satisfaction. A software tester helps to build trust towards the entire team, and test automation allows to save time and money and spare frustration - both for the developing team and the client. 

Summary

The testing industry is booming and with it, a new era of automation has arrived. With the continuous technology development, more and more tasks are no longer being performed manually, and companies are starting to place their bets on automatic testing. From manual testers to automation architects - the demand for skillful specialists in this field is constant.

As a job, software testing is as important as software development. If someone tells you otherwise, let them try to release a new app without previous tests.

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