How effective is Selenium in Web Application Testing?

The massive popularity of mobile apps   makes it essential for you to focus on the user experience delivered by your websites and web applications. You must test the web application across browsers, platforms, and devices to evaluate its user experience precisely. There are a number of software testing tools that help you to test a web application with major operating systems and web browsers. Selenium is currently one of the widely used automated testing suites for web applications.

As an open source testing framework, Selenium helps you to reduce web application testing costs significantly. Also, it supports major operating systems, popular web browsers, and widely used programming language. The tools provided by Selenium further makes it easier for you to automate web browsers and control various aspects of web browsers programmatically. But you must evaluate the effectiveness of Selenium to choose to test your web applications effectively.

Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Selenium Web Application Testing

Pros

Open Source

Selenium is available as an open source software testing framework under Apache 2.0 License. So you can download and use it without paying any licensing fees. At the same time, you also have option to modify, extend and share the source code without any restriction. Thus, you can simply create custom functions to make the test code more readable and easier-to-manage.

Platform Portability

While developing modern websites, programmers have to frequently make changes to the code. So they have to test applications repeatedly to ensure that it works flawlessly on major operating systems and web browsers. Selenium supports different versions of Windows, OS X and Linux. Likewise, it also supports different versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. The portability makes it easier for you to write test code without focusing on individual operating systems and web browsers.

Programming Language Support

While developing modern web applications, programmers use several web technologies and programming languages. So they often find it a daunting challenge to pick a software testing framework that can be seamlessly integrated with the development environment. Selenium supports most of the popular programming languages including PHP, Java, C#, Ruby, Python, Perl, Objective-C and JavaScript. So it can be integrated with various development environments seamlessly to test web applications written in different programming languages.

Record/Playback Tool

Despite supporting many popular programming languages, Selenium does not require testers to use any test scripting language. The users can easily build test scripts using Selenium IDE. The Firefox plug-in can be used as an efficient prototyping tool for writing test scripts. At the same time, you can take advantage of the recording feature of the IDE to record user actions, and export the recording as a reusable test script using any of the programming languages supported by the framework. The test scripts can also be executed repeatedly without requiring any modification.

Run Tests in Parallel

You can further use Selenium Grid to save time by running multiple tests in parallel and at a time. The feature enables you to boost test execution by dividing the large and slow-running test suites into smaller segments. Once you divide the test suites, the smaller test suites can run at a time on multiple remote machines. Also, you can run the tests in multiple environments to assess the how the website runs on different platforms and browsers more accurately. The parallel processing will further significantly reduce the time required to test the website repeatedly and thoroughly.

Works with Popular Testing Frameworks

Unlike other frameworks, Selenium does not include a built-in testing framework. But you can integrate it easily and seamlessly with a number of widely used testing frameworks including NUnit, JUnit, TestNG, unittest, pyunit, py.test, robot framework, RSpec, Test::Unit. So you can effectuate web application testing by choosing the right testing framework based on your preferred programming language.

Code Reusability

You can always reduce the time required to test large and complex web applications by reusing the test scripts. Selenium embeds the test automation engine into the web browser using JavaScript and iframes. So you can create simple test scripts which will run directly within the web browser. S you can run tests without relying on a separate interface or plug-ins, it becomes easier to use the same test scripts against multiple web browsers running on different platforms. The code reusability further helps you to test the web applications across different combination of operating systems and browsers within a shorter amount of time.

Flexibility and Customization

Selenium is also considered to be more flexible and extensible than other web application testing frameworks available in the market. As Selenium is open source, you can modify the source code according to your specific requirements. At the same time, you also have a number of options to add new functionality to the framework and test scripts. Thus, you can easily add new functionality to the framework to customize the test automation according to the nature and requirements of individual projects.

Supports Native Events

The most recent of Selenium supports native events while running tests on Firefox. The native events are signals that a web browser sends to the machine when a user presses a button, scrolls or clicks the mouse. For instance, when you use Selenium 2.44, the browser will fire a real click event when you perform the window.click(‘button’) in Firefox. The added support ensures that any feature or functionality of the application working in the automated testing environment will work with the web browser in real time. Also, the new feature will make functional testing automation with Firefox more realistic.

Facilitate Visual Testing Automation

Mot software testing frameworks lack the capability to perform visual testing. Visual testing requires the test automation tools to observe web pages and distinguish their builds. So QA professionals had to test each web page individually to get more accurate test results. Now you have option to use tools that can effectuate visual testing by taking advantage of Selenium test scripts. These tools are designed to follow through the test script, and capture screenshots of each page that the script lands on. So you can simply check the snapshots and decide how the website will look and feel in real time.

Cons

Not a Comprehensive Testing Solution

Despite supporting many programming languages and web browsers, Selenium is still designed as a portable web application testing framework. It does not provide all features required to automate testing of web applications fully. So you have to use various testing frameworks and language bindings to assess all aspects of the web application thoroughly.

Requires Programming Skills

Selenium supports some of the commonly used programming languages. So you can write test scripts in any of the programming languages supported by the framework. But you must have experience in writing code in the specific programming language to write test scripts for Selenium efficiently. Also, you have to use third-party tools to organize the test scripts as Selenium saves the test scripts as simple files with no attributes.

Difficult to Modify Test Scripts

As noted earlier, Selenium saves the test scripts as test scripts as simple files with no attributes. The readability of test scripts are affected adversely when they are saved as simple files. So you may have to put additional time and effort to understand and modify various test scripts. Many testers even find it easier to record the scripts again than making changes to the existing test scripts.

Lacks Reporting and Test Management Capabilities

Selenium is a portable web application testing framework. So it lacks many features provide by other testing frameworks. For instance, it lacks test management capability. Likewise, it also does not come with any built-in tools to generate test reports. Hence, you have to use third-party tools to organize your test scripts and other resources in a more efficient way. Also, you have to use plug-ins like JUnit and TestNG to generate test reports while using Selenium.

Have to Resolve Technical Issues

Many users have highlighted that Selenium works seamlessly only with Firefox. They have also highlighted a number of technical issues they address while using Selenium with other web browsers. So you have to resolve various technical issues quickly to generate reliable test results. Also, you have to avail the assistance of the Selenium community to resolve the new technical issues.

On the whole, Selenium provides an array of tools to accelerate automated web application testing. The APIs provided by the open source testing framework further helps testers to automate and control web browsers programmatically. But Selenium, like other software testing frameworks, has its own shortcomings. Hence, you must keep in mind the precise needs of each project while evaluating the effectiveness of Selenium.

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