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What is Selenium Browser Automation and Why It's Time to Let It Go

2 Steps Team
28/06/2019 1:21:29 PM

Picking the right test automation suite is an important part of your development life-cycle. Many developers choose the old open source standby, Selenium. It has been around a long time. And its age is starting to show.

What is Selenium?

selenium-logoSelenium started its life as a Javascript library that would allow web developers to control the browser. This allowed them to automate testing tasks. Security limitations for Javascript led to the creation of the WebDriver interface to allow automated control of browsers, and Selenium began making use of that system. The software is used by testers to automate all of the steps that a user may take when visiting a website. This allows them to track down bugs and send them to the development team for fixing.

Why is it time to move past Selenium?

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When Selenium first came out, it was a game changer. But that was many years ago, and the game has changed again. Selenium remains popular because it is just feature rich enough to justify its cost; it's free. The open source tool lacks some modern features, but teams put up with it to save costs. However, there are a number of reasons why you are better off spending the money to move to a more robust test automation suite.

Limited to browsers

Being based on a technology called WebDriver should give you a hint that Selenium isn't going to do much for you if your application does not run in a web browser. The tool is specifically designed to control web browsers and only web browsers. Even if your company is developing a web-based application, unless you don't develop for any other platform, Selenium will only fracture your automation workflow.

While there are some add-ons that will allow you to control mobile apps, these add yet another layer of uncertainty to the process. One that will suffer from many of the same problems that we will discuss later on.

Having a testing solution that works on any type of application will allow your testers to have a consistent platform to use across all of the projects that they work on. This also means a consistent workflow for everyone who relies on output from those testers, from management receiving progress updates to developers receiving bug reports.

Requires programming skills

Your testing team might not be proficient coders. With Selenium, that puts them in a bit of a bind. Tests in Selenium are performed by programming the software to control the web browser. This means that your testers are going to have to learn a new skill, or you are going to have to hire testers who already have some coding skills. 

More than likely, hiring testers with this extra level of experience will increase your labour costs. Expecting non-coders to learn programming can result in weeks of delays as they get up to speed on the skills needed. Programmers paid at tester wages, or testers forced to become coders, are also more likely to make mistakes with the code. This means more delays, or potentially buggy software releases.

Even worse, some companies have found that testers tend to only code tests for the most basic of functions. Testing edge cases or complicated scenarios were either out of the skill range of the staff or outside of what deadlines allowed for. Programming tests by hand takes time, and sacrifices need to be made when a crunch is on. Unfortunately, it is the edge cases that often hide the most bugs. Leaving those untested can be disastrous for a product launch. Only a no-code solution could change this scenario.

Provides no tech support

Selenium is still very popular. This means that there is an active community with tons of great tutorials and resources for finding help. But any help you get will be coming from the user base, not the developers. If you have custom requests, or problems that are not often encountered, getting help can take a long time.

While it is possible to contract out to consulting firms when the need arises, this adds a cost to a product where the primary benefit was that there were no costs.

Has no native reporting capabilities

The results of tests need to be communicated to other parts of the team. We mentioned earlier how project managers and developers need access to the output from testers. In the case of Selenium, there is no native output! Testers must rely on third-party or in-house solutions to generate the type of visual reports that managers like to see and the type of detailed reports that developers need to effectively fix a problem.

Relying on third-party solutions adds yet another link in the chain of things that can go wrong and people that can be held accountable when they do. Like the add-ons to support testing on more than just browsers, you've now added yet another aspect to your testing that can potentially suffer from many of the problems already mentioned.

Maintaining tests is time-consuming

We've already talked about how much time it takes to code the tests. But the work isn't always done with the code is written. At some point, you are going to make changes to your software. This means ensuring that all of the tests still function as they should. One changed reference could break many parts of your code.

With Selenium, your testing suite essentially becomes another application that must be updated and bug tested alongside the application that you are using it to update and bug test! This takes time, adds frustration, and increases the chance of error.

Conclusion

With 2Steps, all of these problems are solved for you. You can easily create new tests, on any type of application, simply be recording yourself performing the action. Changes to the underlying source code have no effect on your testing suite. You can generate useful reports and analytics, as well as video of problems that occur so everyone who needs to be informed, will be.

To learn more about 2 Steps, click here to watch our presentation at SplunkLive! Melbourne 2019. If you still have questions, you can feel free to contact us at any time. We'll be glad to answer any questions you might have!

 

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