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SeleniumIDE “.side” JSON parser for “Durable Selectors”, more maintainable Test Automation

Posted by bcmoney on April 27, 2019 in Automated Testing, DevOps with No Comments

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Selenium is the leading open source Test Automation framework. Its WebDriver specification is in the process of being adopted by all the major browser vendors, with most having fairly complete support at this point. WebDriver is the spec document, language-specific SDK bindings, and associated browser-specific driver implementations that enable you to remotely control a browser in an automated manner. This uses a “selector” in the form of:

  • id – attribute “id” of the element
  • name – attribute “name” of the element
  • css selector – full CSS syntax querySelector like “div#search.find”
  • css path – dotted class names like “.my > .thing > .stuff”
  • xpath – xml path based retrieval like “//html/body/div”
  • linktext – “a” anchor tag text values

Choosing a selector for each “Test Step” in a given “Test Case” enables you to fire “commands” at your browser. Using this recipe we can create and run (record & playback) Selenium tests which automate the repetitive mind-numbing testing steps that a Tester would traditionally carry out manually, such as clicking around within a web application, mobile application or website; entering some data, submitting forms, clicking through E-Commerce flows to make purchases, interacting with specific on-screen elements, etc… all to simulate user behavior with your web/mobile application or website in the “real-world”. This frees up QA Testers for more intellectual work such as Performance Testing to help provide suggestions to speed up the app and support more users, Exploratory Testing “fuzz/negative tests” to try to break the system and find its boundaries by using intentionally wrong inputs, Security/Penetration Testing to identify vulnerabilities, Accessibility Tests to improve support for those with disabilities and regulatory compliance, Usability Tests to improve the UI to help end-users, A/B Tests with Marketing team to improve conversions, etc..

There’s just one catch, creating Selenium tests (and test automation in general) can be seen as a significant investment for most companies, one that certainly not all businesses will agree is worth the upfront cost (or that they’ll even fully understand the value of for that matter). This is a problem in today’s fast-moving marketplaces where if you don’t innovate and move with the speed of the market, you stand a real chance at becoming irrelevant and passed up for more “customer-centered” up and coming competitors. Even large enterprises who once enjoyed long lifetimes as monopolies, oligopolies, or simply “difficult to challenge incumbents” are increasingly seeing competition from all corners. Development teams in all companies are being asked to do more with less, and to keep pace; but how can we possibly move quickly and maintain quality, when all of our testing is manual and acts as a gatekeeper or bottleneck to releases getting out the door? This is what the DevOps series on this blog is meant to address.

What if we had a tool for recording and “playing back” a set of manual steps we’ve carried our one time? Could it be possible to “seed” our test automation this way? In fact, yes this is one possible way, and when it comes to Selenium, then SeleniumIDE for the longest time was the answer. Selenium IDE was historically considered as somewhat of the “black sheep” of the Test Automation industry. You wouldn’t kick it out of your Automated Testing flock (toolkit) completely, it still has useful wool to provide, but you might not be able to sell it as easily to a Dev, Ops or QA team as the “best” long-term solution for their test automation efforts. This became especially true recently as Mozilla’s FireFox team, announced they were deprecating their legacy NSAPI/XUL plugin frameworks in favor of the more standardized and modern W3C’s WebExtensions specification. FireFox being originally the only browser that SeleniumIDE 1.x-2.x was built to work on, this effectively set a ticking clock on the lifetime of SeleniumIDE’s usefulness, and as promised, immediately as FireFox 55 was released, QA engineers relying on SeleniumIDE recorded tests confirmed the death of the legacy test automation tool.

All seemed lost for “record & playback” test automation in Selenium, until Visual Test Automation company Applitools got behind an open source project aimed at a revival of SeleniumIDE. There’s pretty clear benefits to them in having an easy-to-use browser-based automation recording too:

  • it lowers the barrier to Test Automation for most Dev, Ops & QA teams out there (not all of which or all members of which will have coding skills to write a bunch of Selenium scripts by hand)
  • it helps companies seed/bootstrap a suite of Automated Tests where they may be in the unfortunate situation of having absolutely none to start out with
  • it puts Applitools on the map in Developer & QA engineer mindshare by contributing a worthwhile project to the open source community
  • folks who previously didn’t know anything about their company now are more likely to hear about them and at least give them a try
  • it enables companies to quickly get up and running with some recorded Selenium tests, then integrate those tests to Applitools’ visual testing (although of course there’s no requirement to do so, you can just go ahead with basic Test Automation and skip the visual stuff or even roll your own basic visual DIFF tool, a possible topic for a future article)

Whatever their main motivations, their efforts are certainly applauded by myself and many others in the open source & Test Automation communities. Documentation for SeleniumIDE in terms of the commands available can be found here:

You can download the following flavours of SeleniumIDE:

Installation is easy, but in case you need a walkthrough with screenshots this will take you through the main steps:

So that’s pretty much all the context you’ll need for why “Record & Playback” has value but if you’re still not convinced, listen to the following podcast and webinars:

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BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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