The success of your app or website depends a lot on how effective you make its User Interface. It’s important in determining the user’s impression of the product, user interface or UI testing has become a crucial component of product development. In this article, we explore UI design and functionality, detailing its importance and using it to maximize customer engagement and retention.
UI Testing vs Other Types of Testing
User Interface testing is the stage in product development that tests your application’s visual components for functionality and performance. It’s also known as UI testing or GUI (Graphical User Interface) testing.
When you do UI testing, the goal is to ensure that checkboxes, fonts, icons, menus, radio buttons, text boxes, toolbars, windows, and so forth are without defects. For mobile UI testing, the main aspects include compliance, functionality, performance, usability, visual design, and accessibility of the application.
UI testing differs from other testing your team will perform while developing your product.
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Key Objectives of UI Testing
UI testing mainly addresses two issues.
Firstly, it investigates the application’s approach to user actions from the keyboard, mouse, and other input devices.
The second major objective is to display visual elements correctly while ensuring they work perfectly.
UI testing enables organizations to be sure that their applications meet functional requirements and that end-users will experience a smooth adoption curve with them. Therefore, UI testing is necessary before you take that next app to production.
Why is UI Testing Important?
Using UI testing, you will ascertain how your application handles user actions using input devices such as a keyboard and mouse. It also checks whether visual elements are correctly displayed.
Mobile UI testing for Android and iOS applications helps to ensure that your application works efficiently with accurate performance on the typical user device. End users will likely adopt the software application quickly if it works on their devices just as expected.
With proper UI testing, you’re likely to ship software with a good user interface. You can expect that this won’t meet user expectations because the UI is the user’s gateway to experiencing your application. A bad UI experience can have dire implications for your brand reputation.
For websites, the average size has grown over time. Having multiple pages, each with hundreds of micro-elements necessary to create a complete website means that UI elements cause an increase in server load and, therefore, a slow website. UI testing can help to mitigate this problem.
Therefore, your dev team must perform extensive UI testing before releasing any application or website to production.
Types of UI Tests
A website or application UI is a complex technology with several moving parts. Therefore, it’s necessary to deploy several forms of testing at once.
The multiple functional and non-functional strategies required to fulfill diverse UI testing needs include the following:
- Acceptance Testing: These tests address whether the app fulfills user requirements and to what extent it does.
- Functional Testing: This type of test verifies that each application feature works precisely as it should under all circumstances.
- GUI Testing: A subset of UI testing, GUI testing’s main focus is the integrity of the application’s graphical user interface.
- Performance Testing: It refers to tests that ensure your application’s responsiveness, scalability, speed, and stability under different workloads.
- Regression Testing: Regression tests report whether the existing features of an application are performing after any code change.
- Unit Testing: Here, your goal is to test small modules or units of an application.
Common Challenges Faced During UI Testing
Here are some notable challenges software testers face when doing UI testing:
- Rigorous UI testing becomes difficult with frequent app improvements. It usually happens after product redesigns that introduce new functionalities to the user.
- Complex flowcharts, embedded frames, maps, infographics, and other digital assets in modern applications make UI testing more difficult.
- In cases where the tester needs to use the appropriate UI testing tool, they may need help implementing effective UI test cases and running them in the shortest possible time.
- After making changes to the user interface, updating the attendant test scripts can be more complex.
- Testers often spend too much time creating test scripts. Resolving issues arising during testing becomes more challenging
- When they have to run many such scripts in a limited time frame.
- Estimating the ROI for consistent UI testing is sometimes difficult, especially when tests change along with the user interface, take longer, and ultimately delay product delivery.
Best Practices for Effective UI Testing
Since UI testing can have a significant business impact, designing and implementing a bulletproof UI testing strategy is necessary to maximize your testing efforts. It ensures you fully optimize your product before urging your customer to use it.
But first, here are four things that can happen when you have a less-than-effective UI testing strategy:
- You’ll need help to show the business value of your UI testing solution.
- You’ll need help maintaining the pace and vision of your project.
- You’ll choose the wrong UI testing technology and suffer from technology efficiency loss.
- You’ll encounter a testing squeeze, where you’ll find it hard to determine what to cut first, what to test, or what business value lies in every move.
Therefore, your UI testing strategy summarizes your larger testing strategy. Its true purpose includes the following:
- To surface risks, capabilities, and functionality and deliver a reliable, repeatable informing process.
- To communicate your goals and plans.
- To initiate discussions for a new proof-of-concept or new technology to bring to your company.
- To develop an auditing framework, you can always revisit when necessary.
The steps to create this solid automation strategy include the following:
- Defining your high business value tests.
- Identifying your risk.
- Understanding your technology, tools, and resources.
- Ensuring the integrity of your data.
- Defining your DevSecOps.
- Reviewing your testing environment.
- Tagging your tests.
- Probing for UI testing inefficiencies.
- Doing all your testing the agile way.
Remember that your UI testing strategy is mainly to help you to focus on your goals and communication, not your format. Therefore, what’s your overall technology goal, and how does it affect the people in your organization and environment?
Tools and Frameworks
Resolving software testing challenges begins with choosing the right UI testing tools. Different tools are available, but you should only choose the one that best suits your workflow.
The appropriate UI testing tool has the following minimum feature set:
- Reusable test support
- Minimal maintenance requirement
- Defect tracking capacity
Common tools include Cucumber, QTP, Ranorex, and Selenium. On the other hand, proven UI testing frameworks include Cypress, Robot Framework, Sahi, Sencha Web TestIt, Serenity, and TestProject.io.
Modern tools come equipped with AI and machine learning capabilities.
Designing Reliable Test Cases and Scenarios
Your QA team must first have a test plan to perform a UI test. This test plan needs to identify the areas of your application that require testing and the available testing resources.
The UI test plan will help your testers to define test scenarios, create test cases, and write test scripts.
The test scenario document details how the end user will use the application in the real world. A typical test scenario in most applications is “users will successfully sign in with a valid username or ID and password”. In this scenario, you can have test cases for multiple UI events. It includes the times a user:
- Provides a valid username and password combination
- Types in an invalid username
- Enters a valid username and an invalid password
- Is unable to provide the correct password and tries a password reset
- Attempts to copy the password from the password field
- Tries to copy a password to a password field
- Taps or clicks the Help button
While scenarios aren’t a strict requirement for creating UI test cases, they guide their development. In other words, they serve as the foundation for your team to develop test cases and scripts.
Here are the required test cases or UI checks every application needs:
- Check the font, page label, and position.
- Validate that the page heading is correct.
- Check the font in use.
- Check the cursor focus for the default field.
- Ensure the mandatory fields are in order by clicking Next on a blank form.
- Confirm the position and alignment of the text box.
- Check the acceptance of both valid and invalid characters in the field labels.
- Check the text box’s position and alignment.
- Check all field labels, validating the appearance of both valid and invalid characters.
- Repeat the steps in TC-4
- Test the error message by entering both permitted and prohibited characters.
- Verify that the error message is correct.
- Test hyperlinks and pop-ups.
- Check field labels, validating the acceptance of both valid and invalid characters.
- Check the text box’s position and alignment.
- Save a non-matching password.
- Check field labels, validating the acceptance of valid and invalid characters alike.
- Check the position and alignment of the text box.
- Verify the position of the icon.
- Test the icon to show or hide the user password.
- Check the quality of the image.
- Test the error message by entering both permitted and prohibited characters.
- Verify that error messages are correct.
- Test hyperlinks and pop-ups.
- Test the form submission.
- Check the button position and clarity.
After each iteration in the agile process, it’s also necessary to engage the team(s) in a retrospective. This is a meeting to reflect on what happened during the iteration and identify subsequent actions for improvement.
Valuable questions in a retrospective include:
- What makes us successful as a team?
- How did the team perform during the sprint?
- Where and when did something wrong occur during this sprint?
Key Elements to Consider When Performing UI Testing
While there are no ideal user interface testing methods, here are a few best practices for UI testing.
- Testers should always tally the input and output of the mobile UI testing.
- It’s more efficient for testers to only investigate required test cases for various browsers instead of applying all possible tests in all target browsers.
- The naming convention ensures that specific tests are easier to understand and track immediately whenever required.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
You thought software UI testing would eliminate all errors in your app? Er, right… and wrong. Software testers aren’t immune to errors. They’re human too, and the mistakes they make will mostly serve in shaping their career path.
Here are some of the more common UI testing pitfalls:
- UIs that constantly change: Frequent changes are important to satisfy user requirements in your app. But, these changes come at a price for the business and engineering team, especially those creating UI tests. They must always be ready to deal with the rapid changes in the world of user interfaces.
- Growth in testing complexity: The frameworks used in building modern interfaces add a layer of significant complexity to the software application and UI testing.
- Testers handling multiple errors: Complex scenarios and stringent timelines make it harder for engineers to design adequate UI tests. Teams using manual testing processes report that too much time is necessary to design test cases, leaving little room for a robust error-handling mechanism.
- Time constraints in creating quality UI test scripts: It would be best if you had quality time to develop elaborate scripts. However, delaying UI tests usually slows down software development. It can lead to drastic decisions by your team about including tests in their developmental flow.
How to Prevent and Address Flaky UI Tests?
Flaky UI tests are unpredictable automated UI tests that may pass or fail without an obvious reason. They usually work well for a while before they fail on occasion.
A tester will likely ignore a failed test result if a test eventually passes after failing. Continuous inconsistency in test performance may cause a tester to stop running the test completely, losing critical test coverage.
The point is that your team can miss real bugs if someone continues to ignore failed test results or isn’t running tests. It could appear that there’s no change between passing and failing tests, but every failed test has an underlying cause.
Here are some ways to prevent flaky UI tests:
- Configure automatic retries.
- Execute tests on virtual machines instead of real devices. Virtual devices provide a more controlled test environment. With real devices, additional configuration factors may cause flakiness, and you need access to all the test devices to tell the cause of the failure.
- Throttle your test suite to run fewer tests per time. Your test environment should handle only a few users at once to help minimize test failures from slow load times caused by user concurrency overload.
- Adjust test action timeouts and wait times.
- Manage test data well.
Consequences of Neglecting UI Testing
UI testing ensures the user finds your app or website easy to use or navigate. By testing the UI, you can detect potential problems that may make your app or website painful or confusing for your users.
Neglecting UI testing could result in a lot of bad things happening, including:
- Inaccurate display of error messages.
- Non-congruent font sizes and barely readable fonts.
- Unclear or low-quality images.
- Images may need to be better aligned.
- Non-intuitive navigation.
- Possible compromise of data integrity.
- Poor website or app visual aesthetics.
Integrating UI Testing into Your Software Development Workflow
As more organizations embrace agile development practices, it makes sense for UI testing at these companies to be on the same page with other processes. Here’s a good blueprint to follow:
- Define UI testing goals: It’ll help to identify usability issues and areas to investigate, creating a usability investigation grid. It’s important to be specific when indicating what you’re looking for,
- Design the study with the goals in mind: The study needs only a few tasks, randomizing the order to reduce learning and order effect.
- Create prototypes to test: Mockup screens for every design direction you’re testing. These high-level mockups need only details to test interactions and interfaces defined in the testing goals.
- Conduct usability tests with internal staff: They often provide a good pool of users and can see both sides of the coin.
- Debrief with the project team soon after the study: It’s necessary to go over the checklist and compare notes.
- Analyze test results with the usability grid: Using the usability investigation grid created in Step 1, the team can agree on an appropriate direction to go.
Agile teams develop products in sprints and may skip UI testing. However, the benefits of integrating it into the agile process far outweigh the benefits of shipping the product early. Simplified user testing, narrowed-down prototypes, and heuristic evaluation (where you evaluate UIs by comparing them to established usability guidelines) are some ways to do this.
Recommended Approaches for Continuous UI testing
The following best practices will enable a smoother continuous integration process in your UI testing pipeline.
- Always perform integration testing before unit testing.
- It’s best to avoid testing business logic with integration testing.
- Understand why integration testing differs from unit testing.
- Separate your testing suites.
- Keep an extensive log file of everything.
- Be prepared to go beyond integration testing.
Collaboration Between Developers and Testers
There are ways to foster collaboration between testers and developers during UI testing. These include:
- Emphasizing face-to-face communication.
- Deploying a collaboration framework that enables both sets of professionals to work together on DevOps.
- Integrating cross-training of testers and software developers.
- Focusing on early testing.
- Understanding and implementing continuous deployment, continuous integration, and continuous delivery.
- Promoting visibility and transparency to help resolve small issues.
- Performing regular code reviews to catch bugs early.
- Using agile frameworks more often.
UI Testing Automation
Automating your UI tests is a modern practice we explore in detail below.
Benefits of UI Testing Automation
Besides ensuring that your app’s UI works accurately, UI testing automation affords other benefits, including:
- Consistency and Reproducibility: Automated mobile UI testing is more consistent and reproducible relative to manual testing.
- Lower costs: Automated tests are less expensive than manual options.
- Opportunity cost reduction: Compared to manual testing, automated UI testing eliminates human errors and increases the value and creativity of performance.
- Speed: UI test automation is several times faster than human testing.
UI Testing in Parallel
UI testing can take a lot of time, especially when you’re targeting several platforms. Most UI tests run in sequence on a CI (continuous integration) server before a merge or deployment. However, a few ways exist to create robust tests and scale them for speed. Parallel and other UI tests can become part of your Agile development process.
With parallel testing, you can run multiple tests simultaneously. For instance, Apple’s Xcode 9 allows devs to run different tests simultaneously on various devices. It cuts down testing time and increases developer joy (We made that one up) by several orders of magnitude. The tests usually involve multiple platforms with specific environment requirements to emulate devices and browsers.
Unlike distributed testing, parallel testing doesn’t test interacting parts. However, you may test multiple apps or sub-components of one application concurrently to reduce the overall test time. The outcome is a faster UI useful in the Agile development process for delivering earlier insights into potential issues.
Here are a few best practices for executing UI testing in parallel:
- First assume you need to do tests in any particular order. It retains the integrity of your environment and ensures specific tests have no access to non-non-shared resources.
- Make the test autonomous. The test shouldn’t depend on the outcome of another test since parallel tests do not occur in any particular order.
- Test only one feature at a time. Testing several features at once defeats the purpose of parallel testing.
- Avoid using static objects. A static object may prevent another test running in parallel from accessing it.
- Reset the test data. The test shouldn’t reconfigure the system but must leave it as it was before the test. Each test should create, use, and tear down test data to avoid cross-contamination of data.
It’s best to use a platform that automatically incorporates these techniques. One mistake in test design may cause an error that may be hard to surface, considering the nature of parallel tests.
Popular UI Testing Automation Frameworks and Tools
These are a few useful online tools for testing your UIs.
An open-source testing framework for native, hybrid, and mobile web apps, Appium is excellent for automating such apps on real devices or emulators/simulators.
Your testers will write UI test scripts using the Appium Java API, which offers bindings for multiple programming languages, including Python and Ruby.
Cypress is a popular automation tool for UI testing. It helps your developers write less code and focus on what matters.
Using this tool, testers can access an intuitive interface to manage expectations, assertions, and asynchronous operations without using separate tools. You can test UI code in Cypress without running the entire application stack, making it ideal for testing Angular or React web components.
With minimal input, this Node.js tool lets you write, run, and debug functional tests for modern web apps.
Playwright works by separating the test framework from the real application, making it easy to write UI tests that simulate user interactions with your site without impacting the server or database.
If you wish to automate web browsing, test page load performance, and build interactive screenshots while testing your UI’s performance, Puppeteer comes highly recommended.
Puppeteer is a Node.js library with a high-level API that lets you control headless Chrome and Chromium over the DevTools Protocol.
The popular open-source Selenium tool works great for automated browser testing. It supports multiple programming languages and integrations with various frameworks.
For complex applications with multiple teams developing on various platforms, the Telerik Test Studio makes for a smooth automated UI testing experience for desktop, mobile, and web applications.
We’ll include this as a treat if you ever need to test Windows desktop software. It’s free and open-source, so you can tweak it.
WinAppDriver is great for automating UI tests for Windows applications.
These are only a handful of the automated UI testing tools available for large and small teams. With multiple options available, you’ll certainly find one to suit the unique feature set and functionality your project demands. You can discover a ton more here.
Before automating your tests, research testing tools to pick the right one that will guarantee the success of your UI testing journey.
Key Considerations When Implementing UI Testing Automation
Comprehensive UI testing automation executes UI tests efficiently by covering all critical tests. The test cases typically include all front-end components, including alignment, color standards, fonts, images, navigation, page content, usability, and so forth.
Here are the critical test cases you need to evaluate:
- Ensure you avoid data type errors and enter valid data for specific data types such as currencies and dates.
- Validate the correct alignment of all images.
- Ensure that text fields only allow the user to enter no more than the specified character limit.
- Track text positioning of UI elements on different screen resolutions.
- Confirm that all navigational buttons or redirection links work correctly.
- Progress bars should help the user understand what’s happening when a page loads more slowly than usual.
- Ensure that type-ahead dropdown lists enable users to select from a long list.
- Check error messages for correct rendering and ensure that all error messages go to an event recorder or a log file in the case of system errors.
- The UI needs a working confirmation button to support users when saving or removing an item.
- The application should display relevant menu items available in a specific location.
- Always perform browser compatibility testing to check if shortcuts are working if an application uses them.
UI Testing Optimization for Different Platforms or Devices
It is important to offer users a consistent experience on your software products, regardless of OS (operating system), platform, or device. A good plan to optimize UI testing across platforms and devices involves the following:
- Understanding your audience.
- Choosing platforms and devices to test on.
- Identifying test scenarios.
- Using automation to cover multiple device-platform-browser combinations.
- Make minimal use of simulators and emulators, as they are only sometimes adequate for generating accurate test results.
Exploring The Success Stories
UI testing is a unique quality paradigm that makes for sustained business growth. For mobile apps, websites, and web apps, user interface testing helps to forge a lasting impression on the target audience.
In one scenario, a leading third-party logistics provider in the US depended on omnichannel digital solutions to manage a network of 75,000 assets, 70,000 carriers, 14,000 shippers, and more than 10,000 daily loads. The challenge was that these solutions required constant upgrades and maintenance.
The 3PL company needed an automation solution to lower UI testing time, besides other software development life cycle issues (SDLC) issues. There were significant problems performing end-to-end testing across their web, mobile, and desktop applications using their existing tool stack. Their in-house team went nuts dealing with this scenario.
The client’s team is composed of developers, testers, and release engineers. While the legacy QA (Quality Assurance) and testing tools were easy to use, they needed the ability to perform UI testing across varying app types and scale up production cycles.
These were some of the main UI testing challenges the 3PL provider faced:
- Lack of UI testing scalability
- Inability to achieve full test coverage
- Required additional maintenance support for writing, executing, and managing test scripts
- Testing UI across multiple platforms
- Limited customization capacity in current tools and methods
- The limited scope of new feature development
- Sustained risk of slow DevOps cycles
The solution was to implement more efficient application UI testing. After all, the company’s primary objective is to make it faster to create and execute tests and reduce test cycles. The new tests were refactored to ensure full test coverage, with custom plugins built to generate test data required for the UI test cases.
The third-party logistic provider’s new automated UI testing solution now identifies bugs, defects, and anomalies in the development cycle, significantly reducing UI development time.
With more stability and automation in the UI testing workflows, the development team can now concentrate on performance, mobile, and backward compatibility testing. Other technical benefits include:
- Lowering of manual testing by ~90 percent
- Automation of business-critical, end-to-end test cases and workflows
- Early bug detection in user interfaces leads to a more effective DevOps cycle
- 100 percent automation and 73 percent time savings with smoke tests
- Faster, more frequent, and high-quality production releases
- Significant reduction in the frequency of application maintenance
Implementing a new UI testing regime accelerated application development and release cycles for this third-party logistics leader. Employees reported superior performance with speed and agility. Using UI test automation in place of repetitive manual processes made room to conduct quality checks alongside product development.
Value-added business benefits for this company include:
- Time- and cost-effective production cycles
- Early identification of bugs with shift left approach and lower risk of application failure
- Improved user experience with high performance and superior functionality
Conclusion: Why You Need to Include UI Testing in Your Development Workflow
Users care more about your product and what it does for them than whether your code is clean or avoids code smells. It means they only care about your concern for code quality if they can see its impact on what they can see, “feel,” and “touch.” Your user interface, or UI, can make or break your app.
It’s important to ensure that your UI works correctly and is visually appealing while being easy to use and navigate. You guarantee this by ensuring UI testing is a key part of your testing strategy. Your customers will be happy, and you’ll remain in business, even with stiff competition.