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Automated GUI Testing: How to Get it Right

May 8, 2019
9 min read

The user interface is crucial when it comes to creating a reliable website or application. In order to ensure all the elements of the front-end work as expected and are displayed equally well for users across all devices and browsers, development teams conduct GUI (graphical user interface) testing sprints.

There are dozens of factors to determine the success of GUI testing. While a few unique features should be tested manually, a lot of developers prefer creating automated scripts to create faster, flexible, and reusable algorithms.

In this post, we’ll share proven tips on automated GUI testing strategies as well as a list of widely used tools.

Table of Contents:

  1. What Is GUI Testing?
  2. Who Needs GUI Testing?
  3. Benefits of Automated GUI Testing
  4. Tips for Successful Automated GUI Testing
  5. GUI Automation Tools
  6. Examples of Automated GUI Test In Use
  7. Automated GUI Testing at PFLB

What Is GUI Testing?


After a command line interface (CLI) has been substituted with the graphical user interface, developers start to face drawbacks. It turns out that the experience of using a graphical front-end is different depending on a device’s screen dimension, operating system, browser of choice, and so on.

Graphical user interface testing allows development teams to ensure that users can experience all the elements of the website in the same way regardless of their platform or browser.

By determining various test cases, a developer can determine if a system works according to business requirements. Here’s a list of elements that are normally assessed during GUI testing sessions:

  • Menu bars;
  • Dialog boxes;
  • Text boxes;
  • Bars;
  • Tables;
  • List boxes;
  • Checkboxes;
  • Buttons.

There are two ways to deal with GUI testing – manually and automatically. In this post, we’ll be explicitly covering the second strategy.

Who Needs GUI Testing?


Most development projects use a layered architecture approach. What a developer sees as a whole of data coverage and business component is wrapped for a user as a graphical user interface.

Even if the bottom layers of the architecture work as they should, in cases where a GUI interface is not set up correctly, a user will not be able to perform any action on the website.

Apart from ensuring that back-end and the front-end code are properly connected, here are the most common features of automated graphical user interface testing:

  • Testing the interface from the user’s perspective. Conducting GUI testing, you’ll be able to try out the most popular scenarios of user behavior on the website. A tester will also have a better idea of how users of different platforms experience the website.
  • Improving the quality of the product. Thanks to GUI testing, you’ll be able to analyze each function of the website in a controlled environment. From testing the menus and sidebars to ensuring the size of the font is readable across all devices, a tester will be able to nitpick every detail and improve every aspect of the product. At the end of the day, the final version of an interface will be highly reliable and cut down the amount of negative feedback.
  • Validating the compliance of icons and elements. Validation GUI testing ensures that the front-end complies with generally accepted design and development standards. Sprints normally include validating text boxes, buttons and controls, the color and the direction of the hyperlink, and so on.
  • Reducing the risks during the development process. Implementing automated graphical user interface testing during development reduces the risk of missing bugs during the end of the cycle. Testing the entire design when the back-end code is written might result in code rewrites and slow down the process.

Benefits of Automated GUI testing


GUI testing is mostly performed manually. However, while assessing the performance of small straightforward testers, a lot of developers write scripts for automated testing. In fact, there are more than a handful of benefits businesses are looking forward to exploring by using continuous automation frameworks:

  • Improved speed and efficiency. A script can run 24/7 – something which is impossible to imagine when it comes to manual testing. Meanwhile, you can engage testers in more creative tasks where human intelligence is crucial – this way, a manager can significantly improve team efficiency.
  • Reduces the margin of error. Human error is an important factor influencing manual testing. Keeping focus and concentration while checking the performance of website features for hours is hardly possible – that’s when testers start making mistakes. Automating GUI testing scripts, on the other hand, reduce the margin of error, because as long as the script is written correctly, test results will comply with it.
  • Provides consistency. Automated testing scripts are portable and reusable – you’ll be able to implement a standard practice even if the testing team doesn’t have its old members. Thus, such an approach provides a business owner with consistency and can be used for multiple products.
  • Handy at finding regression errors. Automated testing allows developers to widen the variety of tested events and find out if a feature works properly under all the sets of circumstances. Such a deep exploration would take a lot more time and workforce if conducted manually.
  • Saves time, workforce, and money. Automated testing is a go-to option both for startups and big companies. The first ones wouldn’t have to keep a big testing department in order to bring a product to the market while the latter would find it easier to scale to new markets if all the testing scripts are reusable and can be easily tweaked to test a new feature.

Tips for Successful Automated GUI testing


Creating a GUI automation testing framework is challenging due to the enormous array of exceptions to each rule set by a team lead. However, when it comes to standards and best practices, here are the tips that testers follow to create a well-synchronized and functional testing framework.

  • Adhere to test design patterns and principles. Regardless of how creative a website’s interface is, it has to comply with a list of patterns in order for a user to comfortably navigate between pages. Design patterns are specific solutions to a defined problem (such as PageObject pattern) while principles are a set of guidelines and rules you should rely upon during testing. They include the simplicity principle, the visibility principle, the structure principle, the feedback principle, and so on. As soon as a tester complies with both, he can be sure that a user wouldn’t be troubled when navigating through the website.
  • Create a portable GUI automation framework. Testers often need to run sprints on different platforms and servers – in case a framework is not portable, it might take a lot of time to transfer a test from one server to another. In order to avoid such issues, be sure not to store testing data on the local server. Instead, use an external storage provider. You are likely to need a webdriver in order to run GUI automated tests – the good news is, there are plenty of tutorials online on how to install one.
  • Ensure the independence of each test. Tests that use dependencies are as a rule harder both to read and maintain. In order to avoid challenges during parallel automation, it’s better to run each test independently.
  • Set up a detailed reporting system. Analyzing test results is a crucial chunk of work for a QA tester. Most developers generate reports with the detailed description of a result, test type, functionality, and so on. With automated tools it would take less time to check all the executions.
  • Separate manual and automated tests. When organizing your code, be sure to separate manual tests from the automated testing framework. Creating a separate module for an automated GUI test framework allows you to connect the same script to different projects in case you want to test several websites or apps simultaneously.

GUI Automation Tools


The modern testing market is actively responding to the growing trend of automated testing by pushing out automated GUI testing tools that are designed to help developers write scripts and conduct sprints. Here are a few solutions that we find helpful in day-to-day testing activities and that could be helpful both for beginners and advanced software testers.

1. AutoIT

AutoIt is a scripting language environment. The syntax of AutoIT is wide and rich, with variables, operations, functions, and its own programming logic. Using the program, a tester is able to create powerful standalone .exe programs for GUI software testing. AutoIT is remarkable in terms of its community – there’s a forum with thousands of active users and a help desk.

Testers are able to improve the functionality of the program – you can upload extra plugins and packages.

2. iMacros

iMacros allows developers to automate scripting, testing, data extraction, as well as most development activities. In order to save an action as a macro, a tester has to hit a ‘Record’ button within the app, perform the task manually, and save it as a macro. The next time you need to repeat the process, it will take place automatically thanks to a saved macro.

iMacros has built-in Java, Silverlight, Flex, and Flash support, a command-line interface, image recognition, task scheduling, and batch file support. All together, it’s a highly functional free tool for testers that comes in handy during day-to-day automation.

3. Watir

Watir is a free open-source web driver built upon the WebDriver frameworks that can be run across multiple browsers. As the tool is written in Ruby, it’s not too challenging to master. The test maintenance is fairly straightforward and scripts are easy to create and update. As Ruby is a highly concise programming language – it allows the development team to create a solution that helps testers create scripts that consume less overhead.

4. EggPlant

EggPlant is an AI-driven tool that helps testers create scripts for any layer of the interface. Due to the fact that the tool is integrated with machine learning and artificial intelligence, EggPlant provides developers with predictions regarding the impact of an added feature. The list of tools includes performance monitoring, functional test models generation, and more. The solution supports test script review and parallel execution.

5. AbbotJava

AbbotJava is a tool for UI Java testing that allows testers to drive UI components both with scripts and compiled code. It’s a go-to software for examining a component state and generating user actions. Java application playback and recording are both supported.

6. TestStudio

TestStudio is one of the leading automation tools in terms of user experience and the range of features supported. The tool is integrated with project management platforms like JIRA, as well as code editors such as Visual Studio. It also supports a .NET framework. While TestStudio does not require writing tests in code, it’s recommended for testers to learn C# or VB.net in order to use the tool to its fullest extent.

7. TestComplete

TestComplete is another essential tool for automated testing that aligns well with an Agile methodology. It has a widely developed set of documentation, a wide community support forums, and multiple integrations, including one with CI. TestComplete has suites for various platforms and operating systems, which improves the flexibility and reliability of the tool.

Examples Of Automated GUI Test In Use

When conducting GUI test sprints, there are many cases QA specialists normally take into account. The list of possible scenarios is basically limitless – however, here are a few of the most common ones.

  • Data type error testing. During this type of test, you want to ensure that a user can only fill the form with data in a valid format (text, date, etc);
  • Progress bars testing – if it takes more than five seconds to complete a process, the page should contain a progress bar to notify a user about the load status;
  • Save confirmations. In case a user wants to change a screen after having entered the data on a previous one, a system should encourage a visitor to save this input.
  • Image alignment testing is conducted to ensure an image is displayed the way it was projected in the list of requirements regardless of a browser or device.
  • Spelling testing – a tester creates cases for grammar and spell checking.
  • Hyperlink color testing – ensures that all hyperlinks are highlighted in a blue underlined font and are distinguishable from block text.
  • Onscreen instructions – a tester ensures that all screens (apart from self-explanatory ones) contain instructions to guide the user.
  • Table scrolling testing – makes sure that, when table data is scrolled down, the headers stay intact;
  • Invalid choices – ensures that a screen doesn’t offer the options that are unavailable at the moment.

Automated GUI Testing at PFLB


At PFLB, we provide GUI testing along with other types of automated GUI testing for SMEs and big corporations across various industries. Here’s what testing at PFLBs is like:

  • Each project we work on has a dedicated project manager ready to consult a business manager and answer questions. You’ll be able to get in touch with the leader of the development team anytime to stay updated on the status of the process.
  • On-site visits from our leading engineer that allow the PFLB team to get a better understanding of business requirements and design a responsive testing framework;
  • Full integration with your development team;
  • Detailed testing reports regarding the execution results, the correspondence to key metrics, and so on. We provide our clients with explicit step-by-step testing coverage.

If you are looking forward to GUI testing a project, contact PFLB – we’ll be happy to get on board! Also, you can take a look at the full list of our services to see what else our team can help with.

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