Programming in Аutomation: Why is it as Еssential as having a Compass in the Wilderness?

The Lexis' overview of how an automation QA experiences the testing process without any programming capabilities, why they are essential to acquire, how they change the QA's perspective, and whether testers can make ends meet without them.

  • QA

Automation QA's tests before having programming knowledge

More focus on test design and application understanding

In the world of automation QA, when we first start, and we don't know much about programming, we mainly concentrate on really understanding the application as if we were the customer. This helps us create tests that act just like a regular person using the software, making sure we check it thoroughly in all kinds of situations. Of course, even after we learn programming, our dedication to understanding the application remains. But here's the important part: knowing how to code helps us do an even better job. We can create more advanced tests and make our testing methods more precise and efficient. This way, we keep testing the application like a real user while using our coding skills to do our job correctly.

Preference for user-friendly automation tools

Additionally, testers with limited programming skills often prefer to stick to user-friendly automation tools with more intuitive interfaces that would require a minimal amount of coding, allowing them to create automated tests more quickly. One advantage here is that they can begin without facing the challenges related to programming languages, which is quite a time saver and lets them dive more into their field in detail.

Preference for simple testing apps that offer test scripts

QAs who test software without knowing how to program often rely on online testing tools that record and save actions. After a test is registered, it can usually be modified so it can change what you do during different steps and also change the expected result. Such tools copy your interactions and record them in a way that's repeatable and faster than manual work. Later, they can modify them as you please, or you can create your own from existing samples. While they don't write code, we still make the most of what's already available to test software effectively. It's good to note, though, that generally, such online testing tools don't go beyond testing websites only.

Reliance on regular collaboration with programmers

Given their limited programming expertise, testers often must collaborate more closely with programmers for help. This collaboration becomes essential for addressing script issues and inconsistencies and also handling more advanced automation tasks.

Working closely with developers can be a valuable learning experience. It ensures that even if you lack programming skills, with enough effort - you can meet development standards and nurture devskills over time. Not to mention that when you start performing your tasks individually - programmers on their own don't have to worry about finding time to fix what you write. They focus on their part, you focus on yours, and productivity increases immeasurably.

Benefits of having programming knowledge

Enhanced test-building skills

Having programming skills equips an automation tester with the ability to build sophisticated and comprehensive test scripts. They can create test scenarios that cover a more comprehensive range of inputs and conditions, resulting in more thorough testing. Additionally, the possession of programming skills allows testers to design tests that are reusable and maintainable, reducing the effort and time in the long run.

Better debugging process

One aspect of testing, where the benefits of possessing programming skills are sure to make quite an impact, is debugging. Why? Knowing how to read code, analyze your test script errors, and identify issues with your strength saves your time, saves the programmer's time, and last but not least - boosts self-confidence. When a test fails, a QA with the above-mentioned "powers" can trace through the code and successfully pinpoint the problem's root cause and fix it efficiently. Self-education in debugging proves to be quite a utility to master.

Better data handling and validation of the software's behavior Proficiency in programming enables automation testers to handle and manipulate testing data more effectively. How exactly? For instance, they can create scripts that simulate various users and check if a system differentiates between a new user, a premium user, and an admin. Or let's say they have to test an e-commerce website during which every time a user adds three different products to the cart - the price should be calculated correctly. Possessing skills to perform complex data validations and ensuring that the software behaves as expected under other conditions is an absolute must if we're talking about the reliability of test results.

More effective collaboration with developers

As we can imagine, programming skills can be the way to "bridge the gap" between an automation QA and the developer for natural reasons, from engaging in relevant product discussions to understanding the code and communicating testing requirements clearly. All these mutual activities signify a more explicit workflow that will result in improved collaboration and communication. And on its own, this will reflect positively on every aspect of the working process.

How the perspective changes with programming knowledge

Writing less code that would do more

Acquiring programming knowledge transforms an automation QA's approach to test script development. The QA no longer needs to write long and repetitive code for every single test scenario. Instead, the focus shifts to designing functions and test suites that are somewhat optimized and efficient. Also, this will highlight a level of programming "hygiene" (writing less code while achieving broader test coverage), making the automation process better in the big picture.

Designing more reusable tests/code

Programming knowledge enables automation QAs to design tests and code that are highly reusable. They can create scripts, functions, constants, and custom commands that can be applied to various test scenarios. It is making the test maintenance easier by far. Such focus on the reusability of the tests accelerates the test development process and proves helpful with fast adaptation of eventual testing of new add-ons to the project. How programming knowledge boosts the prowess of automation QA

Enhanced test-building techniques

With some programming skills, we QAs can apply applicable practices to our tests. For example, learning a little bit of HTML, CSS, and DOM tree basics is a good start that can help us to choose better elements to interact with. This means that the more you master them, the more logical assertions, combined with the custom mentioned above commands and costs, you will create. Another example from Cypress is including a well-built beforeEach hook that has saved me from writing the same things for more than 100 tests when I can write it as a precondition only once.

Test efficiency improves

I've discovered that the power of thinking beyond the basics puts a green flag in your garden. From personal experience, I can tell you that testing a payment system does not include only filling in a card number and clicking the submit button. It's also crucial to not forget to test that you won't be able to pay with a non-active card, an expired one, or an empty one. So far, my programming skills allow me to design and execute tests beyond the standard user flow, ensuring that the payment system is thoroughly and creatively tested.

Error handling and reporting improve

Testers with an understanding of programming language can handle errors in their code better. As I already started walking that road, I can confirm that knowing to read your own code is a time saver for both you and the developer. And effective error handling, together with clear error reporting, is essential. A responsible QA also understands the importance of reporting errors that appear in the console during testing, even if they're not immediately visible. As we gain knowledge of programming, we start "speaking the same languages" with developers, so we learn to include the proper terminology like "validation," "verification," etc.

Test framework flexibility improves

Knowing more about programming helps us save some time in another way as well. Let's say you have to test a sports betting app on Android and iPhone - the user interface might vary with login buttons, input fields, etc., but that doesn't mean it's a bug. So, instead of writing a long script for two separate tests - you can use coding to adapt the script automatically to the respective system being tested. I already applied it to my approach to work, and it aged pretty well, saving me lots of writing.

Can we, automation QAs, survive without programming?

Programming skills in automation testing are not a must. But when you want to raise the bar and perform different complex scenarios with your testing tool, you simply need them. Of course, you can always stick to manual work for the more complex tasks. Still, if you put effort and brainwork into learning a little programming and reach a level where no scenario is beyond your expertise to write - that's when you win at testing. Think of programming for automation, like having your own beach house. You can still live without a beach house, but having it kind of changes the horizon, doesn't it? So I suggest you consider building your own!


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