Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Good Enough" Test Automation

If you are practicing Agile and you want to stay releasable at the end of every iteration, you must automate your tests. If you do not automate, one of two things will happen:
  1. Your velocity will decrease each sprint as you need to reserve more and more time for regression testing.
  2. You will not run (or will forget to run) regression tests, and you run the risk of breaking something unintentionally. Best-case, your testers will catch any problems before release. Worst-case, your customers will find problems after release.
Now, here's the fun part: you have 2-3 weeks to build and test something potentially releasable. How can you possibly squeeze test automation into that time frame? The same way you attack that next killer feature: start small and iterate.

A few days ago I was testing some changes to a multi-step online signup process. The current code base is, shall we say, less than testable at the unit level. As a result, all testing for this feature has been manual in the past. After a few manual test runs, introducing some automated tests at the browser level seemed like a good idea. I immediately thought about continuous integration, but quickly realized dealing with all the necessary data setup and tear-down was going to take several days to get right. All I needed at that moment was a script to fill out the forms and click through the whole process. I coded a short Watir script, ran it a few times, and visually verified the process still worked end-to-end.

If all you need is a script to do the boring, repetitive parts of testing for you, write the script. If the script is useful, you'll keep coming back to it, and eventually get it running under continuous integration. Just take the first step, choose a tool, and start automating.

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