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March 2011

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A Website Testing Automation Tool Agencies Can Afford

by Glen Emerson Morris
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German software company iOpus recently released a new version of its iOpus Internet Macros program that in many ways rivals, in some way exceeds, the capabilities of the most expensive commercial Website test automation tools. The new version of IIM is the first major commercial test automation tool that will run on both Microsoft IE and Firefox browsers.

Until now, anyone wanting to automate testing a Website had to choose between off-the-shelf commercial automation tools like Windows-based WinRunner and Rational products, and the free cross platform automation tool Selenium, which runs on any platform supporting Firefox browsers, including Windows, Mac and Linux. Given the expense, most companies can only afford to use one type of automation tool, and either choice leaves testing efforts incomplete. This is unfortunate because test automation matters. It allows a lot of testing to be done, reliably in a very short period of time.

Simply put, a Website automation tool is designed to record and playback all the keystrokes and event triggers (like a mouse click) made on one or more Web pages as part of a test case.

There are several different levels of test automation. The first is complete automation, where a certain result is expected and verified by the test code automatically (like whether the text New Your City appears on a Webpage). The second level of automation testing lacks the ability to verify the test case passed or failed automatically and depends on someone watching the script run on the test machine and noting any errors. Most major companies like Apple, Adobe and Yahoo prefer automation tests that can run without the attention of a live person.

Not surprisingly, a very big and well-financed industry has grown up around automation tools over the last two decades. IBM and HP have long since purchased the two main automation tool companies, and the commercial automation tool market has long been dominated by HP's WinRunner, and IBM's Rational product line, both entirely Windows based. While these programs cost several thousand, per user, each, unfortunately, neither of these tools will run on a Mac or Linux computer, or in Firefox on any platform.

The leading alternative to the commercial automation programs is Selenium, a free open source project developed by volunteers in the quality assurance industry in large part to give them what WinRunner could not. Selenium has proven to be a hit for several reasons, the least of which is its ability to run within Firefox on Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Also, aside from being free, Selenium was designed to be expandable, much like Firefox, and there are hundreds of add-ons and extensions available for Selenium that greatly extend its capability.

Selenium is also more flexible than WinRunner in terms of programming. Unlike WinRunner, Selenium can be programmed with any one of several current programming languages, including Java, Perl, Python or C++. (Even in its simpler modes, Selenium is more for geeks.)

Unfortunately, Selenium has several limitations compared to WinRunner and Rational tools. It can't compare bit-mapped images, and it doesn't handle Flash content very well. However, the biggest limitation Selenium has is that it doesn't run under MS Internet Explorer, which a large number of people are still using.

Of course IIM has its limitations, too. Unlike IIM, both WinRunner and Rational automation tools are part of an integrated system designed to help manage the development and testing process. HP's QTP Quality Center for instance will track the product requirements document and provide a one to one link between requirements and test cases. Selenium has these available as free add-ons, but unfortunately at this point, IIM does not.

The lack of extras hasn't kept IIM from being a very useful tool. Over the last nine years I've used iOpus iMacros not only for full automation testing, but also for what I call semi-automation or automated manual testing. The later involves automating certain parts of each round of manual testing, especially the dumb repetitive boring parts that have to repeated for each test case.

For example, I once was testing a match making service Website that required a 17-page profile questionnaire to be filled out before any of 60 test cases could be executed, and each test case required a new profile be completed. On average it took about 5 minutes to answer all the questions on the profiles and only three minutes to execute each test. This added up to 8 minutes for each of the 60 tests (8 x 60 = 480), for a grand total of 480 minutes, or 8 hours to complete all 60 tests using manual testing.

This approach seemed to waste a lot of time to me so in less than half an hour I wrote a simple script for IIM that could automatically fill out all 17 pages with unique responses in less than 12 seconds. This reduced the total time required by the tester to fill out the profiles from 5 hours to 12 minutes, saving 4 hours and 48 minutes for each round of 60 tests. The effect on testing productivity was immediate. The testers were able to get through two complete rounds of all 60 test cases in one day, literally twice their previous output. This one instance more than offset the cost of IIM.

Given its capabilities, the new version of IIM will likely become a preferred tool in the QA industry. It solves the biggest problems WinRunner and Selenium have, and anyone familiar with either can have it up a running in very little time. It may take several years for IIM to mature as a cross platform/browser automation tool, but it is likely that an array of expansions and add-ons will become available for IIM much as they have in the Selenium sector.

For several reasons IIM is becoming the best Website test automation tool for the small to mid-sized business. It's easy enough non-programmers can use it and highly affordable. IIM comes in several packages ranging from the free basic version to the $499 scripting edition, and $699 bundle with unlimited playback capabilities. Quantity pricing is available,

For now, any company with employees using the Internet on a regular basis should consider having them use the free version of IIM on a daily basis. And any company that develops Websites has a lot of reasons to consider the professional edition IIM as their primary Website test automation tool

Glen Emerson Morris was recently a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law. He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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