This past weekend, over 400 developers, testers and others involved in software development got together on the campus of SPSU at the Atlanta Code Camp for a day of training and networking. Code Camps are community events, volunteer-organized and staffed, with sessions presented for free by local (or not-quite-local) individuals. This was my third year to attend, and this year I was also selected as a speaker; I presented a session entitled Keeping Your Sanity With User Interface Automation.
From a quick hand-raise survey, most of the attendees to my session were developers, as was expected, with a handful of testers and one architect. About ten percent of the room indicated that they had tried some form of User Interface automation, with varying levels of success.
We discussed some of the common reasons for frustration, starting with the brittleness of tests – tests that work one day but fail the next – which is often caused by changes in the structure of pages and a too-specific strategy for locating elements. There is no single “silver bullet” answer; we talked about using various forms of XPath, testers and developers working together to come up with a good strategy for Element IDs, and using the CSS selector.
Dynamic content is something we all have come to know and love as users of the web, but throws some wrinkles into automation and testing. I talked about developing tests that wait for the right event rather than sleeping for a speicific time period.
Lastly, we spent some time talking about data setup and cleanup, the need for non-dependent tests, and the use of test runner and/or tool capabilities.
I’d like to thank all the organizers and volunteers for putting on another great event this year. This was a lot of fun, and I hope to see you at next year’s event.