Maintainable Automated Test Design

Design automated test scripts that are easy to maintain

Zhimin Zhan
Geek Culture
Published in
6 min readFeb 26, 2021

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All test automation engineers know that a single application change may break many automated test scripts, and these kinds of application changes happen constantly. To effectively deal with it, test automation engineers need to be in a position to respond to a simple application change in a matter of seconds (here, I mean the time taken to modify the test scripts, excluding execution).

The key to test maintenance (a common problem in test automation) is the test script, not the test tool. Tool vendors like to focus on their tools or deliberately blur the relationship between test scripts and testing tools, for the sake of commercial interests. It is the test engineer’s knowledge that ultimately determines the quality of the test scripts. Good testing tools should help tester engineers transform their knowledge into reality, efficiently. But first, the test engineers need to have that knowledge.

“Expensive Tools Do Not Produce Better Designs” — The Pragmatic Programmer book, Tip 59

To maintain a large number of automated test scripts that can keep up with application changes, we need to design intuitive test scripts that can be updated efficiently by testers (or even business analysts).

  • Intuitive to read

Generally speaking, testers are not tech-savvy. Therefore test scripts must be intuitive, and ideally readable. How intuitive should (or can) test scripts be? If we step outside the software development, consider how people talk about websites, you might hear instructions like this:

  1. After login
  2. you shall see an account summary page
  3. on that page, click ‘select pay by credit card’
  4. Enter your credit card details on the payment page
  5. Record the receipt number on the confirmation page

These steps set a good target for our test script syntax. More on this later.

  • Easy to update

The core reason for hard-to-maintain test scripts is duplication. It is very similar to the problems caused when software code is duplicated (often by copy-and-paste). It happens too often when changes are applied and people forget to update all the references. In the context of test scripts, duplications are often widespread in the recorded test…

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Zhimin Zhan
Geek Culture

Test automation & CT coach, author, speaker and award-winning software developer. Help teams succeed with Agile/DevOps by implementing real Continuous Testing.