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What is test maintenance in test automation?

In test automation, when applications undergo changes, they may break existing tests. For instance, if a UI design update makes the login button appear on a different part of the screen, the old test may no longer be relevant. Hence, it will fail, even when the functionality of the login button is working fine. In order to avoid this, tests are constantly being rewritten or updated, and this process is called test maintenance. 

 

Test maintenance is an unavoidable task, unless your test application never changes at all. Whether you need to validate the working of new features or ensure that the bugs that are fixed do not resurface, you will have to put in a little bit of time and effort to maintain your test automation. 

 

What are the Different Types of Test Maintenance? 

There are two types of test maintenance. 

 

The first category is of the tests that are working but start to fail. The failure could be due to software defects, unforeseen side effects, or changes in behavior of the system. You would have to fix the code, update tests, or both, in order to maintain these tests.

 

The second category deals with the tools involved in test automation. The automation tools require support. If a certain tool or API is changed, multiple changes will have to be made in the test and the application. Sometimes, even the developers and tests would need to be trained on the updates or new tools. 

 

How to Reduce Test Maintenance?

 

  1. Write scripts that can accommodate some level of change. You could parameterize some values that you may later change or add locators that are design-agnostic. When this is done, you won’t be required to update tests whenever there is a change in the design.

 

  1. Avoid repetitive code and write a minimal amount of code needed to accomplish any task. This will ensure that there are fewer parts of code that need to be edited out when there is an update in locators or page objects. When your design is disciplined, hours can be saved in test automation maintenance.

 

  1. If you have a good automated test design, the time you spend on maintenance is significantly reduced. Conversely, when a test is poorly written, lots of time and effort is required for maintenance, as the waiting periods are large even for non-functional tests. In fact, the value that a test suite creates is no good if its maintenance is heavy. 

 

  1. Always try to fit your test process to the situation so that you have to perform minimum maintenance activities. When speed is important, tailor your test approach to the situation and come up with comprehensive test suites, so that the most important and high-risk features are tested. Prioritize your tests around the most used user paths. Once these tests are completed, you can later run an entire exhaustive test suite before deployment into production. 

 

  1. Another way to optimize your tests is to identify the functionalities that are soon to be eliminated from your application and remove the test cases pertaining to them. In the long run, those tests wouldn’t be useful anyway, and removing them early would save you a lot of trouble. 

 

  1. Test cases that fail can be quickly debugged using video recordings. Screenshots may not be effective if the error occurs early on in the sequence. Often, screenshots may be able to tell you where the code stopped working but may not give the information about why it stopped. 

 

  1. Patch problems as early as possible. As an issue festers, it gets harder and harder to find out the underlying cause and fix it. Also, it is easy to forget the details of the case after a long time, which means that you will have to spend longer trying to understand the scenario. Test maintenance becomes clean and simple if every bug is acted upon quickly. 

 

It is often thought that test maintenance is a time-consuming and cumbersome process; but if done regularly, it actually saves any organization a lot of time and money. 

 

If you wash your car once every couple of months, clearing away the dust that has settled all this while would make it a difficult task. However, if you clean it every morning, the cleaning process will be simple. The same applies to the frequency of test maintenance.