What is automated testing? (With types and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Automated testing is commonly used by software engineers in a wide variety of industries that can include the IT, telecommunications and healthcare sectors. Its main function is allowing one piece of software to run tests on another piece of software without much, if any, human interference. If you're planning a career as a software engineer, it may be useful for you to learn more about automated testing. In this article, we explain what automation testing is, the different types, the advantages and an example of it in practice.

What is automated testing?

Automated testing is the process of an independent piece of software used on another piece of software to ensure that it can operate effectively. It works by allowing a software engineers to select which parts of the software they want to test. Automated testing is a process used across a wide range of technological platforms, including smartphones, desktop computers and wireless alternatives. It's able to compare the actual outcomes of the software's test with the predicted outcomes.

What are the different types of automated testing?

There are nine different types of automated testing. These include:

1. Performance tests

An automated performance test centres on how well a piece of software runs. This means that the testing software can run a series of evaluative tests that aim to see how well the software responds to commands, how stable it is and how it can manage stress. It's an important test to run as it helps companies avoid releasing a piece of software that lags or is unable to perform basic functions. This outcome could lead to costly and time-consuming repairs, a loss of clients and a poor reputation.

2. Security tests

An automated security test assesses how a piece of software can tackle cyber threats. This includes hackers and instances of malware like viruses. This is particularly important for software designed for the retail industry, for example, so that businesses can assure consumers of the safety of using their bank details on the app. It's important to run these tests to avoid legal issues and a significant loss of profit.

Related: How to become an ethical hacker: a comprehensive guide

3. Acceptance tests

Automated acceptance tests centre around how consumers respond to the final version of a new piece of software. It's the second to last test that software engineers conduct as its purpose is to show designers whether the piece of software in question is ready for public use. If the software fails this test, it cannot go on sale to the public. The next stage involves the software engineer fixing whatever issue caused the failure.

4. User interface tests

User interface automated tests are similar to acceptance automated tests in that they ensure that a piece of software is ready for public use. This test in particular replicates a typical user experience for a comparison with the piece of software undergoing the test. Due to its nature, it's one of the last tests that new types of software undergo. It tests factors including how a user uses the product and how it aims to protect users against cyber threats.

5. Regression tests

Regressive automated tests often act as a safety measure for a piece of software before it's released. This testing type is typically most useful when a feature of the software failed another test on this list and a software engineer then fixed the issues that caused the initial failure. The engineer may then choose to run this type of test because it's a practical option that ensures that components still function after changes and that everything is in full working order.

6. Unit tests

Software engineers run unit automated tests on the smaller components that make up a piece of software. This is to ensure that all parts are working correctly. It's a practical way of testing new software because it saves the designers time and effort when trying to understand what caused a failure. It's usually the first automated test that software engineers use. This is because there's little point in trying to test software for how responsive it is and how well it blocks out cyber-attacks if it isn't functioning correctly on a basic level.

7. Smoke tests

An automated smoke test is necessary for determining whether or not a piece of software is stable. The testing software does this by focusing on how pivotal features function. If these features don't pass the test, the professionals involved know that it needs more work. It's a preventative measure that ensures the software doesn't suffer from excessive strain.

8. Integration tests

Just as there is an automated test to look at each of the key features in isolation, there is also an automated test that looks at how these components can perform when the piece of software operates as a whole. This ensures that it works reliably for consumers before it's put into practice. If a business releases a piece of software before running this automated test it could face consumer backlash, leading to costly, time-consuming repairs and a loss of profits.

9. Application programming interface tests

An application programming interface (API) acts as a conduit that links one feature of a piece of software with the others. Therefore, running an automated API test ensures that all of the features inside a piece of software work together in harmony. If the API isn't functioning correctly, the software doesn't flow together, leading to a disjointed user experience. It's helpful to run this type of test before security tests, for example, as a disjointed piece of software is unable to be effective.

What are the advantages of automated testing?

Here are several advantages of using automated testing:

Increased productivity

As a software engineer, using automated testing can increase your levels of productivity. This is because whilst the software undergoes testing by an automated system, you're free to complete any other tasks that require your attention. Once the test is complete, you can then use the findings to efficiently find a workable solution rather than wasting time on trial and error.

Related: How to become a software development engineer in test: a guide

Reduces the likelihood of errors

Another benefit of using automated testing is that it reduces the likelihood of human error. Some of the tests on the list can be tedious, complex and long-winded if they're not automated. An automated system is typically quicker and removes the chance of you making a mistake which could cause the findings to be inaccurate.

Multilingual

Some pieces of software require testing in a foreign language. This can make the process much more difficult and susceptible to error. It can also be difficult for recruiters to find people who can speak multiple languages and have proficiencies in software engineering. An automated system can do both with ease.

Cost-effective

It's a common misconception that automated testing software systems are more expensive than asking a software engineer to complete the process. This is because when a business purchases the software, it makes a singular payment. Having a person fill this role means that the business would pay an ongoing wage that would be more expensive than the technology long-term.

Faster feedback

As an automated test can run without breaks, it gives fast feedback. This means that, as a software engineer, you can fix the issues that the software flags much sooner than you'd be able to without the automated system. Humans also require breaks and can become distracted in ways machines cannot.

Related: What is time management? (Importance and how to improve it)

An example of automated testing

Here's an example of an automated security test used in practice:

A software engineer runs an automated security test on a piece of software designed for online banking. The test takes this software and assesses its construction. It also conducts penetration tests that identify ways that a hacker might infiltrate the system. The common techniques that the testing software uses for this test involve using specific vectors and overloading of the system to see if it reveals consumer information when placed under stress. The software engineer sees that the software reveals some customer information when under stress, meaning it requires more work before the company can release it for public use.

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