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Test Automation Pyramid: Strategies for Effective Testing


Although increased test coverage is widely regarded as one of the greatest advantages of test automation, Perfecto, a platform focused on testing mobile applications, reports that 20% of companies still find achieving sufficient test coverage to be a significant challenge.

To effectively allocate resources for testing various aspects of software, many companies consider implementing the Test Automation Pyramid. This model illustrates the types, levels, and ratios of automated tests that should be part of an effective testing strategy. To learn more about how to increase the effectiveness of automated testing for your applications using the Test Automation Pyramid, read this article.

Best Practices for Test Automation Pyramid

The recommended structure of the Test Automation Pyramid is based on three layers: unit tests, integration tests, and end-to-end tests.

Strategies for Unit Testing

Unit tests, which focus on assessing the behavior of individual software components in isolation, form the foundation of the pyramid. Since unit testing helps validate the proper functioning of specific parts of the code, it is advisable to perform these tests frequently and design them in a way that facilitates quick execution.

TDD Testing

An effective strategy for dealing with unit testing involves assessing the code as soon as it is created or modified. Development teams can adopt the Test-Driven Development (TDD) approach, which requires creating tests before implementing the code. The TDD method can bring the following benefits to companies:

  • Facilitate regression testing;
  • Provide immediate feedback;
  • Reduce debugging time;
  • Contribute to software quality.

Typically, the TDD cycle is based on the three major stages discussed below:

  1. Creating a unit test that initially fails since the tested feature has not been created yet;
  2. Writing enough code to pass the unit test;
  3. Refactoring the code to improve its design and ensure that all tests pass without changing the behavior.

Mocking and stubbing

Mocking is a technique for simulating code behavior in a controlled manner using fake objects. These objects can effectively mimic the components and functionalities of the real application without containing any actual business logic. Meanwhile, stubbing is a specific form of mocking in which a stub is used instead of a real object to provide a controlled response to the unit under test.

These methods help increase the isolation of units and accelerate testing by reducing unit test complexity and eliminating the need to interact with real external systems. Additionally, they enhance testing flexibility, allowing for increased coverage across different scenarios and test cases.

Strategies for integration testing

Integration testing aims to verify interactions between different software components, including modules and services. This type of testing helps identify interoperability issues and data inconsistencies and forms the middle layer of the test automation pyramid. While integration testing also requires regular attention and sufficient testing, the test automation pyramid suggests it can be less extensive than unit testing.

Recommendations for effective integration testing include:

  • Adopting the data-driven testing approach to execute test scripts using different sets of data instead of hard-coded values;
  • Maintaining separate environments to simulate various integration scenarios, which will increase the consistency of the testing process;
  • Testing application interfaces with an emphasis on validating the integration between the application and databases, APIs, and services to assess the correctness of their communication and data exchange;
  • Leveraging the techniques of mocking and stubbing discussed earlier to simulate the behavior of external dependencies.

End-to-end tests

The top layer of the pyramid consists of end-to-end tests, which, according to this methodology, should comprise the smallest portion of tests. End-to-end tests validate the entire application flow by simulating real user interactions with the tested application.

To achieve the best results with end-to-end testing as part of your test automation effort, prioritize high-risk areas for testing. End-to-end testing takes much longer time to execute than lower-tier tests in the Test Automation Pyramid. Another useful practice is testing across different browsers and devices to thoroughly assess the compatibility and consistency of the user experience.

Test automation pyramid as a testing strategy

The Test Automation Pyramid is widely regarded as an effective approach to automated software testing. As mentioned earlier, this methodology is particularly efficient for providing immediate feedback on code changes and facilitating the creation of a reliable test suite. It creates a solid foundation for defining testing scope and organizing testing routines.

However, the Test Automation Pyramid itself does not guarantee successful testing, which can be hindered by poor implementation. Additionally, even when adopted correctly, the Test Automation Pyramid still has its downsides, which should be considered in your test automation project.

Firstly, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution and may not be a recommended choice for applications that undergo frequent changes or are aimed for rapid releases. It may also not be suitable for particularly complex systems with extensive integration requirements.

Furthermore, user experience testing suggested by this methodology may not be sufficient for certain projects, and teams following the test automation pyramid may also struggle with identifying the root causes of issues if they arise from data exchange or interfaces.

Powerful automation tools for robust test automation pyramid implementation

The success of testing according to the system defined in the Test Automation Pyramid also depends on the efficiency of your test automation solution. No-code tools like Executive Automats, which offer a high level of automation and support different types of testing, including functional and regression testing, provide a solid foundation for an effective test automation strategy.