In today's highly competitive marketplace, teams need to prioritize UI testing to ensure their applications are user-friendly, bug-free, and meet user expectations. UI testing is an essential part of software development that enables companies to build and deliver high-quality software that stands the test of time.
However, UI testing isn’t always given the attention it deserves. But as we see more and more of the tech world shifting to easily accessible interfaces and simple interactions, it’s obvious how important it’s becoming. Tackling common hurdles of UI testing and making your process data-driven can speed up the often long test cycles and ship code faster.
What Is UI Testing?
As you might infer by the name, UI Testing, also known as user interface testing or GUI testing, tests the user interface elements of an application, focused on validating proper functionality and performance. UI testing looks at the application as a user would, including functions like checkboxes, toolbars, and navigation.
These tests don’t just ensure that features are working — they test things such as input validation, compliance, performance, and grammar. They also take a look at the presentation as a whole and aim to highlight any potential readability issues with fonts and colors and ensure the UI isn’t visually unappealing or hard to use.
Testing your application is one thing — obviously, you’ll still need to make sure it runs as intended. But when it comes to putting it into your user’s hands, they need to be able to use it without issue. They won’t be using your API or seeing your beautiful working code; they’ll only see your UI.
Types of UI Testing
Within UI testing, we still see the same test types we’re already familiar with; regression, functional, unit, and all others still apply here. However, UI testing also brings three different test types with it:
User Experience (UX) Testing: These tests evaluate how end-users perceive and use the application. They’ll determine what users want from the application and work to make sure everything feels natural and intuitive.
Exploratory UI Testing: While this is done entirely manually, exploratory testing is how testers get a complete idea of how the site works, including each feature and element. These tests generally don’t have much planning involved ahead of time, instead relying on testers to follow through user journeys to find issues.
Scripted UI Testing: Scripted tests are the complete opposite of exploratory tests — automated tests planned out to test different aspects of the application. This is where you’ll find your typical software tests, like regression and unit testing.
UI Testing vs GUI Testing
Because of the many types of user interfaces, UI testing is one of the broadest and most complex types of testing. While you might see them used interchangeably, GUI testing is not the same as UI testing – GUI is a subset of UI testing. While UI testing encompasses all types of user interfaces, GUI testing refers specifically to graphical user interface testing - encompassing the graphical elements that users can interact with.
Automated UI Testing
Automated UI testing is a software testing method that involves the use of automated tools, like Selenium, to test the user interface of an application. This testing approach involves creating and running scripts that simulate user actions on the UI – like clicking buttons, entering data, and navigating through different screens. Automating repetitive and time-consuming tests frees up manual testers to focus on more complex and creative testing scenarios.
However, automated UI testing requires careful planning, maintenance, and continuous improvement. It's also not a replacement for manual testing but rather a complementary approach that can improve overall testing effectiveness and efficiency.
Due to their complexity, automated UI test suites including those using Selenium, often suffer from long execution times, which can lead to delayed feedback for developers and cause testing to be shifted later in the pipeline. This delay can result in developers losing context of changes and lead to additional time needed to fix issues. Furthermore, running these tests can also exceed the testing budget for the team.
Related Resource: Selenium Tutorial to Speed Up Slow Test Cycles
Why is UI Testing Important?
With modern applications' complexity, relying solely on unit and integration tests isn’t viable. Your users are exploring every corner of your application, and have high expectations for easy-to-use, visually appealing UI.
By testing your UI, you’ll do far more than minor bugs, you’ll be improving your UX too. And with a positive UX, your users will be more likely to return, boosting their satisfaction and overall loyalty. This goes further because satisfied and loyal users will sing high praises about your product, fostering a positive brand reputation too.
Plus, additional testing will catch more bugs in your system before it hits production. Thoroughly testing your interface will ensure that users won’t encounter any significant glitches that can ruin the experience. More thorough testing coverage will help your teams save time and money in the long run by catching issues far earlier into development.
Top Four UI Testing Challenges
As great as UI testing is, it still suffers from shortcomings that can’t always be avoided.
1. Difficulty in Replicating Real-World Scenarios
Simply put, there’s no way to capture every edge case for a user story fully. When you give them a blank slate, there’s no telling what they might do to get from point A to B. Then, adding in the multitude of different devices and platforms they may be using quickly becomes a daunting task. While these can be partially solved through parallel testing and thorough exploratory tests, they still can’t eliminate everything.
2. Time and Resource Constraints
Testing takes time. Writing tests isn’t a quick task either, at least not at first. While you can set up automated UI testing, writing those tests still takes valuable time and resources. This gets more time-consuming if your team performs a lot of exploratory testing, as their manual nature can take away even more resources in your testing cycle.
3. Maintaining Your Test Scripts
Your UI is the most likely to be changed regularly — and it has input from non-developer roles, making the time required to update tests even longer. Your QA team will need to be sure to update their tests every time the UI changes, which can happen incredibly often for some companies.
4. Testing for Multiple Devices and Platforms
One of the biggest challenges in UI testing is ensuring that the application works correctly across multiple devices and platforms. With the wide breadth of devices and platforms, this can be a daunting task. Testing on multiple devices is time-consuming, resource-intensive, and adds complexity to the software delivery lifecycle if not managed properly. Testers need to create a comprehensive testing strategy that covers different devices and platforms, using a mix of manual and automated testing techniques.
UI Testing Checklist
With the broad scope of UI testing, it can be challenging to keep track of all the different aspects that need testing. That's where a UI testing checklist comes in handy – use this to guarantee your app's user interface is thoroughly tested, user-friendly, and compliant.
Functionality: First and foremost, UI testing should verify that all your UI elements function as intended. You can have an attractive UI, but it’s pointless if UI features don’t fire as expected.
Confirm that all input fields and buttons work correctly
Validate that error messages are displayed when appropriate
Ensure that the application handles unexpected user input gracefully
Behavior: Testing your application's response to different user interactions affirms that everything from the basic functions to your bells and whistles behave as expected.
Check that all animations, transitions, and effects work correctly
Validate that the application behaves consistently across different devices and platforms
Ensure that the application responds correctly to different screen sizes and orientations
Test the application's behavior under different network conditions
Consistency: Every click and scroll within your application should have a consistent vibe. Verifying that every step follows consistent design patterns and UI guidelines ensures a consistent experience for users.
Check that all UI elements have consistent styling and layout
Ensure that all interactions and feedback are consistent across the application
Confirm that the application uses consistent terminology and language
Usability and Readability: Successful products solve a problem for their users. A core component of UI testing is ensuring products are easy to use and navigate.
Test the application's ease of use and navigation
Check that the application's UI is intuitive and user-friendly
Validate that all UI elements are readable and easily understandable
Ensure that all UI elements are appropriately labeled and descriptive
Confirm that the application provides adequate feedback and guidance to the user
Compliance: From ADA to HIPAA and SOC2, UI testing should confirm your UI meets any accessibility, privacy, and security requirements. An example of UI testing compliance checklist for ADA should include:
Verify that all UI elements can be navigated using assistive technologies like screen readers and voice commands
Test the application's color contrast and font size for readability
Ensure that the application provides adequate alternative text for non-text elements like images and icons
Spelling and Grammar: This might seem obvious, but attention to detail is what separates successful software products from flops. Make sure your UI testing includes checking that you dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
Check that all labels, messages, and instructions are free of typos and grammatical errors
Ensure that the application uses consistent language and terminology throughout the UI
Confirm that all text is appropriately capitalized and punctuated
Validate that all text is correctly translated for multilingual applications
How to Speed Up UI Testing with Launchable
UI testing is critical – without it costly bugs, frustrated users, and damaged reputations are at stake. UI testing and Selenium test suites often have lengthy execution times that can lead to inefficient use of testing resources and slower feedback cycles for developers, ultimately resulting in higher costs and slower delivery times.
Shift left and speed up UI testing by intelligently selecting the most critical UI tests to run with Launchable.
Launchable uses AI to determine the optimal tests to run, allowing teams to reduce test execution times and move subsets of tests earlier in the pipeline, resulting in faster delivery times and lower costs.
By analyzing code changes and historical test results, Launchable helps teams determine which tests are most likely to fail and which ones are safe to skip. Reduce the time it takes to run tests while still ensuring high-quality code and UI.
Launchable helps teams reduce Selenium test execution times - see how one team achieved 90% reduction in test execution times + reduced cloud costs for test executions.