Record and Playback Testing
Record and playback testing has been around for a long time and, along the way, has established its own niche and reputation among software teams who have been using it over the years. However, the record and playback market has changed significantly in recent years, leading many teams to take a fresh look at it.
Since you may be wondering whether or not this form of testing has finally evolved to the point where it makes sense for your team to adopt, we’ve prepared a quick overview to get you up to speed on the current state of the record and playback testing in 2023.
First, what is record and playback testing?
Record and playback testing is the process of recording an activity performed by a user and then re-running it without the need for manual intervention. As such, it is a form of automated testing.
Typically, this process is facilitated by an automated testing tool used by a team member performing the testing. The person using the testing tool will start recording, then perform some interactions with the software, then stop the recording. In between starting and stopping the recording, the testing tool will attempt to log each interaction performed and save it as a series of interactions to be repeated later. Some software testing tools can also provide a log of how the software application is behaving as the actions are being performed during this process.
What are the historical criticisms of record and playback testing?
For many software professionals, record and playback testing has historically had some significant downsides that were too severe to consider such tools.
The main issues were typically related to the limited core functionality. Some older tools did not allow for editing recorded test cases, and important features such as assertions were not supported. Even some basic expectations around common user actions like recording menu selections, hovering, and drag-and-drop actions were often not well supported and resulted in errors.
The other major downside of such recorded tests is often the complexity of cleaning/modifying the recorded tests. The main idea behind using these recorders in the first place is that anyone without programming experience can “create” an automated test, right? Well, as it turns out, you would normally still need a programmer for the next steps. The first step is to clean up the test steps (since recorders tend to add a lot of churn and unnecessary steps, making the test brittle and lengthy to execute). Then the next step is to add the assertions. Doing so outpaces the benefits of using such a tool altogether since it would often take less time just to write the same automated test from scratch.
And what if there are no QA engineers who can code on the team? It would be extremely costly to maintain such recorded tests since they do not automatically adapt to changes in the application. Even minor changes in the software project can throw off automated tests created in this manner. And since it’s not feasible to modify the test, you would need to create it again from scratch – which would be a nightmare for any rapidly changing software project.
Finally, record and playback testing has also suffered from a handful of other criticisms, like lack of support for integrations, needing to switch tools and context to review testing results, and lack of information provided for troubleshooting issues with tests.
How has record and playback testing evolved, and where is it today?
Record and playback testing has taken great strides in recent history to overcome many of the challenges that plagued it in the past. Platforms like testRigor have found innovative ways to add value to the record and playback testing process and remove most of the downsides.
First of all, a word of caution to those unfamiliar with the topic. “Codeless” or “No-code” tools are a big thing nowadays, and many teams strive to try them out. Unfortunately, some so-called codeless testing tools are essentially just evolved record-and-playback tools – much improved in this regard but still missing on the key features.
Another less common type of codeless tools is when a regular user (non-programmer) can create, edit, and maintain any test completely by themself.
Let’s look at the example of testRigor. There is a recorder, which you can use to record any test, just like with any similar tool. What happens next, however, is quite different. The algorithms behind the scenes translate these steps into complete plain English language steps, including any selectors.
What this means for the user is that these pre-recorded steps look just like a well-written manual test case, except it’s an automated test that can be run thousands of times, saving countless hours. It can be expanded and modified easily. Maintenance will take almost no time since multiple built-in mechanisms are simplifying the process.
Moreover, there are many additional out-of-the-box advantages, such as wide support for integrations, advanced script-like testing features that don’t require writing code, and more accurate rendering to prevent missed or inaccurate actions with UI elements like menu selections, hover states and drag-and-drop actions.
In 2023, the decision of whether or not to use record and playback testing can undoubtedly be quite different from the past years. Many of these new tools won’t slow down your machine anymore during recording, and the whole process will be much more manageable than before. And while many companies still prefer to use a different type of test automation for various reasons, it might be a great stepping stone for those QA teams who are just starting with test automation.
When it comes to testRigor, the world is your oyster. You are free to use a recorder, or simply write your tests from scratch in plain English, or a combination of both. We encourage you to register for a free trial account and try out a few things. There is a detailed documentation guide for you as well, making it easy to create tests you want. Or simply request a demo – so that our team can walk you through the entire process and help you custom build the test automation solution that suits your team best.