For any software project with a user interface, it’s essential not to overlook the importance of GUI/UI testing. For some teams, UI testing is an afterthought compared to the backend functions of the software, but at testRigor, we’ve found that the most successful software teams out in the market understand and place value on the importance of solid UI testing coverage.
To help you ensure your team is up to speed with UI testing, we’ve prepared this guide to help you understand everything you need to know to either get started or brush up on your understanding of it.
What is a User Interface?
Let’s first provide a brief description of a user interface: it is the interface that the user interacts with to use the functions of the software and get the value they need from it.
For many consumer-centric software projects these days, that often means the graphical user interface (GUI), which enables software users to use visual components to navigate and interact with the application – like buttons, fields, windows, and so forth. The user may click or tab or type into these interface components to perform the actions they need within the software user experience.
Another type of user interface is a command-line interface (CLI), which involves using a command-line software tool to interact with the software by typing in commands into a terminal.
UI testing can actually cover both of these types of user interfaces, but in terms of the modern conversation around software testing, most of the discussion and complexity related to UI testing is usually around the graphical user interface of software projects which can span across web browsers, mobile devices, native computer applications, and so on. While GUI is a significant part of UI testing, it’s imperative to keep in mind that it is only a subset of UI testing – and other types of interfaces also require testing.
What is UI Testing?
UI testing is the process of testing the user interface to check for issues and ensure usability. More specifically, UI testing tends to check key areas of the user interface, like the ability of your software to handle user actions performed using a pointer like a mouse, keyboard, or other input devices. UI testing also usually involves checking if visual elements such as images, buttons, links, and fields display and work as expected in the software while the user is interacting with it.
To take the concept of usability in UI testing a step further, good UI testing also aims to answer some more fundamental questions with the user’s needs in mind. For example, UI testing should keep in mind whether or not the user can actually achieve their goal while using the software, and whether or not it’s actually fulfilling the role needed.
Additionally, another best practice is to consider the user experience as part of UI testing to determine if the software is easy to navigate for the user and perform desired actions. To get the true intent of UI testing, it’s important to consider whether the interface is clear, intuitive, and easy to navigate, providing feedback where improvement might be needed.
What are the Differences Between Manual and Automated UI Testing?
Like most types of testing, UI testing can have both manual and automated forms of testing. While most modern software teams should be automating their testing as much as possible, there are some cases where manual testing may be necessary.
In general, manual testing should be reserved for test cases that are impossible or too inefficient to automate because they require some unique actions or parameters when the test is run. In other cases, if tests have some subjective component, manual testing is probably necessary. For example, for teams expecting UI testing to review for aesthetics or general user satisfaction, this type of feedback or measurement is difficult to automate.
On the other hand, automated testing brings the most value when used for highly repeatable tests, such as regression – which are exactly the same on each test run. In these cases, having a human manually perform the test would be wasteful and unnecessary. Furthermore, it could introduce some chance of human error, like missing some details.
How UI Testing Can Benefit a Software Project
How well does your software team understand the purpose of UI testing? For a lot of people, it might seem like an afterthought, or the value of UI testing is simply implied. Still, it’s often not articulated and therefore not thought through as clearly as needed.
UI testing is really important to any software project because it can measure how well users are able to interact with your software to get where they need to. It is at the front line of user interactions with the software. If this step fails, everything after it is useless, no matter how sophisticated the logic behind it is.
While this usability measure is reason enough, UI testing is also critical to convey the right impression to your users. Therefore, it has a very early and continuous effect on user satisfaction and perception of the product’s value.
Best Practices and Tips for UI Testing
Like all types of testing, UI testing can be exponentially broad in what it can include. There is a wide range of user interfaces out in the software world these days, which makes the possibilities practically endless.
This complexity aside, there are still some valuable tips and best practices that your team can focus on to make sure you’re at least checking for some baseline aspects of UI testing.
- Consistency. Users struggle with inconsistency in styling because they need to learn new or unexpected patterns of presentation. If the Delete button in your application is usually red and the Save button is green, but you swap these button colors 50% of the time -users who were preconditioned to these button stylings may need to slow down thinking about which button they’re clicking each time they want to save something.
- Responsiveness. Modern users have a wide range of devices, window sizes, browsers, and other aspects behind how they load and interact with the software. It’s essential to make sure your UI is presented and functioning as expected in all of your most commonly used scenarios.
- Spelling and readability. If a user is unable to understand the information presented in your software, or if it takes them a lot of effort to do so, it will impede their ability to effectively achieve their goals, and your software will be less valuable to the customer. Again, styling and typography matter here. You may need to also consider accessibility for users who need text presented with enough color contrast, the ability to zoom, or increase text size and use a screen reader.
- The functionality of interactive elements. It may seem obvious, but UI testing must also check interactive elements like buttons and forms to make sure they function as needed. This can include functional validation, where some user inputs should not be accepted if known to be problematic.
Overcoming Common Difficulties Faced During UI Testing
While UI testing may seem like an intuitive concept for most people, it’s easy to underestimate its challenges. Here are some of the most common types of issues you may run into, and how you may be able to address them.
- Frequently changing UI. If your UI changes frequently, you may feel that testing may need to adapt alongside these changes to properly test the new UI state. However, with tools like the ones we provide at testRigor, you can actually design your automated testing to target specific elements in the UI, so that even if they shift around or change in appearance, to some extent, you can preserve the validity of many or most of your tests as long as the elements under test are still there.
- Effort/cost of writing UI tests. Due to the high level of variation and complexity of UI testing, it can be challenging to justify spending a lot of time writing tests. At testRigor, we’ve designed tools that leverage artificial intelligence to help speed up the UI test writing process up to 15x – saving your team both money and time.
- Slow UI tests. While it’s obvious that slow UI tests mean taking a lot longer to test your UI compared to other areas of your test suite, another issue is that teams often begin to become less interested in running UI tests if they take too long to produce results. This issue is known to many teams, and one of the big benefits of testRigor is to help teams speed up their UI tests with the parallelization feature. Our customers typically execute thousands of tests in under an hour.