Automated Regression Testing: Why and How

Maria Homann

Automation Expert

Although regression testing is an essential part of the testing process, some software development teams choose to only run tests on specific code changes, under the assumption that if the new part of the software works, then the rest of it will as well.

Why? Probably because manually testing what you’ve tested countless times before is boring, time-consuming, and error-prone. On top of that, it can create bottlenecks and uncertainty.

These are a few of the reasons why many software testing teams choose to automate regression testing.

Before we take a closer look at how to ensure software quality with an automated testing tool, let’s first look at the benefits and challenges in connection with this.

Why automate regression testing?

Automated regression testing, as opposed to manual regression testing, can free up testers’ time and let them focus on tasks that require more creative and critical thinking. 

Related reading: Differences Between Retesting vs Regression Testing

Although manual testing does make sense in some contexts, a regression suite will usually grow with time. Eventually, it’ll reach a point where it’s no longer feasible to manage the regression test cases manually.

When you build a regression suite in an automation tool, it’s a one-time effort, and you can keep reusing it indefinitely. You can also keep adding to it over time, as new functionalities are added to the software.

It is important, however, to select an automation tool that will make it easy for you to maintain a clear overview of your test suite, so that it doesn’t get messy and unmanageable. You can read more about this in our blog post on how to choose your automation tool.

Another benefit of automation is that you can schedule your test runs, providing you with immediate feedback when tests fail. With an automation tool that creates visual recording and logs, you can easily go in and detect why the test failed.

On a high level, the greatest benefit of automated regression testing, and automated testing in general, is probably that it frees up resources. You can set up automation to check specific parts of the software with great accuracy, and then spend brainpower on other types of tests and bug fixes, that will overall enhance your software product and ultimately give your customers a better, and significantly less buggy, experience.


Challenges in automation testing, and how to overcome them

Now that we’ve established why you’d want to automate, and what the benefits of this can be, it might also be useful to address some of the challenges.

Automation can be very beneficial when used in the right way, but it does have its limitations. As addressed in our blog post on how to do regression testing, it’s about striking a balance between automation and manual testing.

Automation robots are designed to do exactly what you ask them to, nothing more, nothing less. While it might be easy to find a problem when you’re looking for it, it’s much more difficult to find a problem that you didn’t even know you should be looking for.

In other words, automated regression testing will help you find your known unknowns. It won’t help you find your unknown unknowns.

Only exploratory, critical, manual testing will enable you to find the unknown unknowns.

In sum, it’s your task to monitor, evaluate and update the tests that you set up, as your software system changes or grows. It’s also your task to think outside the box and look for potential pitfalls in your system.

The great thing about automation is that it creates a positive cycle – the more tedious, repetitive tasks you automate, the more capacity you free up for you and your team, allowing you to find these pitfalls in existing functionality through exploratory testing.

Manual vs. automated testing: Finding the balance

The key to success with automation thereby essentially lies in striking the perfect balance between human and robot resources. And how do you do that? You complement your automated tests with good old-fashioned manual tests.

In conclusion then, the ideal regression testing approach should include a constant focus on efficiency and time optimization through automation robots, as well as constant learning through critically thinking humans.

Software system testing should incorporate variety and ensure quality by utilizing different dimensions of testing, such as UI testing, targeted unit testing, and automated functional testing.

By taking a combined testing strategy approach with automated regression testing at the core, you can ensure that projects stay on track and on budget, that your team members are using their skills and capacity in the best way possible, and that, perhaps most importantly, your software stays bug free, giving your end-users the best experience imaginable.

Learn more about automated regression testing and what you should look for in a testing tool in our checklist. 

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