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Selenium Automation: What does it require to automate with Selenium?

Are you tired of manual testing and are you considering using Selenium to accelerate your software testing? Then read on to learn what it takes to automate with Selenium, and if it really is the best automation tool for you.

Many testers and QA  managers use Selenium as a tool to automate the most tedious and boring testing tasks – and with good reason. Selenium is a highly popular tool that, when used correctly, can increase accuracy and reliability of your tests. 

But Selenium isn’t for everyone. The tool comes with its drawbacks, and it can turn into any tester’s nightmare if managed incorrectly.

In this blog post, we’ll help you find out if Selenium is the automation tool for you, or if you might be better off with an alternative, code-free version.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Selenium automation?

Selenium is a tool that will allow you to automate web applications. If you’re currently testing an application in a browser, and you want to speed up the process, and perhaps rid yourself of a few errors, you can automate the process with Selenium.

Get whitepaper: Selenium Automation? Everything you need to find out if Selenium is the right test automation tool for you

Selenium speaks browser language, meaning it can be used to drive the browser behavior such as typing in a search bar, clicking on a button, scrolling down a page, and so on.

Selenium consists of a number of tools that do different things: Selenium IDE, Selenium WebDriver and Selenium Grid. These tools support a number of browsers, operating systems, and programming languages, so that Selenium essentially fits the needs of many software testers. Selenium is also open-source, meaning you can download it for free, extend and modify source code as you want, and get help from the large community of users.

You can read much more about Selenium in our blog post on Selenium testing. In this blog post, we’ll focus more on what Selenium can be used for, and how it works, to help you determine if it’s a tool for you, or if you might want to look into alternative options.

First, it’s important to understand what purpose Selenium tries to fulfill.

Why software testing?

Selenium was born out of a need to test software.

Over the past 20-30 years we’ve seen a massive transformation in how technology is used.

Many processes today are completely reliant on software systems. At the same time, businesses are reliant on these software systems performing fast and error-free, so that they can make their users happy.

Software testing is key to enabling fast and error-free software, and thereby ensuring that businesses can deliver what end-users today expect from products and services.

The same thing goes for web applications. Today, many of the top companies in the world rely on the internet to deliver their products and services.

A few examples include Amazon, Airbnb, and Netflix. How would these businesses run if it weren’t for internet systems? And what would happen if there was a flaw in their systems? Imagine, for example, if a bug in Amazon’s pricing system occurred, offering products at a significantly lower or higher price. Sales would either drop or skyrocket with no return, and the business would suffer tremendously.

So how do these companies avoid dangerous glitches like these? They test their software to lower risk. 

And how do they deliver it faster than their competitors? They automate their testing.

And why do they choose Selenium for that? Well, primarily because it’s free, it’s open-sourced, and opportunities are plenty with Selenium.

How to use Selenium

Now that we’ve covered the basic whats and whys of Selenium, let’s have a closer look at how to use it.

There are six basic steps in creating a Selenium script for testing a web application:

  1. Create a WebDriver instance
  2. Navigate to a web page
  3. Locate an HTML element on the web page
  4. Perform an action on the HTML element
  5. Anticipate the browser’s response
  6. Conclude the test

To perform these steps is Selenium you’ll need to write test scripts in your programming language of choice.

Once the script is written, you can run it to test any web application.

What does it require to automate with Selenium?

By now, Selenium probably sounds like a great tool. But Selenium does come with a few drawbacks. if you’re a tester and you’ve actually tried Selenium, you’ll probably have noticed one of the most pressing issues: It requires coding skills.

1. Coding skills

Most testers don’t know how to code. And even if  you’re one of the few who do, the time it would take for you to set up and maintain your test cases, can easily surpass the time it would take for you to just run the tests manually.

2. Maintenance

In addition to writing scripts, you’ll need to maintain them. Again, if you’re good with code and have a highly skilled programmer with  lots of time on your hands, you might be able to find and fix any flaws in your script. But if the image below also makes you feel a bit squeamish, then Selenium might not be the perfect solution for you:

Selenium testing error exampleThis is the kind of error message you might find in your script after it has run for a few weeks.

3. Integration with the rest of the pipeline

Aside from setting up and maintaining the script, you’ll also need to make sure that your code ‘speaks’ with the rest of the release pipeline. This means that you as a tester will need to know the code versioning used in your Git repository.

4. Setup of appropriate test environments

To set up your test environment is, in and of itself, a complex task. Setting up parallel test environments and performing cross-browser testing is possible with Selenium but can take several months even for a skilled programmer.

5. Integration of other software to enable reporting

As you may have noticed by now, Selenium isn’t exactly an all-in-one solution. To create reporting and monitoring, you’ll have to either build your own system with script or integrate another software. 

In conclusion then, Selenium requires lots of skills, time and resources to be a success. In inexperienced hands, it can become an unmanageable mess.

It’s important to emphasize again that Selenium only supports web automation, and it cannot automate anything that goes on outside the browser. Not even something attached to the browser, such as switching an extension on and off.

It also doesn’t support data-driven testing, meaning that it requires sophisticated programming and separate management and storage of data assets.

If you're determined to automate with Selenium, you can always make use of the large community of users and documentation that can be found online. 

However, if you're looking for a more holistic solution that's more suitable for enterprises - one that does offer fast and qualified support and that doesn't require any coding - then read on.

A tool that allows you to use Selenium without any coding

LEAPWORK is a test automation platform that uses Selenium beneath the surface, but to the user, only shows what you actually want and need to see.

Here’s what the setup of the six test automation steps described above looks like in LEAPWORK:

LEAPWORK automated testing six stepsIf you’re a part of an enterprise, you probably want to be able to automate data imports of some sort as well, which, as mentioned above, is close to impossible with Selenium. This is what data-driven automation looks like in LEAPWORK:

LEAPWORK automated data import exampleFlows like these take no more than a day to learn how to set up. And once you’re familiar with the tool, the drag and drop building blocks take just minutes to organize. That means you can set up, execute, and maintain your test suite in a fraction of the time that you can  with Selenium. Watch the video below to see how.

To put it simply, LEAPWORK does what Selenium does, but in a way that everyone understands. And it does a whole lot more as well. Remember all those requirements for using Selenium? All of that is taken care of with LEAPWORK.

If you’d like to learn more about Selenium, and perhaps also see how it compares to LEAPWORK, then download our whitepaper: Selenium Automation.Download Selenium whitepaper

Maria Homann
Maria Homann
Content Marketing Manager

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