Selenium

Automate the testing of your web applications with this handy open-source tool.

After your team of developers has spent countless hours developing the latest web application for your business, you’re probably anxious to get that app deployed. After all, customers and clients can benefit from that brilliant web application until it’s made available. 

However, that application must first go through rigorous testing before it’s unleashed to the public. Skip that step and disaster could happen when the app doesn’t work or (worse) a vulnerability makes it possible for sensitive data to be stolen from either your network or your customer’s devices. 

That isn’t a reality you want to ever have to deal with. 

To avoid such an outcome, you need to employ a team with the specific task of testing the apps you plan on selling or giving away. That testing phase should be considered an absolute must. That doesn’t mean, however, you have to spend weeks on testing, which would only delay the release. 

Instead, you can take advantage of the many automated testing tools available. One such tool is Selenium, which was created for automated web application testing. This open-source, automated testing framework is used to validate web applications across various browsers and platforms. So, instead of having to manually test your web application on every browser running on every operating system (which can be very time-consuming), you can employ this framework to do the heavy lifting.

Selenium was created by ThoughtWorks engineer, Jason Higgins, in 2004. Higgins was working on a web app that required frequent testing and realized he could write a JavaScript application that would automatically control the browser actions to make the testing phase a bit more efficient. That script was called JavaScriptTestRunner. Higgins open-sourced JavaScriptTestRunner and eventually renamed it Selenium Core.

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Selenium Developers Hiring Guide

  • How to choose the best
  • Interview questions
  • Job Description

How Selenium Works

It’s important to understand that Selenium is just a framework. It’s not an application that allows you to upload your app and automatically test against the various browser/OS combinations. Instead, Selenium allows you to use languages like Java, C#, and Python to create Selenium Test Scripts. 

In fact, Selenium isn’t just a single tool, but a collection of 4 tools:

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    Selenium Integrated Development Environment
    A Firefox extension that automates the browser through a series of record-and-playback events to make the testing faster.
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    Selenium Remote Control
    A server that acts as an HTTP proxy to trick a browser into thinking Selenium RC supports Java, C#, PHP, Python, Perl, and Ruby.
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    WebDriver
    Makes it possible to control the web browser on the OS level.
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    Selenium Grid
    Captures browser screenshots during different testing stages and sends Selenium commands to different machines.

Eventually, Selenium 2 was released, with WebDriver serving as the core. WebDriver now consists of the API (which ports scripts to the Selenium scripting language), a library (which houses the API and language-specific bindings), a driver (which opens a browser instance and runs the test script), and a framework (which includes support for integration with various programming languages).

The Selenium WebDriver works like this:

The WebDriver protocol sends commands from the test script to a browser-specific driver.

The driver executes the commands within a specific browser instance (such as Chrome or Firefox).

Benefits of Using Selenium

The benefits of using a tool like Selenium should be obvious, as the tool makes it possible to automate what would normally be manual, repetitive, and time-consuming testing of web applications. Instead of that, you write your testing scripts and, using the Selenium tools, automate the testing across multiple combinations of browsers and operating systems. 

This won’t just save you time but money. You’ll be able to get your web application shipped sooner, with more reliability, and without having to spend precious resources on manual testing. 

If you’re still not convinced of this benefit, consider this. Let’s say one section of your web app allows users to sign up for your service. When prompted to sign up, a user must enter an email address, a username, a password, and the verification of the password. 

To manually test this, your developers would have to point a browser to the web app address and then enter valid strings in the text areas for each bit of information and click Sign Up. They would have to do that on browser combinations such as:

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    Chrome on Windows
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    Chrome on Linux
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    Chrome on macOS
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    Chrome on iOS
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    Firefox on Windows
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    Firefox on Linux
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    Firefox on macOS
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    Firefox on iOS
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    Safari on iOS
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    Safari on macOS

Next, they have to do the same thing, but input invalid strings for each signup section. Rinse, wash, repeat.

That takes considerable time, especially given the signup section is only one part of the application. Your testers would then have to repeat similar testing for every aspect of the app. You don’t want that. Instead, get your development teams up to speed with Selenium so they can automate this process and save considerable time.

Another benefit of using Selenium is that it can be used for CI/CD, which helps to prioritize build releases frequently and quickly. Once you have Selenium integrated into your CI/CD pipeline the software development life cycle is made even more efficient and reliable.

Conclusion

Selenium is a powerful tool that does have somewhat of a steep learning curve. However, the time it takes to get your developers up to speed with this tool will be worth every second, as it will help to drastically cut down the time needed to test your web applications. 

Not only are you reducing testing time but you’re also making those tests more reliable and repeatable, which makes Selenium a must-use for any business wanting to effectively and efficiently deploy web applications.

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