What is Web Browser Automation & How It is Performed – 2020 Guide

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Software development is an evolving field that consists of multiple technologies, tools, and human efforts. But, with the changing trends in technologies, some of the human tasks have been replaced by automation. Whether you are a developer or a tester, automation has a lot for you to execute tasks efficiently, especially the repetitive tasks.

According to Merriam Webster, automation is the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically.

With access to the right automation frameworks and tools, it is possible to automate browser activities, web app testing, transferring data between applications, and producing reports.

Defining Web Browser Automation

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Browser automation could be defined in multiple delineations, but there is no single term that actually explains web browser automation. We could start by saying that the process of running various tasks to obtain valuable insights into the functionality and performance of a website across different browsers is considered as browser automation.

Every individual uses a browser to get information or perform a variety of tasks on the internet. Now, enterprises that provide information to users need to ensure that their web app is compatible across all the browsers. So, they need to test their websites across all the available web browsers. But, checking every browser manually would consume a lot of time and resources. That’s why they need to automate various tasks for testing a web browser with little intervention of humans.

For beginners, it might take time to understand browser automation completely, as it is a bit muddled subject. Besides, the use of browser automation is not limited to specific tasks; the options for browser automation are limitless. For example, if you want to load five different websites to a particular point when you open a browser, you can quickly achieve this with an automation tool. Apart from that, you can use browser automation for testing web applications, transferring data between servers, and much more.

Various Scenarios of Browser Automation

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Have you ever wondered why there is a need for browser automation? Why are most companies ready to invest in costly automation tools to automate their tasks?

Well, multiple scenarios require browser automation, and some of them even need it in the beginning stage. This section covers some of those scenarios.

  • To Execute Performance Testing

When we talk about software development, one thing that every developer thinks of is the performance of the software. In this fast-paced world, if you provide users with a slow website or tool, they are most likely to move to another resource. Even Google itself doesn’t allow slower sites to rank higher on search pages and also penalize them for being slow.

No doubt, you can execute performance testing manually, and it won’t be that challenging. But, what if you have a deadline and need to execute testing scripts across multiple browsers? Frightening, isn’t it?

But, with web browser automation, you can smoothly perform load and performance testing of your web app across browsers. Not only that, but you can also analyze the behavior of your site under higher traffic than usual.

  • To Verify Broken Links Automatically

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Finding broken links in your web app is still one of the most frustrating tasks, as you have to click various links just to see the ‘404 not found’ error. Most developers prefer fixing the broken links while others just delete them.

Now, imagine if there are unlimited broken links on a database-backed portal with thousands of web pages, and you have to check each one of them manually, how much time do you think it would take?

Honestly, even we don’t have an answer for that. But, it will definitely take a lot of time and patience, and you are really not going to like it. And that’s where you need automation. You can use tools that will help you go through the web pages and find broken links automatically.

  • Extracting Web Data from Servers/Sites

Businesses put a lot of data on their site for their users to consume that information. But, when it comes to extracting that data, you surely need a lot of time and resources. Besides, you might also need to acquire data from other websites to enable your own functions, which is considered as web scraping, web data extraction, or web harvesting. Now, if you go the old-fashioned way, then it will take months to extract the data.

Fortunately, browser automation can help you ease such tasks as well. There are tools that can extract data in multiple formats and languages as per your preferences. Whether it’s data mining, product price monitoring, or content scraping, there is no limit for the uses of web data extraction with automation.

  • End-to-End Functional Testing

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We talked about performance testing and finding broken links in web pages, which is a part of web automation testing. But, end-to-end testing is one thing that ensures your web app meets all the requirements and expectations of your users, stakeholders, and other members involved in the project. And regression testing is a crucial part of end-to-end functional testing, which is very confounded to carry out manually.

However, automation gives you the freedom to perform regression testing as quickly as possible. You can execute multiple tasks at a single time without much human interaction. From cross browser testing to checking the responsiveness of a website, you can perform almost every task with automation.

How to Perform Web Browser Automation Testing?

Although web browser automation is no different than any other area in tech, it is still challenging to learn it from the very beginning. In our opinion, we believe you should approach automation in the way you approach learning a programming language or a framework, which means by performing it in real-time. Here, we will talk about various ways to implement web browser automation testing.

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  • Selenium

Performing web browser automation and not using Selenium is like having tea without sugar. Selenium is the soul of automation testing; it is the first tool that helped individuals performs browser automation testing. In fact, it’s not a single utility; it is a combination of four different tools, which include Selenium WebDriver, Selenium Grid, Selenium IDE, and Selenium RC.

Now, there are two modes of performing browser automation testing – Scripting/Coding and Non-Scripting/Scriptless, and Selenium offers distinctive tools for both.

  • Scripting/Coding Mode

Scripting mode involves developing software or program for automating the tests or processes. For instance, let’s say that you need to perform unit testing on a specific function of your site. Now, in such scenarios, you need to create test programs or scripts to test the function or class because there is no way of automating unit tests without that.

For script testing of your web browser, you can always take help from Selenium WebDriver or Selenium Grid, which is proved to be very useful in web browser automation testing.

  • Selenium Grid

Selenium Grid is one of the major and widely used components of Selenium Suite, which is based on the client-server architecture. It works as a small proxy server that allows testers to run tests in parallel on various machines. It consists of two major components – Hub and Node.

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  • Hub – acts as a server that accepts requests from the Selenium client, and then route the JSON test commands to remote drives on nodes.
  • Node – acts as a remote device that consists of a native operating system and a remote WebDriver. After receiving the requests from the Hub, it executes them with the help of WebDriver.

Selenium Grid is an ideal tool for those who want to run tests in various browsers, browser versions, devices, or operating systems. In simple words, we could say that Selenium Grid helps automate repetitive tasks and cross browser testing. There are significant advantages to using this tool, such as:

  • Less Execution Time

Selenium Grid is ideal for executing numerous test cases on multiple browsers and OS. It even enables you to run multiple instances of Selenium RC with the testing combinations. And as most of the tests are executed in parallel, it reduces the overall time in cross browser testing.

  • Perform Multi-Combination Testing

The Hub and Node feature of Selenium Grid allows you to perform multi-browser, OS, and multi-device verification of your source code.

  • Less Maintenance with High Scalability

Selenium Grid helps in reducing the total time required for parallel testing, which makes it a highly scalable tool. Besides, if you want to perform testing on a new device, then you don’t need to make significant changes, only a few tweaks in the code would do the work for you.

1. Selenium WebDriver

If you want to build robust and browser-based regression automation test suites and distribute the test scripts across various environments, then Selenium WebDriver is your best bet. It is a web framework that allows you to execute cross browser tests efficiently. WebDriver is ideally used to verify whether a web application performs as expected or not.

What makes it an ideal option for web browser automation is that you are free to choose any programming language of your choice to create test cases and execute them consecutively. It consists of four components, which include:

  • Selenium Client Library – It provides support to multiple libraries, such as Ruby, Python, Java, JavaScript, etc.
  • JSON Wire Protocol over HTTP – It acts as an acronym to JavaScript Object Notation that helps in transferring data between client/server architecture on the web. In short, it serves as a REST API that allows the exchange of information between HTTP servers.
  • Browser Drivers – Selenium gives you access to multiple browser drivers that help establish a secure connection to the particular browser on which you want to test your web app.
  • Browsers – Apart from browser drivers, it also provides support for most popular browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.

Selenium Test Automation is considered to be the best way for scripting web browser automation testing, especially when you want to perform cross browser testing. It is covered with multiple benefits, which include:

  • An open-source tool that is easy to get started for web-based applications
  • Ideal for performing cross browser compatibility testing
  • Offers compatibility for multiple programming languages like Java, C#, Python, Perl, Ruby, etc.
  • Support multiple operating systems like Windows, Linux, Mac, UNIX, etc.
  • Offers faster test execution of test scripts as compared to other tools
  • Allow you to perform mobile browser testing for both Android  and iOS operating systems

2. LambdaTest

If you are not comfortable using Selenium for your first web browser automation testing, then Lambdatest is an alternative option for you. It is an online cloud-based automation tool that enables users to test their web app across multiple browsers to ensure its functionality, responsiveness, or compatibility.

Whether you want to perform scripted or Scriptless testing, with LambdaTest, you can achieve both these testing procedures efficiently. It offers a simple and intuitive interface, which makes it even easier for beginners to perform web browser automation. Besides, it provides you with an online Selenium grid so that you can perform web browser automation more effectively.

  • A cloud-based cross browser compatibility testing tool integrated with a combination of more than 2000+ browsers, OS, and devices
  • Perform live interactive multi-browser testing of your web app while getting instant access to real machines with all the browsers, browser versions, and screen resolution
  • Perform web browser automation across all the latest browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Opera, IE, Edge, Safari, etc.
  • Take full-fledge screenshots of the testing scenarios within a few seconds and share it with your colleagues
  • Test the responsiveness of your web app across all screen resolutions, as well as test your locally hosted websites
  • Comes with in-built bug tracker tool that developer find bugs in the code in the early stages of testing
  • Execute tests in parallel in the minimum time possible

Apart from the above features, LambdaTest has recently launched the LT Browser tool, which is specifically designed to test the responsiveness of your web app across multiple devices. Learn more about LT Browser to understand how it is helpful in mobile responsiveness testing.

3. Script less Mode

Scriptless testing is when you don’t need any coding knowledge for creating automated tests. It is executed with the help of a testing framework, which gives you the capability to customize the existing code.

For Scriptless web browser automation, you can use the Selenium IDE tool, which is a free and open-source component of Selenium.

4. Selenium IDE

If you are a freelancer or a startup business who wants to create quick bug reproduction scripts for exploratory testing of your web apps, then Selenium IDE is the best option for you. It is an open-source automation tool that works through record and playback.

Furthermore, it is available as the Chrome or Firefox browser plugin, which makes it even more convenient for users to automate web browser testing.  Selenium IDE is integrated with multiple functions, some of which include:

  • Allow recording multiple locators for each element that it interacts with
  • Test cases created in Selenium IDE can be reused
  • Test cases can be converted to different programming languages
  • Run tests on WebDriver with the help of Selenium IDE command-line test runner – SIDE Runner
  • Provide better support for embedded code for various programming languages

Selenium IDE is a record and playback tool that can be used by beginners who are new to web browser automation. Besides, it doesn’t require any particular setup to begin with; you can start testing with Selenium IDE by adding the extension to the specific browser.

In the End

Web browser automation is a tough topic to learn, especially for beginners who are entirely new to automation testing. Also, considering the complexity of using Selenium, it could be very intimidating for users to run automated tests in the beginning. Thus, in this piece of content, we tried to define web browser automation in the simplest manner, as well as we talked about how you can perform web browser automation with various methods and tools available in the market.

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