The open source software known as Selenium is used as one of the tools for automation testing of web applications. It certainly provides the testers with a good option for their purpose but one thing that discourages a lot of people when they want to use this is the fact that selenium has quite a number of problems. Often, handling this may be a challenging experience due to multiple problems that may arise, making creation of functional tests an extremely difficult process. In fact, most people complain that the tests can be flaky, sometimes working and sometimes not working. However, the problems should not deter you from using the tool as the advantages are too many to ignore. It is not really unstable or flaky but the main challenge which must be solved to tackle the problem is information. Most of the problems can be sorted out with proper knowledge. Here are some of the problems along with their solutions.
Flaky external services- Relying on such services often lead to failure of all tests. This happens especially when you use production backends or rely on infrastructure that is outside the control of your team. The best way to solve this is not to rely on such services which cannot be controlled by your team. You can start in-process servers by the use of something such as webrick in Ruby or Jetty in Java world. The external services can be spotted by watching the running of tests which will show the actual problem underlying. The flakiness can also be minimized through performing of health check before you run tests. Check if all relying services are running properly or not.
Poor test isolation- This may happen and you may see that the tests are working fine when they are being run alone but during build they fail randomly. To solve this, resources should be isolated as much as possible. Data should be set up within tests so that you do not have to rely on the ‘set up datastores’ step in the build. Try to set up database for each developer or use something such as SQLite or Hypersonic as an in-memory, light-weight and private database. If users are required to log-in for the applications then several user accounts should be created which are reserved just for the tests; provide a locking mechanism as well so that you can ensure that just a single test is carried out with the use of a specific user account.
Identifying elements- Another very common problem in this is the way of identifying XML/HTML elements that must be observed as well as manipulated. While designing, the application should be made for easy identifying of elements through adding of ‘id’ which is well-named and attributes to unique elements; along with class attributes that are well-named for repeated structures such as tables or lists. By virtue of attributes you can refer directly to the interested elements easily. You can also start simplifying the locators by creating locators that rely on the essential parts.
Problems in timeouts- This is a very common problem. There are times when the timeout is not long enough, thus the tests fail under load. For that, the best thing that you should do is not use timeouts at all. When using, they should be used by generous setting or using them together with notification from the UI being tested.
During problems with selenium testing, it is best to do some research as well as analysis to find out the main cause so that you can understand the reason for such behavior. Most often the problem is minor and can be solved through the proper resources. No matter what the problem, these days there are plenty of resources to take advantage of. There are several videos, blogs, documentations, user groups, chat rooms, conferences, forums, books, etc which can aid you so that you can use the tool successfully.
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