Mobile test automation can be confusing. Given how quickly the mobile testing landscape has changed—and is changing—that’s hardly a surprise. Today, there are no shortage of evolving concepts to keep up with, some seemingly shifting and evolving by the year—or month.
Generally speaking, mobile app testing approaches fall into three categories: Manual-code, low-code, and no-code. Manual-code for test automation is a do-it-yourself approach in which a QA team is responsible for coding all test cases. This is typically performed by way of one of many automation languages (such as Expresso, XCUITest, Appium, or Java.).
In addition, engineers must work with a number of other tools for assessing performance data, crash data, and screenshots for reports. This requires specialized skillsets and dedicated resources.
On the other hand, no-code automation is a we-do-it-for-you approach in which a tool automatically generates the automation code, allowing a manual test engineer to create automation. A no-code approach can be executed by anyone on the team, greatly speeding up the process and enabling developers to validate their code without any dependency on others.
In between these two approaches stands low-code automation testing. Low-code is a hybrid model that requires some level of coding knowledge rather than a deep investment in a thorough understanding of a programming language.
All of these options come with unique benefits alongside significant problems. So which option is best for you and your team? Let’s take a closer look at each:
As mentioned above, a manual-code automated testing approach is one wherein a team manually writes the automation code. Using this approach, a QA Engineer with coding skills writes the test scripts so that they may be executed whenever a new build becomes available. The primary benefit of manual code testing is the flexibility and control that comes with manually writing the automation code.
The choice of programming frameworks is an important consideration in manual-code approach:
- Using native frameworks like UIAutomator (Android) or XCUITest (iOS): With this approach, you must learn both frameworks and write the script once for Android and then a second time for iOS. Native frameworks tend to track updates to the app operating system more closely.
- Using cross platform frameworks like Appium: By way of this approach, you write the script once and make it work on both iOS and Android platforms. This approach is typically chosen when the underlying app is written using a hybrid framework (such as React Native).
Both cases require users to install and maintain multiple frameworks. This can be complex and time-consuming. Both cases also require Windows and Mac machines, adding another layer of complexity.
In either case, a team must possess advanced automation skills and regularly introduce infrastructure updates. This approach can be pursued with either real devices or emulators and simulators. Physical devices may be interfaced on-premises or accessed through cloud providers like Perfecto Mobile, AWS Device Farm, or BrowserStack.
Additionally, any scenario wherein a team pursues a manual-code approach introduces a higher likelihood of user-introduced error and accompanying troubleshooting. All in all, manual-code testing is highly flexible yet time-consuming and resource-intensive.
The midway approach in the coding spectrum is known as low-code. Low-code automation exists in something of a middle ground between manual-code and no-code automation. Exactly how much manual programming and no-code automation may be involved varies on a case-by-case basis. Low-code approaches are generally devised by developers with programming skills who aim to avoid spending time writing code for automation. (Mabl makes for a good example of a low-code solution.)
A low-code approach provides some level of flexibility in terms of writing test cases, because it involves an amount of programming, and some developers who choose this route use natural language processing (NLP) to create scripts. These platforms are not designed to allow manual testers to create automated tests.
In practice, low-code approaches also come with a variety of downsides. For one, because of the human element in manual coding, all of the issues with a manual-code approach can be present in a low-code approach, including the same costs and staffing needs.
A no-code approach is exactly what it sounds like: An environment that requires no knowledge of code or scripting to conduct automated testing. By way of a no-code approach, testing teams can quickly—in our experience, up to 70-80% faster (!)—build testing environments without the need to write a single line of code.
With no-code automation, developers can also easily create test cases specific to their features with a click of a few buttons—again, all without writing any code. This allows teams to unit test their UI modules. In an ideal state, no-code approaches also eliminate the possibility of human-introduced coding errors. These factors not only save teams a lot of time but also free up skilled developers for other projects.
On the downside, if no-code testing approach is not performed correctly a few major problems may arise: For example, a poorly considered no-code approach can yield a high cost for maintaining a product because every product change has the potential to result in a need to re-create the entire test platform. A particularly ill-considered approach may even result in a team scrambling to turn to a manual code-based approach.
Which option is best for me?
Whether manual-code, low-code, or no-code, the best option for you will depend on the specific needs of your software team(s).
For a team that has already created a lot of test cases using manual-code, and where the app itself is not going through a lot of changes, it makes sense to use existing scripts and tweak them as needed (provided that expertise still lies within the team!). Low-code solutions are preferrable for teams where engineers are still responsible for QA automation and require full flexibility.
A no-code solution is perfect for teams developing new apps and who have a need for building automation from the ground up. No-code also provides an excellent solution for teams who currently only use manual testing but have identified the need to switch to automation and lack the required skillset to do so. No-code platforms are typically ideal when the entity that is delivering these solutions can provide 100% focus on a no-code solution.
At Sofy, we know the future is no-code. No-code allows your team to do a lot more with a lot less and much faster. We’ve fully embraced the no-code revolution and built a cutting edge and user-friendly platform that offers all the benefits of no-code mobile testing, yet without the downsides. If you’re new to no-code automation, give Sofy a try—we’re confident that you’ll quickly understand exactly why you’ve heard so much about these topics!