Codeless automation testing tools for mobile: An overview and 10 tools to get you started

Automated testing helps teams reduce the time and effort it takes to test an app. While most engineering teams recognize the importance of having an efficient suite of automated tests, the reality is that many struggle with it. For some teams, it’s a case of engineers not having the time to write or maintain scripts for automated testing. For others, it’s a case of manual testers not having enough technical know-how to write the test scripts.

In one of their blog posts, Perfecto, a mobile and web cloud testing platform, revealed that over 40% of their customers were unable to achieve automated testing due to test automation scripting issues — which makes the case for codeless automation testing tools.

Codeless automation testing tools simplify the process of test automation. Using a visual approach, engineers and manual testers alike can easily create, maintain, and execute automation tests with no or minimal test scripts.

In this article, we'll go over everything you need to know to get a clear picture of what all the hype is about with codeless automation testing tools, including:

  • What is codeless testing?
  • How codeless automation testing tools are changing the face of mobile app development
  • Factors to consider when choosing codeless test automation tools for your mobile app
  • Top ten codeless automation testing tools for mobile app development

What is codeless automation testing? 🤔

Codeless testing is the process of using codeless testing tools to automate the generation of test scripts. Similar to popular low-code/no-code development tools like Mendix and Appian, codeless automation testing tools offer higher-level abstractions for writing test scripts via an interactive GUI. These tools are equipped with record and playback, drag-and-drop interfaces, and ML/AI capabilities to make the process of test automation simple and more “natural” — just as a user would experience it.

With modern codeless test automation tools, testers no longer have to learn extensive coding to generate automated test scripts or convert real user flows back to code.

Though these tools are referred to as "codeless," it doesn’t mean they’re completely free of code. Codeless automation testing tools often require minimal coding to set up and allow users to write custom code for specific use cases. So, while “codeless” is the common moniker, it may be more accurate to refer to most of these tools as "low-code" automation testing tools.

How codeless automation testing tools are changing the face of mobile app development

Today’s approach to automated tests is broken and presents a lot of bottlenecks. Codeless automation testing tools will become the future of automated testing because:

1. Codeless automation testing tools make finding visual bugs easier

Visual bugs are errors that occur in an app's user interface. They don't always have a functional impact, but they can detract from the user experience. Examples of visual bugs are misaligned text or buttons, overlapping images or text, partially visible elements, or responsive layout issues.

Although the UI is the most significant part of an app for users, many teams still struggle with UI testing, leading to undetected visual bugs because traditional testing tools aren’t mature enough to catch them.

For instance, consider this visual error that occurred on Instagram’s mobile app, shared by Angie Jones on her LinkedIn feed:

Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 18.11.50.png

This happens because functional UI assertions done with traditional testing tools only check the code structure of an app to confirm the existence of elements. However, they will not be able to tell if those elements overlap each other.

Unlike traditional testing tools, codeless testing tools such as Applitools can detect visual bugs using AI-enabled visual testing. To validate visual interfaces, they use a baseline and checkpoint UI comparison process. In a nutshell, you can take snapshots of screens in their golden or expected state. Whenever you run a test against those screens, the tool compares the current screen (aka checkpoint screen) against its expected state (aka baseline screen). If there are any differences or discrepancies, it throws an exception. If the difference is expected, you can then update the checkpoint screen to become the baseline screen.

2. Codeless testing tools lead to easier maintenance because tests don’t break when the UI changes

To write a functional UI test for an app using a traditional tool like XCUITest, we need to write a lot of code using element identifiers, like below:

Image source

The problem is these tests will break whenever any element identifiers change. Frequent failing tests mean more maintenance overhead. 

With codeless automation testing tools, you have to worry less about tests failing due to element identifiers since they use a combination of element locators and the baseline/checkpoint UI comparison process described above to validate visual interfaces.

However, there aren’t many tools that use absolute Xpaths, so depending on the tool, you still may encounter the issue of failing tests caused by UI changes. 

3. Codeless testing automation tools make automating testing complex workflows possible

With traditional testing tools, complex workflows like localization and accessibility testing are a struggle to automate. However, with the baseline and checkpoint UI comparison process, codeless testing tools make it easier to automate these tricky workflows.

For instance, in the case of localization, we can have a localization expert manually verify that everything is okay. Then using a codeless automation testing tool, we’ll autogenerate baseline snapshots which subsequent tests will run against.

Factors to consider when choosing codeless test automation tools for your mobile app

Codeless automation testing tools are evolving and will only get better. Regardless, here are some essential features to look out for to ensure you have a smooth experience:

1. Efficient element management

Codeless automation testing tools promote open ended assertions and minimize the need for element identifiers. However, for functional testing, there are always core elements that drive application behavior the tool must interact with. This necessitates a codeless automation testing tool with efficient element management to make maintenance easier.

For example, if you have 10 test scenarios that utilize the same element, you don't have to update the element identifier across all ten tests if the element changes. You'd simply go to a central elements’ manager to update that element, and it’ll update across all tests.

2. Reusable steps

Reusable steps is an important feature to look out for in codeless test automation tools because it allows for easier test setup and maintenance. For instance, most apps have a login, and there can be over 100 test cases that rely on the login step. A tool that supports reusable steps means you can easily reuse the login step across those 100 test cases. And, if anything breaks in the login step, you just have to fix it in a global namespace and it’ll update across the 100 test cases.

3. Extensibility/ability to insert code

Codeless tools have become very sophisticated. Still, they may not cater to all your use cases. You should go for a tool that allows you to write your own scripts to take care of edge cases.

4. Integration with other tools

You need a tool that integrates with other tools used across your team, especially your CI/CD tool such as Bitrise, so you can easily plug tests from the tool into your CI/CD process and run the tests on every code change, or code commit and also schedule the tests to be run as nightly checks. Also it can be integrated with test and tracking management tools such as JIRA or TestRail to be able to create and assign any issues to the developers if there is an unexpected behaviors or bugs in the tests or link the manual tests and automated tests together in case there are existing manual test suite need to be automated

Ten  codeless automation testing tools for mobile app development

Based on popularity and features offered, here are ten of the top codeless test automation tools you should check out for your mobile app projects:

  1. Applitools
  2. Katalon Studio
  3. AccelQ
  4. Perfecto
  5. Ranorex Studio
  7. Kobiton - Scriptless Test Automation
  9. Autify
  10. testsigma

Are there disadvantages to using codeless testing tools?

As simple as codeless testing is, there are some disadvantages worth noting:

  • In order to test products with codeless testing tools, the developer has to share the files through a common IP address and make the product publicly available.
  • It’s also not 100% codeless — even though scripts are created automatically, at some points manual coding may still be required, so some testers will have to learn the basics of scripting.
  • Since everything is automated behind the scenes, sometimes the testers have no way to customize the scripts, so the entire outcome is left to the automation tools.

Codeless testing + CI = test automation excellence

Codeless test automation tools make it easier to set up test automation for your projects. Add a mobile-focused CI/CD, such as Bitrise, to the mix, and you'll have speed as well. You'll be able to run your automated tests against every pull request, allowing you to get feedback faster and release features more quickly.

To achieve more speed, you can introduce more sophisticated practices into your CI pipeline. For example, you can tag tests to execute only the tests related to the area being modified, so you don’t have to run hundreds or thousands of tests on every pull request. So if something like a “shopping cart” feature is checked in, then only the tests marked shopping cart are executed immediately. Then, other tests can then be executed at a later time.

See more about what Bitrise can do for your team. 

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