Automated Testing of Responsive Design – What’s On & What’s Not?

With growing digitization and increasing proliferation of the smartphone and tablets, it is hardly a wonder that mobile devices are geared to become the main drivers of internet traffic. The Visual Networking Index predicted that internet traffic would cross the zettabyte mark in 2016 and would double by 2019. It’s not just browsing, but commerce too that is becoming more mobile. Criteo’s State of Mobile Commerce report states that four out of ten transactions happen across multiple devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Clearly, we have established ourselves in the ‘mobile age’. Since mobile has evolved as such a big driver of the internet, it is but obvious that websites today have to be “responsive” to the screen size. In 2015, when Google launched their mobile friendly algorithm ‘responsive web design’ became a burning hot topic of discussion across the internet. Having a responsive design made sure that the user experience was uniform, seamless and fast, search engine optimization was preserved and the branding experience remained consistent.

The Testing Challenge To Automate Responsive Design
Responsive web design takes a single source code approach to web development and targets multiscreen delivery. It is on the basis of the screen size that the browser content customizes itself and also customizes what content to display and what to hide. Clearly, it becomes absolutely essential to test that the web application renders itself correctly irrespective of the screen size. Equally obviously, this demands multi-level testing. Given the sheer number and variety of mobile devices in the market and different operating systems, testing of responsive web designs can become an onerous task.

Replicating the end user experience to assess if the application renders itself well across the plethora of devices can be tricky…an application running on a desktop monitor will render differently when scaled down to an 1136-by-640 pixel screen of an iPhone. Testing of responsive applications hence means not only testing them across popular devices but also across newly launched devices in the market. Clearly, responsive websites need intensive testing but testing across so many devices, and testing on each available browser or operating system and choosing configurations of physical devices can be a challenge. This means more test case combinations across devices, operating systems and browsers, and verifying these combinations across the same code base.

In the testing of responsive designs, it becomes essential to check that the functionalities, visual layout and performance of the website is consistent across all the digital platforms and user conditions. This demands continuous testing of new features and testing that the website is working optimally across browsers, networks, devices and operating systems.

Given the intensiveness of testing, having a robust test automation framework for testing responsive applications is a must. This can dramatically increase the efficiency and thoroughness of the testing efforts.

Visual testing
In order to ensure that a responsive application responds to any device in a functionally correct manner, it is important to increase focus on UI testing. Given the complexity of responsive design, you need to identify all the DOM (Document Object Model) objects on the desktop as well as the mobile devices and add relevant UI checkpoints to check the visual displays. Alignment of text, controls, buttons, images, font size, text readability across resolutions, and screen sizes have to be tested thoroughly. Automating these tests ensure that any issue gets highlighted faster and the feedback loop becomes smaller thus ensuring that there are no application glitches.

Performance Testing
Slow page load times and wrong object sizes are two of the biggest challenges of responsive design. Given that an average website has over 400 objects, the key need is to ensure that the size properties of the objects do not change and the images load onto different viewpoints correctly. Functional tests in responsive web applications must be done keeping in mind real world conditions. This involves testing against usage conditions such as devices, network coverage, background apps, location etc. and ensuring that the web content displays correctly irrespective of the device size. Automating client side performance testing helps testers assess the time the content takes to load on different devices and assess the overall performance of the website. Memory utilization, stress tests, load tests, recovery tests etc. need to be performed extensively to assess application performance. Utilizing test automation to write comprehensive tests cases for the same makes performance testing much easier, faster, and in the end more Agile.

Device Testing
While it might not be possible to test the web design on each and every device available in the market, leveraging mobile device simulators to test application functionality goes a long way. You can test the application across all form factors, major OS versions and display density on the devices. Automating navigation testing helps testers gain greater test coverage of the user paths and allows for a faster end-to-end run-through of the responsive web application. With test automation, it becomes easier to create content breakpoints, test screen real estate, and also transition between responsive and non-responsive environments.

Regression Testing
Testers need to extensively adopt test automation to increase the scope of regression testing of responsive web applications. With each new functionality, testers have to make sure that there are no breaks and that the basic application functionality remains unaffected despite the new additions. Given that these tests are voluminous and must be repeated often, leveraging test automation for regression testing ensures the application performance remains unhindered.
To maximize the ROI from your automation initiative, it makes sense to turn to analytics and assess how the responsive web application is used. By leveraging analytics, testers can narrow down the choice for the device and network testing, identify breakpoints and easily assess what should appear on the screen when navigating from one breakpoint to another.

In a nutshell, by carefully choosing candidates for automation, testers can expedite the testing process, achieve greater test coverage and deliver a seamless user experience – and that’s always useful!

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