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Christopher Thompson
Christopher Thompson

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How to Streamline Appium Automation Testing by Eliminating Some Commonly-made Mistakes

In the rapidly evolving realm of software development, the continuous influx of applications across various platforms poses a significant challenge for comprehensive testing. Mobile apps, in particular, encompass multiple functionalities ranging from secure banking solutions to captivating games.

Addressing this complexity, Appium emerges as an exceptional open-source tool, serving as an automation framework that facilitates seamless communication between the user's test script, the Appium Server, and the underlying emulator or real device. Renowned for its versatility, Appium is a favored choice for testing mobile, web, and hybrid applications. Its cross-platform compatibility empowers developers to leverage a unified API, enabling them to effortlessly execute test scripts on popular platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows. With support for various programming languages, including Python, Ruby, C#, PHP, JavaScript, and Java, Appium offers flexibility and caters to diverse developer preferences. As a mobile app testing counterpart to Selenium, Appium provides robust features and capabilities, making it an indispensable tool for app testing.

As we explore the world of Appium, it is crucial to delve deeper into the common pitfalls encountered when initially adopting the framework, as well as unravel the intrinsic characteristics that make Appium an indispensable tool for app testing.

Major Errors that QA Engineers Commit While Using Appium for Test Automation

Let's explore the common pitfalls that testers often encounter when conducting test automation with Appium:

1. Using XPath Without Limitations

One common mistake in automation test scripts is the excessive use of XPath locators, which is not recommended in Appium automation testing. XPath can significantly impact performance, especially in terms of element identification during execution. Different browsers, such as Internet Explorer, exhibit varying levels of slowness when executing test scripts with XPath. This discrepancy arises due to variations in rendering engines and rules across browsers.

To mitigate this issue, it is advised to prefer relative XPath over absolute XPath. Relative XPath is more resilient to changes in the application's structure, reducing the need for frequent script updates. By avoiding over-reliance on XPath and adopting relative XPath, when necessary, testers can enhance the maintainability and adaptability of their automation test scripts.

2. Neglecting the Use of Accessibility IDs

Leveraging Accessibility IDs as locators is a more efficient and preferred alternative to XPath selectors. These locators are extensively used in test scripts for Android and iOS applications due to their ease of use and faster execution than XPath.

However, it's important to note that semantically accessible IDs differ from IDs in web apps. It's crucial to avoid conflating the two. Accessibility IDs serve a purpose beyond testing and should not compromise the accessibility of your application. In fact, setting accessibility IDs on elements to enhance testability can also contribute to improved accessibility for your mobile app, provided that the chosen accessibility labels are meaningful and intuitive for users.

By utilizing Accessibility IDs judiciously in your Appium test scripts, you can streamline the testing process while ensuring that your application remains accessible and user-friendly.

3. Not Using Wait Commands

In addition to using correct locators, another common reason for test failures in element identification is the absence of wait commands. Failing to incorporate wait commands can result in the script being unable to locate elements accurately, particularly when the application hasn't fully loaded or experiences delays during page transitions. To address such scenarios, it is crucial to implement wait commands in your test scripts.

Here are two main types of wait commands that can be employed:

- Explicit wait:

An explicit wait in Appium instructs the driver to wait for a specific condition to occur before proceeding further in the code. The condition can be the presence, visibility, or availability of an element. With explicit waits, you define a maximum wait time, and the driver will keep checking for the desired condition until it is met, or the timeout is reached. This allows you to have precise control over waiting for specific elements or conditions before executing the next line of code.

- Implicit wait:

On the other hand, an implicit wait sets a default timeout for the driver to wait for an element to appear. It tells the Appium driver to wait for a certain duration while continuously searching for the element. The search will continue until either the element is found or the specified time limit elapses. Implicit waits are applicable globally, meaning they will be in effect for all subsequent commands in the code unless explicitly overridden. They are useful when you want to avoid writing explicit wait conditions for every element and prefer to have a default wait time for all elements.

4. Skipping Some Key Technical Steps

In Appium testing, a common technical oversight is neglecting to map the Xcode path for the correct version when multiple Xcode versions are installed on the same machine.

Additionally, not setting the environment variables for ANDROID_HOME and JAVA_HOME after installing Java and the Android SDK can cause problems.

Another mistake is skipping the installation of ideviceinstaller and iOS-deploy on Mac machines, which can result in the following errors when executing scripts on iOS devices.

Error: Could not initialize ideviceinstaller; make sure it is installed and works on your system(iOS)
Name: PATH
Value: /usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbi

When encountering the mentioned error, even with a properly installed ideviceinstaller, it can be resolved by configuring the project's Run settings accordingly.

Additionally, on a Mac machine, executing scripts containing robot class commands can lead to a loss of focus in the currently active window due to the background Java process. To mitigate this, specifying the attribute "-Dapple.awt.UIElement=true" for JRE resolves the issue.

5. Overusing Element Visibility Queries

Requesting the visibility of each retrieved element can significantly impact the runtime of your scripts. Adding unnecessary overhead results in additional calls and waiting time for Appium to respond to each element request. Optimize script performance and mitigate unnecessary delays by selectively utilizing lazily requested element attributes, focusing on their relevance within the test code.

6. Overlooking View States of Apps

Developers often overlook the importance of setting up their applications to quickly access specific views and user states, resulting in wasted time and test duplications. It's crucial to have a way to start a script in an appropriate state to optimize testing with Appium, particularly since mobile emulators and simulators can be slow to reach the desired test point.

‍7. Always Relying on Native Testing Tools

While some testers prefer using native app testing tools like Espresso for Android or XCUITest for iOS, it is not recommended due to potential issues caused by Apple's point releases and frequent updates from Google. For greater stability in mobile test code, choosing Appium as an open-source automation tool is a better option.

8. Not Employing the Right Design Pattern

As applications undergo updates and changes, test scripts can become cumbersome to maintain due to outdated locators.

To overcome this challenge, employing the Page Object Model (POM) design pattern is a recommended solution. By separating the test code from the page object class, modifications to the UI can be localized to the page object, eliminating the need to modify all test scripts. With POM, updates to the UI can be managed efficiently, reducing extensive rewriting across multiple test scripts.

By using Page Object Model design patterns, updating the UI of a page only requires modifying the code within the page object. This approach allows all UI modifications to be found in one location, simplifying the maintenance of test scripts.

‍9. Blaming Appium for Being Slow

While there may be instances where Appium is perceived as slower or less efficient, it is crucial to understand the underlying factors at play. Appium relies on technologies like XCUITest and UIAutomator2, and its efficiency depends on how effectively it is utilized. Relying on inefficient practices, such as excessive use of XPath, can impact performance. However, many perceived slowness issues can be resolved by optimizing tool usage. Appium serves as a shield against the inherent flakiness of underlying frameworks, offering more stability at the cost of a slight performance impact. It is crucial to balance speed and stability when leveraging Appium for test builds.

10. Not Utilizing Appium Logs

Appium Logs can appear intimidating with a complex stream of information during test script execution. However, they provide valuable insights as below:

- Stacktraces for error identification: When errors occur during test execution, the stacktraces in the logs serve as a starting point for debugging and troubleshooting issues in both the application and test script.

- Desired and default capabilities: The logs display the desired and default capabilities specified in the test, which can be leveraged to understand and modify the behavior of the Appium server.

- Timestamps for enhanced analysis: By default, Appium logs do not include timestamps to keep the lines concise. However, starting the Appium server with the "--log-timestamp" flag appends a timestamp to each line. This feature proves valuable when diagnosing slowness or investigating potential bugs, as lines with longer execution times can be easily identified and analyzed.

How HeadSpin Simplifies Appium-based Test Automation to Ensure Error-free App Development

Integrating Appium with the HeadSpin Platform enhances developers' capabilities by offering additional functionality for efficient app testing and monitoring. This integration streamlines the CI/CD process, simplifies Appium script creation, and reduces overall complexity. Here are the key advantages of combining Appium with HeadSpin:

1. Real-time Performance Optimization

HeadSpin's real-time performance monitoring of mobile applications is essential for QA teams. It enables rapid identification of problems or bottlenecks that degrade the user experience. By optimizing app functionality based on real-time insights, developers can ensure a seamless user experience.

2. Real-device Cloud Testing

HeadSpin provides developers with the primary advantage of offering real-time, global, and multi-network testing of mobile applications. Testing across various locations and networks, including 3G, 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi, ensures the proper functioning of the app in diverse settings. This feature is significant for apps with a global audience, where users may access the app using different networks and locations.

3. Data Science-driven Insights

HeadSpin’s AI-powered Platform provides comprehensive data and insights on app performance, enabling developers to gain a deeper understanding of user interactions and identify areas for improvement. The Platform captures and analyzes over 130 performance KPIs, including Average Wait Time, Throughput, Request Count, and more. Additionally, HeadSpin offers performance testing features such as Visual Page Load Analysis, Video Quality Analysis, and more, allowing developers to assess and optimize the loading speed, visual rendering, and overall performance of their apps.

4. Ease of Integration

HeadSpin integrates with popular testing frameworks such as Appium and XCTest (UI). By combining HeadSpin with these frameworks, developers can test and monitor their applications more effectively, leveraging the unique benefits of each. For instance, they can automate Appium tests and then use HeadSpin to monitor real-time app performance.

HeadSpin enhances the advantages of Appium by offering real-time, global, and multi-network testing, real-time performance monitoring, in-depth analytics and insights, and integrations with popular testing frameworks.

Summing It Up

Appium is a robust automation framework that enables early bug detection and reduces manual testing efforts. To maximize the benefits of this testing framework, it is important to sidestep the common mistakes and implement the best practices outlined above. By following these practices, testers can enhance the effectiveness and reliability of mobile automation testing, ensuring the delivery of high-quality applications.

Maximize test automation benefits by running Appium tests on thousands of real devices with HeadSpin's global device infrastructure.


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