Thursday, October 19, 2017

API Testing vs. UI Testing

Recently someone asked me “If you have API testing, you don’t need UI testing, right?”  I said “No, because you need to have tests that make sure that elements such as buttons are present and working correctly.”  

Then he asked, “Then if you have UI testing, you don’t need API testing?”  I said, “No, because UI tests tend to be slow and flaky.  You can get more tested in less time with API testing.”

Inspired by that conversation, I thought I’d share my thoughts on when you should do API testing and when you should do UI testing.

First, test as much as you can with API testing.  Take a look at all of your possible endpoints and  create a suite of tests for each.  Be sure to test both the happy path and the possible error paths.  On every test, assert that you are getting the correct response code.  For GET requests, assert that you receive the correct results.  If there are filtering parameters you can pass in with the request, be sure to test scenarios with and without those parameters.  For POST, PUT, and PATCH tests, test that the changes you made have been written to the database; you can do this with a GET.  Be sure to test scenarios where you are entering invalid data; assert that any message returned in the body of the response is the correct message.  For DELETE requests, test that the resource has been deleted from the database; this can be verified with a GET. 

Once you have tested all the scenarios you can think of with API testing, then it’s time to think about UI testing.  First consider your most common user story.  For example, if you are testing an address book, the most likely scenario for a user would be adding in a new address.  You could create a UI test that would navigate to the address book, click a button to add a new address, add the address, save it, and then search the address book to verify that it has been saved.  

Now that your most common user story has been added, you have probably touched a number of the elements that you would want to verify in your UI.  Next, think about other elements on the page that you might want to check.  For instance, there may be a cancel button on the page where you are adding a new address.  A cancel button cannot be tested with an API test; therefore, you should add in a UI test for it.  Another example would be an error message that appears to the user; you may want to add in a test where you try to add an invalid address, and verify that the correct error message is displayed.  

Once you have tests that verify all of the important elements on your page, you can stop writing UI tests.  It’s not necessary to create lots of scenarios where each field is validated for various incorrect entries, because a) you already created those scenarios in your API tests, and b) you already have one UI test that verifies that the error message is displayed.  

If you already have an automated suite of UI tests, it may be a good idea to take a look at your tests and see which scenarios could be covered by API testing.  Converting your UI tests to API tests will make your regression suites faster and more reliable!

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