Usability testing is the practice of using any kind of digital interface, such as a website, computer program, or smartphone app, and determining the ease of which ordinary people are able to meaningfully operate and navigate the program. It is designed to be a measurement of how people are likely to react to an application. Interfaces that are ugly, hard to use, are buggy, or don’t even work are likely to be abandoned. Companies strive for their websites and digital products to have good usability and functionality in order to attract and maintain customers.

Automated usability testing is the usage of programs that are specially designed to test the usability of other programs. They are designed to mimic the behavior of actual humans and can quickly give constructive feedback to businesses about areas where the application need to be improved. Automated usability testing programs can examine a variety of different parameters to ensure optimization of the interface across different criteria.

Some automated usability testing instead examines the code of an application, ensuring that different inputs in the code will result in the predictable and desired outputs. These sorts of usability tests are generally specific to individual programming languages. An automated usability test program that is made to be used with applications made in Java likely can’t be used for a different programming language like C++.

Working in Automation Testing

Why would a person be used to generate automation testing? Isn’t the purpose of automated usability testing for the process to be fully automated?

It may be the case that the preferred goal is to automate the testing process entirely. But usually, there still is a required human element. Automated usability testing generally has to be administered by a test automation engineer who produces the usability tests. Because automated usability testing essentially has a program do the testing for you, someone has to not only create the program that does the testing, but also write the code for it to test the software in question.

This still produces a scenario that is much more efficient at testing than doing things manually. By creating a program to do the testing for you, you can execute many tests in a short amount of time, and execute a variety of tests all at once. Manual testing is tedious, time consuming, and dependent on the skill level of the tester. A program that is correctly designed to test software will do so perfectly and consistently. Additionally, many people in information technology learn to specialize in the creation, management, and use of automated testing programs.

As a result, there are numerous automation testing jobs available online. Often these jobs specialize in automation testing for specific programming languages. A quick Google search will yield plenty of results for Python automation testing jobs.

Java Automation Testing

Automated testing of applications need not be so complicated, however. Automated testing programs already exist for certain common programming languages, such as Java. The Software Testing Help website features 25 tools for testing Java applications.

The different tools test Java applications for different purposes, depending on what kinds of usability tests are actually needed. The different kinds of testing will analyze different components of the application to search for errors and bugs.

Jobs specific to automation testing for Java also exist. It is likely for many of these jobs that a working knowledge of some of these tools would be a necessary requirement to successfully perform the job requirements.

Automated Test Case Generation

Test cases are protocols that automated usability tests can use to test programs. The purpose of test cases is to generate instructions for the automated testing program so that it can execute tests upon an application.

case generation

Image via Source Forge

In many cases, the test cases are generated by humans who are skilled in programming languages and other information technology related subjects. However, while this is likely more efficient than having actual humans test an application, there are certain pitfalls to this approach. Humans sometimes make mistakes. They cost money to employ. The testing they do is not always productive.

Nowadays there is a greater and greater push to automate the process of generating test cases. Automating test cases allows for greater efficiency in producing the protocols necessary for automated testing programs to actually test applications. This “meta” level of automation means that not only is an application tested automatically by programs, but the procedure for what and how it should test is also automatically generated.

There are different strategies for how automated test case generation programs create cases for their usability testing programs. Some of them generate test cases at random, commanding their usability testing programs to execute a variety of random functions of the application. Others will examine the response of the application itself, harvesting data from it and incorporating relevant bits of information into its test case generation processes.

Feature image via Steven Ignetti

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