AMA: data creation for UI tests

Butch Mayhew asks…

What are the different ways (in order best to worst) to handle data creation for UI Automated checks?

My response…

The answer to this one very much depends on your environment and what tools/access you have to manage data, but here’s some ways I have handled this on various projects:

Within the scenario itself: for full e2e tests, having no or limited dependencies on any data – so following for example a CRUD e2e flow during your test, is often the best approach as you don’t have the manage the data. The downside of these types of tests is that each step in your e2e flow is dependent on the preceding ones passing, and if you want a clean data store, you may need hooks to cleanup in the case of test failure.

Using before/after hooks: for more detailed UI tests, you can use before and after hooks to create/delete test data via direct database calls, or calling a service. I would avoid using the UI where possible to do this to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of this data creation.

Seeding an Environment: I have worked on projects where we had a collection of SQL scripts that were used to ‘seed’ test data into an environment, which meant repeatable tests in CI. This meant our CI process was to restore the database completely then seed the data needed for the tests. Depending on your database size this can slow down your CI process, but the benefit is that you have a consistent untainted test environment for each test run.

Manually Created: I least recommend this approach, or at least recommend you have as little data as possible that needs to be manually created in this way. At, our e2e tests do have a configuration item which is a couple of test sites needed to run against, but since this is a once-off task and these sites can be shared, it would be overkill to either seed this all the time or script it into our test hooks, since running against an existing site is the most efficient way for CI.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is a Software Quality Engineer for Automattic.

4 thoughts on “AMA: data creation for UI tests”

  1. I’ve used production data (after it personal information was scrubbed out). This is more difficult than seeded/demo data because 1) it’s hard to know what the customer’s habits & policies were in creating the data, and 2) it’s void of db changes for new features. It’s good for sizing & performance testing, good for realistic errors in the data. Horrible for automation.

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