AMA: Protractor for e2e Testing?

John X asks…

 I have dodged the AngularJS /Protractor bullet for many years now. May last foray, some 5 years ago, was a cluster to put it mildly! Cucumberjs/Angularjs/Protractor/chai/mocha/ the stack was in its infancy and failed miserably!! Many cycles were spent pulling fixes from our own repos instead of waiting for PRs to get done. This was in stark contrast to the ease and stability of the automation I wrote using Watir-Webdriver and eventually Watir.

I am now faced with automating the regression test cases for an Angularjs App.

Question: Do I finally jump back into the using stack that almost caused me to lose my mind, or is it possible to use Watir/Selenium to build out meaningful e2e UI automation for an angularjs app as we dawn on 2019?

My response…

It’s still my opinion in 2018 that writing e2e tests in Node using either Protractor or WebDriverJs is still more difficult than using Watir in Ruby.

Sure using async functions with await commands makes things easier than before (see examples in our project), when you would have first come across Protractor, but I still feel like there’s a lot of catching up to do to get to the stability and ease-of-use of Watir.

My decision would come down to whether others on your project are going to be comfortable maintaining tests in ruby – if they are I’d use Ruby and Watir, otherwise I’d revisit Protractor if they really want to use Node.

TestBash Sydney: Automated e2e Testing at

This is an approximate transcript of the talk I delivered at TestBash in Sydney on Friday 19th October 2018.

Alister Scott Test Bash Sydney Oct 2018-1-1

Today I’d like to share my story about how we started with automated end to end testing at since I started at Automattic over 3 years ago.

Alister Scott Test Bash Sydney Oct 2018 2-2

Continue reading “TestBash Sydney: Automated e2e Testing at”

AMA: Separate Repository for e2e Tests?

Liam asks…

“I did enjoy reading the article about e2e test on wordpress. I noted that e2e test are in a separate repo.

My question will be what is the workflow to make sure new changes does not break the e2e test on pull request ?

For example, if a developer work on some changes, then they need to change the e2e test first and make sure everything pass, however the environment on the pull request might not be stable, developer can overwrite each other changes”

My response…

Thanks for your question Liam.

We have reasons for and benefits in having the e2e tests in a separate repository:

  1. The e2e tests test the entire experience so these test things that happen in different repositories (for example our Calypso user interface or services/API) and having them in the user interface repository isn’t really representative of what the breadth of their scope;
  2. Making changes to the e2e tests are easier in a separate repository since we don’t have to deploy e2e PRs that don’t contain functional changes (we deploy every merge to our master branch immediately dozens of times per day)

The obvious downsides are:

  1. How do we make sure e2e tests know about incoming AB tests?
  2. How do we couple new changes to updates in the e2e test repository?

For incoming AB tests we make sure that our e2e tests know about the change by ensuring we create a matching PR in our e2e tests that override our AB tests during our test runs.

If someone updates the AB tests in Calypso they’re politely reminded to update the e2e tests:

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 3.31.47 pm
example prompt

For making sure e2e tests are up to date we automatically run two (of about 40 total) of the most critical e2e tests (in three browsers) when a PR is ready to be reviewed. These can fail and indicate a change is necessary to the e2e tests (or something is broken!)

There’s also a label we can add to any PR that runs the entire set of e2e tests against a PR running live and reports the result back to that PR:

Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 3.38.29 pm
e2e Test Results against a Calypso PR

If changes are required to the e2e tests someone can create an e2e PR with the exact same branch name which will be used to run against the feature changes before they are merged. This means PRs can be coupled and tested together but merged separately.

To answer the second part of your question I understand it to be about conflicting changes? One of our key philosophies for work is “merge early and merge often” so we make sure that PRs are short-lived and merged quickly to minimize the chance of conflicts. These still do happen occasionally, we just deal with them as they come up.

Whilst there’s been some downsides to the separate repositories all-in-all the benefits continue to outweigh the downsides but we constantly assess and at any point in time we can easily merge them if need be.

npm ci

I recently discovered npm ci which you can use instead of npm install when running a node project on continuous integration (CI) system and want to install your npm dependencies. It does this in a more lightweight, more CI friendly way.

If you use npm test to run your tests, this can be shortened to npm t (much like npm i is npm install), and therefore you can run npm cit to install dependencies and run tests in CI.

Running Mocha e2e Tests in Parallel

I recently highlighted the importance of e2e test design. Once you have well designed e2e tests you can start running them in parallel.

There are a couple of approaches to scaling your tests out to be run in parallel:

  1. Running the tests in multiple machine processes;
  2. Running the tests across multiple (virtual) machines;

These aren’t mutually exclusive, you can run tests in parallel processes across multiple virtual machines – we do this at Automattic – each test run happens across two virtual machines, Docker containers on CircleCI, each of which runs six processes for either desktop or mobile responsive browser sizes depending on the container.

I have found running tests in multiple processes gives best bang for buck since you don’t need additional machines (most build systems charge based on container utilisation) and you’ll benefit from parallel runs on a local machine.

We write our e2e tests in WebDriverJs and use Mocha for our test framework. We currently use a tool called Magellan to run our e2e tests in separate processes (workers), however the tool is losing Mocha support and therefore we need to look at alternatives.

I have found that mocha-parallel-tests seems like the best replacement – it’s a drop in replacement runner for mocha tests which splits test specification files across processes available on your machine you’re executing your tests on – you can also specify a maximum limit of processes as the command line argument --max-parallel

There is another parallel test runner for mocha: mocha.parallel – but this requires updating all your specs to use a different API to allow the parallelisation to work. I like mocha-parallel-tests as it just works.

I’ve updated my webdriver-js-demo project to use mocha-parallel-tests – feel free to check it out here.

Running e2e Tests in Parallel

One of the best ways to speed up your end-to-end (e2e) tests is to start running them in parallel.

The main issue I see that prevents teams from fully using parallelism for their e2e tests is lack of test design. Without adequately designed e2e tests – which have been designed to be run in parallel – parallelism can introduce non-deterministic and inconsistent test results – leading to frustration and low-confidence in the e2e tests.

This is often the case when teams go about directly converting manual test cases into automated e2e tests – instead of approaching e2e test automation with a specific end-to-end design focus.

Say you had a manual test case for inviting someone to view your WordPress blog:

  1. Enter the email address of the person you’d like to follow your site
  2. Check the list shows a pending invite
  3. Check your email inbox shows a pending invite
  4. Open the email, follow the link and sign up for a new account

When you’re manually testing this in sequence it’s easy to follow – but as soon as you start running this in parallel, across different builds, and with other tests things will most likely start failing.

Why? The test isn’t specific enough – you may have multiple pending invites – so how do you know which one is which? You can only invite someone once, how do you generate new invite emails? You may receive multiple emails at any one time – which one is which? And more.

With appropriate e2e test design you can write the e2e test to be consistent when run regardless of parallelism:

  1. Email addresses are uniquely generated for each test run using a GUID and either a test email API like Mailosaur or Gmail plus addressing; and
  2. The pending email list has a data attribute on each invite clearly identifying which email the invite is for and this is used to verify pending email status; and
  3. The inbox is filtered by the expected GUID, and only those emails are used. Etc.

Once you have good e2e test design in place you’re able to look at how to speed up e2e test execution using parallelism. I’ll cover how to do this in my next blog post.

Bailing with Mocha e2e Tests

At Automattic we use Mocha to write our end-to-end (e2e) automated tests in JavaScript/Node.js. One issue with Mocha is that it’s not really a tool suited to writing e2e tests where one test step can rely on a previous test step – for example our sign up process is a series of pages/steps which rely on the previous step passing. Mocha is primarily a unit testing tool and it’s bad practice for one unit test to depend on another, so that is why Mocha doesn’t support this.

A more simplified example of this is shown in my webdriver-js-demo project:

describe( 'Ralph Says', function() {
	this.timeout( mochaTimeoutMS );

	before( async function() {
		const builder = new webdriver.Builder().withCapabilities( );
		driver = await;
	} );

	it( 'Visit the page', async function() {
		page = await RalphSaysPage.Visit( driver );
	} );

	it( 'shows a quote container', async function() {
		assert( await page.quoteContainerPresent(), 'Quote container not displayed' );
	} );

	it( 'shows a non-empty quote', async function() {
		assert.notEqual( await page.quoteTextDisplayed(), '', 'Quote is empty' );
	} );

	afterEach( async function() { await driver.manage().deleteAllCookies(); } );

	after( async function() { await driver.quit(); } );
} );

Continue reading “Bailing with Mocha e2e Tests”