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App Development
7 minutes read

Web Services Automation Testing: What are the Challenges?

by Alvaro Insignares
App Development
7 minutes read

Web services automation testing is critical for testing web applications in an efficient manner. Automation helps quality test engineers study how specific web services work in varying situations. Web services automation testing allows engineers to isolate and automate one aspect of a web service, whether it be load testing, API testing, etc., and see what factors affect performance and behavior. 

At the end of the day, web services test automation tools help developers and designers confirm that web applications meet business standards and requirements while providing a quality User Interface and high functionality for end-users. Let’s learn more about how web services are implemented, the challenges presented by automating web services testing, and the benefits of web services test automation. Automation can be a cost-effective way to handle the bulk of your performance tests. 

How are Web Services Implemented?

Web services is the term used to describe the communications between two machines, web applications, or software. For example, if you wanted to display the scores of NBA games on your website, you wouldn’t need to manually collect all of the various scores and stats; a web service would provide you with this information. There are two main ways that web services are implemented: SOAP and REST.

SOAP

SOAP is an acronym for Simple Object Access Protocol. SOAP is a standard web services protocol that is used to send, receive, and respond to web service requests. SOAP utilizes the XML format to send and receive web service requests. This allows data to remain independent from the platform that is being used. Communications between two web applications using SOAP are traded between the SOAP envelopes within each application. Simple Object Access Protocol follows the HTTP protocol for transporting data. 

REST

REST is an acronym for Representational State Transfer. REST follows HTTP protocol with an emphasis on client and service interaction. Instead of using XML like SOAP, REST uses simple URLs and built-in HTTP headers to relay metadata between web applications. Representational State Transfers have a limited amount of operations when compared with SOAP. 

Both implementations, REST and SOAP, provide a continuous connection between two web applications. Web services testing is critical in order to ensure that this connection is functioning properly and that data is loading in a timely manner. Testing your web services will also ensure that they are capable of handling the traffic of your anticipated user base. If you anticipate scaling up your web services, you will want to test your services to confirm that they can handle the traffic. 

The Challenges of Automating Web Services Testing 

Web services test automation is a basic requirement of agile web application development. However, this does not mean that automating web services testing is simple or easy. In order to fully leverage the power and benefits of web services testing automation, organizations need to navigate and mitigate the following automation challenges:

  • Setting measurables 
  • Choosing a starting point 
  • Code coverage 
  • QA process

The success of your automation processes will depend largely on how well your team communicates and collaborates. Automation is a tool that must be wielded like any other. 

Setting Measurables

Web services automation testing is not a magic tool that will automatically fix your web services development process. The value of your quality assurance tests is in the information they provide. The decisions that your team makes with data from your automated tests will drive the direction of your development projects and the overall success of your business. That is why it is important to set key performance indicators for your team that adequately measure success. Your development, testing, and other teams need to agree on what success looks like and which key performance indicators are the most important measure of it. 

Automated web services testing is a great tool, but if you don’t have a clear expectation or goal for your project, then it doesn’t really matter how great automation is. That is why the first real challenge of web services test automation is setting measurables and determining project goals. With a clear vision and solid KPIs, web service test automation can be a long-term benefit to your organization. 

Choosing a Starting Point

Besides determining what your key performance indicators are and setting clear, realistic goals, choosing a point to start automating web service tests is potentially the most difficult challenge organizations will face. Setting goals and agreeing on measurables will help define your starting point, but you’ll still need to create a web services automation testing strategy.  

There are two popular philosophies in quality testing that are aimed at solving the dilemma of where to begin automation. The first is risk-based testing, and the second is Test Automation Pyramid. A risk-based testing approach highlights the riskiest areas facets of a web service. Most organizations base their risk assessments on financial risk or probability of failure; often, these two concerns overlap. The risk-based approach structures web service test automation based on the areas that present the most risk. 

A Test Automation Pyramid structures the web services test automation differently. In this approach, organizations structure their web services testing like a pyramid. In most cases, the Test Automation Pyramid begins with unit tests, then moves on to integration, component, and API testing, and finally, ends with UI testing.

Both of these approaches are fine strategies to optimize your web services testing resources. The important thing is to assess your organization’s needs and pick a starting point that best meets your current situation. 

Code Coverage 

The success of any automated web services testing program is typically measured by the amount of code it covers. Obviously, you want to cover as much of your source code as possible to ensure that unforeseen bugs don’t pop up. Code will likely be integrated regularly as you work on a web application. The challenge is to ensure that your test cycles are optimized to include the code changes being made, so errors are not potentially missed. Web applications need to be tested against multiple different combinations of browser, operating system, and device to ensure high quality. Code changes can have a large impact on the amount of code covered by your web services test automation. 

QA Process

The QA process is a hurdle that many organizations don’t realize is a challenge. Web service test automation is a great tool, but if your QA process is unorganized and messy, you will only be automating chaos. Your QA team and management team need to be organized and on the same page when it comes to the QA process and the desired results. Clear communication lines at every stage of the QA process are just as important as the automation tools being used to streamline your web services testing. 

Final Thoughts on Web Service Automation Testing 

The biggest challenges associated with automated web service testing are human. Automation tools are great, but they can’t help you communicate clearly with your team or set clear expectations and goals. In order to get the most return on your automation investment, you need to clearly establish KPIs, end goals, a QA process, and articulate these things to your quality testing and development teams. Web service automation testing won’t fix all of your problems, but it can be harnessed to make your development and QA processes more efficient.

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