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Can Automated Testing Help Our Clients?

For the last 8 months a portion of the Development Team here at Intergage have been working on a set of automated tests for the Content Management System (CMS) known as the Test Suite. But what are automated tests and what do they do? How will they benefit us and how will they benefit you?

Intergage has also been working on a major new software release, one which has shaken the underlying code the CMS runs on. Our Test Suite has been constructed to become a standard part of our ‘reliability toolkit’. During development of each new software version, the Test Suite runs overnight, testing every website to ensure that the proposed changes have not had unwanted side effects on our customers’ websites. Our Test Suite ensures their website behaves exactly as it does now, whilst providing additional features when you switch them on.

Think of the Test Suite like an autonomous little robot. We run the Test Suite on a powerful purpose-built server that contains two copies of every website we host. One copy runs the version of the software in use on our live servers, the other copy runs on the new version of the code.

The testing occurs in two stages: the first is similar to a Search Engine’s crawl of the website; the second is an in-depth test of interactive features, such as purchasing a product. The output of the test results on both sets of websites are then compared to find any differences.

What does an interactive feature test involve? Let’s take the example of purchasing a product on an E-Commerce website using the “Buy a Product” test.

The test will first determine if the website has products to buy. It then examines the configuration of the site to determine how the E-Commerce system has been set up. There are a vast variety of options for E-Commerce and these customise how the test is executed. These are the steps that might be involved in buying a simple product:

  • Find the product page for the product you want to buy
  • Request the webpage and find the product details
  • Enter a quantity, and buy the product
  • Check the basket contain the item
  • Adjust the quantity
  • Go to the checkout
  • Register an account
  • Set a billing and delivery address
  • Check the Confirm Order page is correct
  • Choose a Shipping method
  • Choose a Payment method
  • Confirm the order
  • Go through an OCC (Online Credit Clearance) simulator
  • Ensure the Order is confirmed
  • Check emails sent

At every stage, the Test Suite checks that the test results are functionally correct and checks the content of every page to highlight expected and unexpected changes.

How many ways are there to buy a product? Consider that the Intergage CMS supports products with options, variations (or a mix of both), purchasable downloads, recurring orders and subscriptions.

Multiply this by the various combinations of VAT modes, shipping classes, payment methods, login modes, donations, vouchers etc. For E-Commerce tests alone the permutations are virtually unlimited. Our main focus is to test the scenarios our customers actually use, however we also test a number of additional test websites that contain features that our customers could use but might not do so at the moment.

The coverage of our testing has therefore been vastly improved. In the past, we had to manually test each page item on a range of sites. It simply wasn’t practical to test every item on every website, but that’s exactly what our new Test Suite does. We have even found a couple of bugs in the live version which of course are now fixed.

The Intergage CMS is a complex software product with a very large amount of code accumulated from over 13 years of continual development. Without the Test Suite it would be all too easy to make changes in one section of code that could cause unpredictable side effects in another. The Test Suite helps us to very quickly identify these side effects and fix them before they have a chance to become a problem.

Some manual testing will always still be required. We haven’t yet created fully automated tests for the Administration Facility or those that require on-page interaction with JavaScript enhanced features. Our formal System Test procedure therefore documents a number of manual tests. Manual testing is also used to verify that the automated Test Suite is functioning correctly, for example not reporting false positives and therefore missing bugs.

It is evident then that a lot of time has been required to create such detailed and extensive tests, time we could have spent doing other things such as adding additional features and improving the customer experience. This begs the question: ‘Is it worth it?’ Well we like to think so.

The idea behind the creation of the automated Test Suite was to provide two key benefits: firstly to ensure the quality and reliability of the end product; secondly, to allow new improvements to be created, thoroughly tested and released with confidence much more quickly. We believe the Test Suite is going to deliver superbly on both counts, which can only be a good thing for our customers.

For more information on Intergage websites, click here.

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