The past few years has seen an influx of ‘codeless’ test automation tools which promise to provide automation capabilities to software testers, regardless of their ability to write code.

Now, those who remember the wave of similar tools which were around in the early 2000’s may ‘shudder’ at the thought of another ‘Records & Playback’ tool, which offers little flexibility and produces questionable tests but the industry, and not to mention technology, has come a long way since then. Today, when considering an automation testing tool, there a many great options available and this article aims to explain why ‘codeless’ options should not be discounted from the offset.

Why Codeless?

There are some incredibly powerful test automation tools available, many of them free. Selenium WebDriver has been an automation staple for many years of time whilst Cypress.io has become a very popular option with testers and developers, due to some of its unique features and usability. Both tools, however, have a relatively steep learning curve.

Selenium WebDriver requires knowledge of a scripting language (python, C#, Java, JavaScript, Ruby) as well as a framework, an assertion library and an IDE before you even start to understand the Selenium API itself. Cypress.io may wrap some of this up but some knowledge of JavaScript is needed to write tests.  

That is where codeless can help. The aim of codeless options (generally speaking) is to provide the same capabilities as their coded counterparts without requiring the user to rely on their ability to write lines and lines of code and they do a pretty good job on the whole. Here are some of the reasons you may want to consider a codeless option.

Easy to get started

Many of the codeless tools come packaged up with everything you need with no complicated install process and no long list of dependencies. Just a single download and install and away you go…

Not having to worry about code also means you can focus on writing tests sooner and it a quicker return on investment.

User Friendly

A user friendly GUID is a mainstay of most codeless options. It allows users to intuitively create test test suites and  manage test runs without the need to get familiar with an IDE.

Thriving Community

There is a vast amount of documentation, tutorials and discussions surrounding many of these tools which is great if you’re just getting started. Product communities and a wonderful resource.

Continuously Evolving

Codeless tools don’t all offer just a simple record and playback feature. There is real innovation in these tools. TestCraft, Mabl & Testim have all incorporated AI into their tools to make UI tests more robust. TestProject have a host addons to enhance functionality, many other tools offer seamless integration with CI/CD pipelines.  

Drawback to codeless

Codeless options don’t always give you the freedom that a coded tool may. With Selenium WebDriver, you’re free to select from a whole host of languages, frameworks and assertion libraries. What’s more there are hundreds of thousands of external packages at your fingertips to enhance your automation tests. Codeless applications often restrict users to a set of pre defined addons which limit functionality.

Integrations with databases, reporting engines and other third arty applications are also often more flexible with coded options. Having said that some codeless tools to provide a great deal of flexibility. TestProject, as an example, allows users to write coded tests via IDE’s for Java & C# which means that external packages can still be used in conjunction with recorded tests.

Codeless doesn’t have to mean expensive

Cost has always been a big concern when it comes to selecting a tool and historically codeless options have required licences to be purchased for non trivial amounts of money. This is no longer the case. Sure, there are many vendor based platforms where licences are required but often these companies also offer a free tier, albeit, often with limitations on the number of test runs per month of browser support.

Katalon Studio & Testim.io both offer a free version of their tools with some restrictions on functionality and usage. Other tools, such as, TestProject & Selenium IDE are completely free with no limitations imposed.

How to select the right tool?

Just like selecting any automation tool you first need to set out your requirements including, budget, feature set, ease of use, etc. After you have this defined you can make a short list of suitable tools, probably no more than three or four. A proof of concept can then be done for each tool to ensure that they are the best fit for what’s required.

Conclusion

If you’re a software tester looking to enhance your automation ability, then it’s probably a good idea to learn some code. The ability to code is a great tool to have in your utility belt, however, this is not the only option. There are some great tools out there which enable testers of all abilities to get started with automation testing and that’s surely a good thing, right?

It’s also important to mention that the same level of design needs to go into creating tests regardless of weather the tool is codeless or not. You still need to identify what you are going to test and how you are going to test it. Without these considerations’ tests are likely to become cumbersome and unreliable.

There are many other tools not mentioned in this post too, this is just a flavour of what is on offer. Test automation does not have to be restricted to those with large budgets or a strong ability to code. So, Next time you need to find a tool for your UI test automation I hope you consider a codeless option even if its not the tool you eventually select.

Ryan Howard

Hi,I'm Ryan. I'm a Software Tester, Quality Advocate and founder of How QA.