Building a Selenium Framework from A to Z

This blog post is divided into 3 parts. In Part 1, we’ll focus on the high-level architecture of the Selenium framework. Part 2 will guide you through the steps to build the core components of the framework. Finally, Part 3 will discuss the utilities we can add to enrich our Selenium framework and increase productivity. Although it’s highly recommended that you read each part in the suggested order, you can still jump to the parts that most interest you.

PART 1

Why Selenium?

Demand for web development and testing is huge. As of January 2018, there were over 1.3 billion websites on the internet serving 3.8+ billion internet users worldwide (statistics here). As the result, the tooling market is now more competitive than ever. Commercial tool vendors are fiercely stomping on each other to get a piece of the test tool pie. But so far, no one has outshone Selenium in terms of popularity and adoption.

The biggest sweet spot of Selenium is the fact that it is open source. In other words, it is completely free to download and use. Selenium provides an API called WebDriver which enables testers to craft their tests in many programming languages, including Java, C#, Python, etc. Besides web browsers, you can also automate mobile devices like Android, and iOS via Appium. With all of those capabilities at our fingertips, we might feel invincible. Test automation is now problem-free right? Unfortunately, life is not that easy.

Capabilities alone are not the end of the story. Many test teams have been struggling day to day with maintainability and scalability of their tests. All too often, after the first initial adoption phase, test teams regret the fact that they didn’t spend enough time and effort on learning how to build a good framework from the start.

This blog post aims to fill in that knowledge gap by guiding you through the process one step at a time. Read on.

How to build a maintainable Selenium framework?

Below is the outline of the major steps in building a maintainable Selenium framework.

  1. Choose a programming language
  2. Choose a unit test framework
  3. Design the framework architecture
  4. Build the SeleniumCore component
  5. Build the SeleniumTest component
  6. Choose a reporting mechanism
  7. Decide how to implement CI/CD
  8. Integrate your framework with other tools

As the blog post progresses, we’ll also include some best practices that you can apply to your project. Most importantly, as you read, try to get hands on and apply the best practices as much as possible.

Choose a programming language

If you can code…

Your programming language of choice has a colossal impact to your framework design & productivity. Thus the very first question you should ask is: In what programming language do I want to write my tests?

The most popular languages among the Selenium community are Java, Python and JavaScript. To decide which programming language you should pick, consider the below factors.

  1. What programming language is being used to develop the web apps you need to test?
  2. Does your company have an in-house framework that you can reuse?
  3. Who will use your framework to write tests?

From our experience, Java is the safest choice if you start a new project from scratch since it is widely adopted by the community due to the fact that it works across platforms. Moreover, you can easily find code examples or troubleshooting tips if you get stuck. Java is also the top priority for each new release of Selenium.

If you are not good at code…

The good news is: you can also write Selenium tests using the famous Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) method. But that would require some additional setup. 

In brief, BDD helps boost the readability of your tests by structuring a test flow into Given, When, and Then (GWT) statements. As a result, not only test automation engineers with programming skills but also domain experts and business testers can understand the tests and contribute meaningfully to the process of test creation, test result debugging, and test maintenance.

The picture below shows an example of a test written in BDD.

Some tools that you can leverage if you choose BDD:

In our opinion, BDD is suitable for small or short-term projects. It’ll be hard to scale if you have to write a dozen of “And/And/And…” statements using the GWT syntax. A more mature method for your consideration is the Keyword-Driven Testing method (KDT). Check out this blog post: Keyword-Driven Testing: The Best Practices You Can’t Afford to Miss

Choose a unit test framework

Now we’ve selected the most suitable programming language, we now need to pick a unit test framework that we will build our framework upon. Since we already chose the Java language to write tests, I’d recommend TestNG since it offers several important benefits, such as:

  • TestNG is similar to JUnit, but it is much more powerful than JUnit—especially in terms of testing integrated classes. And better yet, TestNG inherits all of the benefits that JUnit has to offer.
  • TestNG eliminates most of the limitations of the older frameworks and gives you the ability to write more flexible and powerful tests. Some of the highlight features are: easy annotations, grouping, sequencing, and parameterizing.

The below code snippet shows an example of two TestNG tests. Both tests share the same setUp() and teardown() methods thanks to the @BeforeClass and @AfterClass annotations.

Figure 1 – TestNG annotations

You can think of a test class as a logical grouping of some automated test cases that share the same goals, or at least the same area of focus.

For instance, you can group automated test cases that focus on verifying whether the app calculates the total price of a shopping cart correctly into a test class named TotalPriceCalculation. These tests probably share the same initial setup of navigating to the ecommerce site under test and the tear down steps of clearing the items in the cart.

With TestNG, you can also group tests inside one test classes into sub-groups using the @Test annotations as demonstrated in the code snippet.

Design the framework architecture

Now, it’s time to take a look at our framework’s architecture. After many big and small Selenium projects at LogiGear, we’ve come up with a sustainable, maintainable, and scalable architecture shown in the diagram below. We highly recommend that you follow this architecture or at least the core principles behind it.

Figure 2 – Framework Architecture

The beauty of this architecture comes from the fact that there are two separate components called [1] SeleniumCore, and [2] SeleniumTest. We’ll explain those components in detail in the following sections. In brief, having two decoupled components simplifies test maintenance in the long run.

For instance, if you want to check whether an <input> tag is visible on screen before clicking on it, you can simply modify the “input” element wrapper and that change will be broadcasted to all test cases and page objects that interact with <input> tags.

Not having the tests and the element wrappers decoupled means you’ll have to update each and every test case or page object that are currently interacting with <input> tags whenever you want to introduce new business logics.

Now that we’ve had an overview of the framework, we’ll examine how to build each component in the upcoming sections of this post.

PART 2

Build the SeleniumCore component

SeleniumCore is designed to manage the browser instances as well as element interactions. This component helps you to create, and destroy WebDriver objects.

One WebDriver object, as its name suggests, “drives” a browser instance such as moving from web page to web page. Ideally, the test writers should not care about how the browser instances are created or destroyed. They just need a WebDriver object to execute a given test step in their test flow.

To achieve this kind of abstraction, we normally follow a best practice called the Factory design pattern. Below is a class diagram explaining how we use the Factory design pattern in our framework.

Figure 3 – Class diagram of Factory pattern

In the above diagram, LoginTest, LogoutTest and OrderTest are the test
classes that “use” the DriverManagerFactory to “manufacture” DriverManager objects for them.

In the below code snippet, you will see that DriverManager is an abstract
class, dictating that its implementations such as ChromeDriverManager, FirefoxDriverManager and EdgeDriverManager must expose a set of
mandate methods such as createWebDriver(), getWebDriver(), and quitWebDriver().

Figure 4 – DriverManager abstract class

The below ChromeDriverManager implements the DriverManager abstract class defined in the above snippet. Specifically, in the createWebDriver() method, we instantiate a new ChromeDriver with a set of predefined options. Likewise, we’ll do the same for FirefoxDriverManager, EdgeDriverManager, or any other browsers of your interest.

ChromeDriverManager sample implementation
Figure 5- ChromeDriverManager sample implementation

To easily manage the browsers that our project focuses on, we define an enum called DriverType which contains all browsers we ever want to test.

DriverType enum
Figure 6 – DriverType enum

Like we previously mentioned, DriverManagerFactory is a factory that “manufactures” DriverManager objects. You invoke the getDriverManager() method of this class with your DriverType (described above) to receive a DriverManager-type object.

Since DriverManager is an abstract class, you won’t receive an actual DriverManager, just one of its implementations, such as ChromeDriverManager, FireFoxDriverManager, etc. The code snippet below demonstrates how to implement the DriverManagerFactory class.

"Manufacture" DriverManager objects
Figure 7 – “Manufacture” DriverManager objects

After understanding how a browser instance is created, we’ll now create a test using one of the above DriverManager objects. As you can see, the test writer doesn’t care whether the WebDriver for Chrome is called ChromeDriver or not. They only need to specify the simple CHROME string (one of the values in the DriverType enum) when they need a Chrome browser instance.

In the below test, we navigate to www.google.com and verify that the site’s title is named “Google.” Not much of a test but it demonstrates how you we apply the aforementioned DriverManagerFactory.

Sample test using DriverManagerFactory and DriverManager
Figure 8 – Sample test using DriverManagerFactory and DriverManager

By using this Factory design pattern, if there is a new requirement to run tests on a new browser, say Safari for example, it should not be a big deal. We just need to create a SafariDriverManger, which extends DriverManager exactly like the ChromeDriverManager we saw earlier. When it’s been created, test writers can simply create a SafariDriverManager using the new SAFARI value of the DriverType enum.

Figure 9 – SafariDriverManager

Similarly, it’s very easy to integrate with Appium when we need to run tests against a mobile native app or web app on mobile browsers. We can simply implement a new class so-called iOSDriverManager.

Figure 10 – IOSDriverManager

Build the SeleniumTest component

Unlike the SeleniumCore component which plays the role of the foundation of the framework, SeleniumTest component contains all test cases that use the classes provided by SeleniumCore. As we mentioned earlier, the design pattern we’ll apply here is called PageObject pattern (POM).

PageObject pattern

Page Object Model (POM) has become the de-facto pattern used in test automation frameworks because it reduces duplication of code thus reduces the test maintenance cost.

Applying POM means we’ll organize the UI elements into pages. A page can also include “actions” or business flows that you can perform on the page. For instance, if your web app includes several pages called the Login page, Home page, Register page, etc., we’ll create the corresponding PageObjects for them such as LoginPage, HomePage, RegisterPage, etc.

Thanks to POM, if the UI of any page changes, we will only need to update the PageObject in question once, instead of tiringly refactoring all tests that interact with that page.

The picture below demonstrates how we usually structure PageObjects, their element locators as well as action methods. Note that although  RegisterPage and LoginPage both have userNameTextBox and passwordTextBox, these web elements are complete different. The userNameTextBox and passwordTextBox on the Register page are used to register a new account while the same set of controls on the Login page allow users to log into their accounts.

Figure 11 – Example of some Page objects

A simple Page object

Let’s zoom into a specific Page object. In the below example, we see that the LoginPage contains several important pieces of information:

  • A constructor that receives a WebDriver object and sets its internal WebDriver object to that object.
  • The element locators that help the WebDriver object find the web elements you want to interact with. E.g. userNameTextBox
  • Methods to perform on the Login page such as setUserName(), setPassword(), clickLogin(), and most importantly–login() method that combines all of the three methods above.
  Figure 12 – LoginPage page object

How to use a PageObject

To interact with the Login page in our tests, we can simply create a new LoginPage object and call its action methods. Since we’ve abstracted away the web element definitions (locators) from the test writer, they are not required to know how to find an element, e.g. userNameTextBox. They just
call the login() method and pass in a set of username and password.

If the web element definitions happen to change, we do not need to update all of the tests interacting with this Login page.

A sample test case to verify the Login page
Figure 13 – A sample test case to verify the Login page

As you might have already noticed, the goal of the test is to verify that the web app displays the correct error message (“Invalid username or password”) when a user tries to log in with an
incorrect credential.

Note that, we have not included the getLoginErrorMessage() action method in our previous code snippet since the implementation of this method could be complicated depending on how we design our web app. Normally, an error message would appear as a simple red-color string right next to the Login button.

In such a case, retrieving that error message would more straightforward. We’ll just need to define an element locator, e.g. errorMessageLabel = By.id(“errorMessage”)) then create the getLoginErrorMessage() method using that locator. 

At this point, our Test Automation framework finally has a concrete foundation. We can now release it to the team so that everybody will contribute to the test development and test execution efforts. Part 3 will discuss how to add some more utilities to the framework to increase our productivity.

PART 3

Choose a reporting mechanism

Hopefully we now scale up our volume of automated tests quickly and run them frequently enough to justify the upfront investment. As you run more and more tests, you’ll soon find that understanding test results will be difficult without a good reporting mechanism.

Let’s say we receive a failed test. How do we investigate the result timely enough to determine whether the failure is due to an AUT bug, an intentional design change on the AUT, or mistakes during test development and execution?

At the end of the day, test automation will be useless if we cannot get useful insights from the test results to take meaningful corrective actions. There are a lot of options available out there for logging your automated tests. Reporting mechanisms provided by testing frameworks such as Junit and TestNG are often generated in XML format, which can easily be interpreted by other software like CI/CD tools (Jenkins). Unfortunately, those XMLs are not so easy to read for us human beings.

Third party libraries such as ExtentReport and Allure can help you create test result reports that are human-readable. They also include visuals like pie charts and screenshots.

If you don’t like those tools, there is an open-source Java reporting library called ReportNG. It’s a simple HTML plug-in for the TestNG unit-testing framework that provides a simple, color-coded view of the test results. The sweet spot is: setting up ReportNG is very easy.

A good report should provide detailed information such as: the amount of passed or failed test cases, pass rate, the execution time, and the reasons why test cases failed. The below pictures are example reports generated by ReportNG.

Figure 14 – Overall summary such as execution time, number of passed/failed/skipped
Figure 15 – Some passed test cases with detailed steps and check points
Figure 16 – A failed test with a screenshot showing what went wrong at the check point

Decide how to implement CI/CD

To complete your Selenium framework, there are a few other areas of concern that you might want to tackle.

  • Build tools and dependency managers: Dependency managers help you manage the dependencies and libraries that the framework is using. Examples of these tools include Maven, Gradle, Ant, NPM, and NuGet. Invest in a dependency manager to avoid missing dependencies when you build your framework
  • Build tools assist you in building the source code and dependent libraries, as well as in running tests. The below image illustrates how we use Maven to execute our tests (mvn clean test).
  • Version control: All Automation teams must collaborate and share source code with each other. Just like a software development project, source code of the tests and test utilities are stored in a source control system, also known as a version control system. Popular source control systems are GitHub, Bitbucket, and TFS. However, we recommend that your team set up an in-house source control system using Git if you don’t want to share your source code with the public.
  • CI/CD integration: Popular CI systems include Jenkins, Bamboo, and TFS. In the world of ever-increasing demand on agility, you will soon find it useful to integrate your automated tests into DevOps pipelines so that your organization can speed up delivery and stay competitive. We’d recommend Jenkins since it’s free and very powerful.

Integrate your framework with other tools

Consider integrating with the following tools to add more value to your framework:

  • AutoIt is a freeware BASIC-like scripting language designed for automating the Windows GUI and general scripting. It will help you in case you want to work with desktop GUI, like the download dialog of the browser.
  • TestRail is a test case management (TCM) system that proves useful when your project has a large number of tests and related work items such as bugs and technical tasks. It’s best if our Selenium framework can automatically upload test results to TestRail after execution.
  • Jira is a famous eco-system for software development and testing. Thus, consider integrating with Jira in some common scenarios such as automatically posting and closing Jira bugs according to Selenium test results.

Conclusion

Selenium is a powerful tool to perform functional and regression testing. In order to get the most benefit out of it, we should have a good framework architecture right from the start. Once you cement a strong foundation, anything you build on top of it is there to stay.

Hopefully after reading this ebook, you are now 100% ready to build a good framework architecture from scratch or upgrade your existing Selenium framework to the next level. From our 25 years of experience in Software Testing, investments in learning the best practices of designing a good framework architecture pay off exponentially in the long run. You won’t regret it.

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Thuc Nguyen
Thuc Nguyen has been leading the product teams at LogiGear in delivering quality test automation solutions to LogiGear’s customers and services clients. Thuc has a great passion for helping organizations transform their Test Automation, Continuous Delivery and DevOps practices as well as empowering testers of all technical levels to thrive in complex enterprise environments.
Truong Pham
Truong joined LogiGear Da Nang as a Test Automation Engineer. He has now been working for LogiGear’s Testing Center of Excellence, and he is responsible for building and enhancing test automation frameworks as well as providing high quality testing services. Truong has great a passion for test automation. In his free time, Truong tinkers with new technologies for fun.

Thought on “Building a Selenium Framework from A to Z

  1. Wanted to know questions and answers for a senior automation engineer guy who has very good exp in selenium using C sharp.
    What are the expected questions?

  2. a good technique is used to understand the concept of framework………
    well appreciated……..
    thanks and keep updating……..

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