What is Automation Testing? Ultimate Guide & Best Practices


What is Automation Testing?

Automation testing is the process of automating the execution of test cases through scripts and/or specialized tools. Instead of having a human tester manually executing test case by test case, these scripts and tools directly command the Application Under Test (AUT) to perform all of the required actions, freeing up bandwidth for testers to focus more on more strategic activities.


The concept of Automation Testing is not strictly limited to the Execution phase, although it is generally understood and accepted in the testing community that automation testing means “automatically executing a test case”. Automation testing can actually be an umbrella term referring to the “automation of any testing activity across the testing life cycle”.


Check Out The Top Automated Testing Tools On The Market


Benefits of Automation Testing

Automation testing is the best way to enhance effectiveness, broaden test coverage, and improve execution speed in software testing. There are several reasons why Automation Testing is crucial:

  • Improved Accuracy: Automation testing reduces the likelihood of human errors as automated tests are designed to strictly follow a set of predefined steps. Automated tests eliminate the chances of human testers introducing errors like forgetting a certain step while executing the tests.
  • Increased Speed: Automated tests can run continuously, in parallel, 24/7, without the need for human intervention, further increasing the speed of test execution and reducing the overall testing time.
  • Consistency: A lack of testing consistency and standardization can result in missing important issues. In continuous testing scenarios, say triggering regular regression test runs, automation suites are indispensable. With automation testing, test cases are executed in exactly the same way every time they are run. They can also be run multiple times a day, ensuring that new issues are quickly identified and resolved, leading to improved confidence in the software quality.

    automation testing without coding
  • Cost Savings: Projects dealing with more advanced infrastructures or a variety of application types see the highest automation ROI. The costs of time, technologies and human resources are often the biggest blockers to automation adoption. Not only pertaining to software test automation, setting up and standardizing automated workflows don’t happen overnight. However, the long-term ROI in accuracy, speed, and consistency is guaranteed. Calculate your ROI if you start adopting test automation here
  • Enhanced Test Coverage: Automated test suites can be reused to run against multiple browsers, devices and operating systems combinations. Instead of performing the exact test steps over and over again, simply lock down the most common environment your users are accessing and press run. Using cloud environments is also an effective practice to test on older versions of browsers, devices and operating systems (e.g., iOS 13). 
    Read More: What is Katalon TestCloud? Learn how TestCloud helps you execute tests better
  • Improved Test Reusability: Once automated tests are created, they can be stored and reused across multiple systems with the click of a button, and testers do not need to spend time re-creating and executing tests for each testing cycle. 
  • Continuous Testing: Automated tests can be run frequently and at any stage of the development process, whether it's during the development phase, integration phase, or after deployment. They can even be integrated into the development pipeline, so that they are run automatically every time new changes are made to the software.

If you're a software business or an individual working in the digital industry, investing in automation testing will surely bring immense benefits to your product development process.


Ebook From manual to automation 5 esential steps.png

Challenges of Automation Testing

Of course, automation testing is not without its challenges. There is usually some compromise to be made when you want to increase testing speed. What’s important is whether that compromise is worth it or not.


According to the State of Quality Report 2024, the most prevalent challenge to automation testing is the team's lack of skills and experience in test automation, with up to 45% of respondents agreeing, followed by 38% thinking that requirements change too often, and another 26% claiming that test maintenance is costly. 


challenges of applying automation testing

→ Download the State of Quality Report 2024 to get the latest industry insights


Here are 5 major challenges of automation testing that you may very well encounter on your automation journey, and they can totally be resolved with the right approach:

1. Initial Investment

To automate, you at least need to invest into setting up the infrastructure for automation, and that can include:

  1. QA Talents with automation expertise and experience to develop automation scripts
  2. Infrastructure to facilitate the execution of automation scripts
  3. Training for the testing team (in terms of automation best practices and process)
  4. Bandwidth to maintain the automation scripts (as these scripts may break once code changes occur)
  5. If your team decides to go with a vendor-based automation testing tool, there is also the need for upfront investment into the tool.

The development of automation testing scripts is a challenge in itself. If you want to automate from scratch, testers must understand:

  1. Test libraries or functions (Selenium, JUnit, TestNG, Playwright, Appium, Rest Assured, etc.)
  2. Project and test artifact management structures
  3. Browser drivers
  4. Test design patterns and automation approach  (e.g., Page Object Model, Screenplay, Fluent)
  5. Coding standards (KISS, DRY, camelCasing)
  6. Test reports and execution logs

On the other hand, with an automation testing tool, these “building blocks” should come straight out-of-the-box, and testers can start testing immediately without any additional configuration. The only thing left to do is understand how to use the tool. Most of the time the complex parts of testing are already abstracted away, making it easy even for beginners to automate tests.

2. Some tests simply can’t be automated

A lot of industries are heading towards complete automation, and software testing is no exception. With the unprecedented growth of AI tech, we can expect a future of autonomous testing, where computers take full control of the testing process, and there will be little to no need for human intervention. However, it should be noted that some types of tests, by definition, can’t be automated.

Exploratory testing is an example. Testers simply examine the system-under-test manually. They freely interact with the system in whatever ways they want, making spontaneous decisions about what to test on the fly.

Exploratory testing helps testers discover new bugs, and this is a crucial point. We can’t automate the testing of bugs whose existence we are not aware of. Certain bugs require a complex series of events and interactions to trigger, and exploratory testing gives testers the freedom to “break” the system in unexpected ways to find those bugs.

Usability testing is another. It is also a manual type where testers evaluate the more human aspects of the system, such as user satisfaction or ease of use. Usually QA teams will choose a group of participants representing the user base of their system. These “testers” will interact with the system following the instructions of the team while providing feedback on their experience.

It is always recommended to take a hybrid approach: embrace automation testing, but have a little bit of manual testing in the mix to ensure that you are not missing out on those “hidden” bugs.

3. Maintenance overhead

To automate your testing is to continuously maintain your test scripts. Manual testing is simpler because you only have to record and manage the test results. However, with automation testing, you have a lot more items to work with:

  • A space to manage your test scripts
  • A space to manage test objects/artifacts
  • A dedicated test result logging system
  • Test data management

Another challenge is inflexibility. For example, a test script is created for a button on the Login page. A code update occurs and that button ID is changed, rendering the test script invalid. Testers must now update the test script to reflect the code change. As the system grows in complexity, the effort for test script maintenance also grows accordingly. Maintaining those scripts is a challenging task by itself.

Some automation tools introduce the Self-healing mechanism to combat this issue. Essentially you have a tool that can automatically identify and fix the broken code in the test script so that testers don’t have to manually update it. This reduces the workload of the automation team significantly so that they can focus more on other high-value tasks.


Read More: Self-healing Mechanism in Katalon

Which Test Cases To Automate?

The decision to automate a test case should be based on a careful consideration of the potential benefits and costs of its automation. Following test cases are ideal candidates for test automation:

  • Tests prone to failure due to human error
  • Monotonous and repetitive tests
  • Extensive tests utilizing multiple data sets
  • Tests not feasible for manual execution
  • Manually intensive tests taking significant time
  • Tests with high potential risk
  • Tests requiring execution on multiple hardware and software platforms

It is also important to note that not all test cases are suitable for automation. Test cases for which the requirements are frequently changing and test cases executed on an ad-hoc basis should not be automated due to their unpredictable nature.


Automation testing is extremely versatile with a wide multitude of use cases:

  • Industries: automated testing is widely used in many industries, most commonly being IT, eCommerce, Banking & Finance, Insurance, Telecommunications, Gaming, and even Education. Any industry with business models revolving around high functionality, stability, digital presence, or top-notch user experience can benefit tremendously by adopting automation testing.
  • Application Under Tests: Automation testing can be used to test various quality aspects of websites, mobile applications, desktop applications, and API. For example, tests to verify the functionality, performance, security and usability of a website can easily be automated. Mobile applications can be tested for compatibility with different operating systems, devices, and screen sizes.
  • Testing types: Testers can automate a wide range of testing types, including regression testing, acceptance testing, unit testing, or integration testing, to name a few. Read More: 15 Types of QA Testing
  • Testing environment: Automation testing can be used across different operating systems, browsers, and devices. 

If you don't know which test cases to start with, here are the list of popular test cases for you. They should give you a good foundation of how to approach a system as a tester. 

  1. Test Cases For API Testing
  2. Test Cases For Login Page
  3. Test Cases For Registration Page
  4. Test Cases For Banking Application
  5. Test Cases For E-commerce website
  6. Test Cases For Search Functionality

How To Do Automation Testing?

Software Testing Life Cycle by Katalon

1. Choose your approach

Similar to any other testing type, you first need to decide on the approach for your automation testing project. There are usually 2 main approaches:

  1. Use a test automation framework
  2. Use a test automation tool

Here is a quick table comparing the 2 approaches:


Test Automation Tool

Test Automation Framework

Level of Abstraction

Offers a higher level of abstraction, allowing users to automate tests without extensive programming knowledge.

Requires a certain level of programming expertise and understanding of coding principles.

Learning Curve

Typically has a lower learning curve, making it accessible to individuals with limited programming skills.

May have a steeper learning curve, as it requires a deeper understanding of automation principles and programming concepts.


Provides limited customization options, as users are bound by the features provided by the tool. However, many tools do offer Scripting mode along with low-code mode to increase customization level

Offers extensive customization and flexibility, allowing users to tailor the framework to specific project needs.

Ease of Initial Setup

Generally easier to set up, with user-friendly interfaces and wizards guiding users through the configuration process.

May involve a more complex initial setup, requiring expertise in designing and structuring the framework.

Resource Efficiency

Tends to be more resource-efficient, making it suitable for smaller projects with limited resources.

May be resource-intensive, requiring time, effort, and expertise.


Easier to maintain, as updates and changes are typically managed by the tool provider.

Requires regular maintenance

Integration with CI/CD

Often provides built-in integration capabilities with Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) systems.

Facilitates seamless integration with CI/CD systems but may require additional configurations and setup.

Community Support

Depending on the popularity of the tool, there may be a supportive community providing resources and assistance.

Frameworks usually have a robust community, offering resources, forums, and support for users.

In other words:

  • To best utilize a framework, you must have extensive coding knowledge yourself, and the effort to maintain test scripts is significant, but you can freely customize the framework to fit your specific testing needs
  • A testing tool doesn’t require coding so you can easily create tests much faster. You can switch to coding mode whenever you want (if the tool offers coding mode). Test maintenance is usually taken care of, which reduces the workload. However, you are bound by the features offered by the tool, so it is recommended to list out the features you want from a tool to select the one that best fits your demands.


Learn More About The Katalon Platform - All-in-one Testing Tool


2. Perform exploratory testing if necessary

If this is the first time you do automation testing for a certain system, you should first perform some exploratory testing to understand its features, so that you know what and where to test. There is really no rule to exploratory testing. It all depends on your intuition, domain knowledge, and experience. Target high-risk areas such as complex features with intricate workflows, recently modified code, integration points, etc. While you’re exploring, don’t forget to learn about the application structure. This should provide you with detailed information for the next step.


3. Define automation scope

Once you have understood the system, you can start defining where to automate. Read up on available documentation, and select suitable candidates for automation. We have listed out the top test cases to automate in the sections above. Apply that to your project and list out the items to start working on.


4. Choose your tool/framework

This depends on your approach. Here is a short list of popular tools/frameworks for you:

Top automation testing tools:

  1. Katalon: all-in-one automation testing platform for web/desktop/mobile/API supporting all testing activities
  2. Tricentis Tosca: popular enterprise automation testing tool
  3. TestComplete: automate functional UI testing for desktop, mobile, and web applications.

Top automation framework:

  1. Selenium: most popular web automation framework globally acclaimed by its users
  2. Appium: also a popular automation framework but more dedicated to mobile (Android/iOS)
  3. Cypress: Purely supporting JavaScript frameworks, Cypress is a developer-centric automation framework for end-to-end web testing


5. Prepare test environment

There will be clear hardware-software specifications for any testing projects, and that includes requirements on servers, databases, OS, browsers, and any third-party tools needed to perform the test. For example, if you want to test a Login page, you need to prepare the browsers (Chrome, Safari, Edge), devices in a wide variety of versions (desktop, tablet, laptop, mobile), Operating system with suitable versions, and even suitable network conditions.

With an automation testing tool, setting up test environments is fairly straightforward. In fact, all of the infrastructure maintenance is taken care of from the vendor side, and testers only have to choose the suitable environment to run on. There are usually 3 options to choose from: run tests locally with your device being the environment itself, run tests remotely, or run on-cloud leveraging a diverse set of cloud devices. For example, here is the list of test environment options in Katalon Studio.

execute test cases in Katalon Studio

6. Design test scripts

Now comes the fun part! It’s when you write your test scripts. If you go with a framework, you’ll need to write the script in a language of your choice. Automation frameworks generally support a wide range of languages to accommodate any testers.

With automation testing tools, you can have the best of both worlds. Let’s look at test creation modes in the Katalon Platform:

  • No-code: There is the Record-and-Playback feature, in which testers can record their on-screen manual actions and turn them into an automated test script that they can re-execute how many times they want. For example, here we have created a test script by manually recorded 8 test steps, from Open Browser to Verify Element Present. This test script can now be re-executed whenever we need.

    Record and Playback.png

  • Low-code: you get a library of Built-in Keywords, which are essentially just pre-written code snippets with customizable parameters designed to perform specific actions. For example, a keyword like “Click” would handle the internal logic to locate the element (e.g. a button) and perform the click action on it. The tester only needs to specify the element that they want to perform on, without having to worry about the underlying code.

built-in keywords in Katalon Studio for keyword-driven testing


  • Full-code: you can easily turn on the Scripting mode and write the test script as you would with an automation framework. You can switch between modes whenever you want. This means you get the convenience of creating tests quickly and the flexibility of full-on scripting.


Download Katalon and Witness its Power in Action


7. Implement test data management

Test data management is unfortunately ignored by many testers, but it plays a crucial role in facilitating the entire testing process. There are 3 major activities: creating, updating, and maintaining datasets. Many QA teams have leveraged AI for synthetic data generation, which you can learn more here.


8. ExecuteAnalyze results

With all that ready, you can start test execution and gather results.

test reporting features with Katalon

Why Test Automation Fails?

1. Lack of proper planning and strategy

Without a clear test plan and strategy, the testing process can become disorganized, resulting in the inability to identify and resolve defects in the software in a timely manner, leading to further problems down the line. 

The automation testing process should be planned and executed systematically following these steps:

  1. Determine the scope of automation: Identify the types of tests that are suitable for automation and which areas of the software require more attention. Define what you want to achieve with automation testing and how it aligns with your overall software development goals.
  2. Select the right tool: Choose the appropriate test automation tool that fits your needs and budget.
  3. Prepare test data: Organize, prepare, and manage data sets that will be used in the automation testing process. Read More: How To Achieve Scalable Test Data Management 
  4. Design & execute test cases: Write automated test cases that are easy to understand, maintain and provide clear feedback on test results, then run the tests and analyze the results to detect any failures or errors.
  5. Maintain and update tests: Foster good maintenance practices such as the page object model framework, test refactoring or tracking test flakiness. 
  6. Monitor and report results: Continuously monitor the results of the automated tests and report on their performance and effectiveness. If you’re not analyzing the test reports carefully, key faults might go unnoticed.

Read More: How To Write Automation Test Strategy? A Complete Guide For QA Teams

2. Insufficient understanding of the application under test

This understanding should include the application's functionality, behavior, and expected outcomes. The more familiar you are with the application, the easier it will be to identify which test cases are suitable for automation, especially the ones that are critical, time-consuming, and repetitive, and which test cases should be done manually.

To achieve this, you should:

  • Start by reading through the  and specifications of the application to know its purpose and functionality, as well as its components and dependencies.
  • Conduct exploratory testing on the application to familiarize yourself with its features and behaviors
  • Work closely with the development team to gain insights into the design and implementation of the application.

3. Not using cloud environments

Essentially, with on-cloud testing, QA teams can execute automated tests across a wide range of browsers and devices instead of investing into physical machines. This practice can bring the agility, flexibility, and cost savings needed to deliver high-quality software. Cloud testing environment can accurately simulate the real-world conditions in which the application will be used, minus the cost of setting up the right hardware-software configuration.


Not just that, testers can even schedule tests to run automatically at a predetermined time, which is ideal for regression testing, saving plenty of time and effort.


Katalon TestCloud to access a wide range of test environments

4. Lack of collaboration between development and testing teams

Automation testing requires close collaboration between development and testing teams. Both teams must work together to ensure that the testing process is integrated into the development process, and that any issues are quickly addressed. 

Recommended best practices include:

  1. Clearly define roles and responsibilities: Both teams need to understand what each other's role is, what they are responsible for, and what they can expect from each other.
  2. Joint planning and testing: Teams should work together to plan and execute tests, making sure that everyone is on the same page. This can help identify potential roadblocks early and ensure that testing is efficient and effective.
  3. Use a common toolset: Teams should use a common toolset for test planning, execution, and reporting. This can help improve collaboration, as everyone has access to the same information.

5. Wrong tool selection

The tool should be able to support the application being tested and the testing requirements. Selecting an inappropriate tool can result in test automation failure as well as inefficient use of testing budget. Some criteria for you to consider:

  • Compatibility: this automation testing tool should be compatible with your software development environment, including your operating system, programming language, and any other tools you are using.
  • Functionality: the tool should have the necessary functionalities to create, run, report and debug tests. Additionally, assess whether the tool’s strength (e.g., web UI testing) matches with your testing needs most.
  • Scalability: it should be scalable to meet the demands of your testing needs, both now and in the future, as your software evolves and grows.
  • Integration: it should also be able to integrate with other tools you are using, such as your bug tracking system or continuous integration platform, to help streamline your testing process.
  • Support: there should be good customer support and a vibrant community, with resources such as forums, online tutorials, and knowledge bases 
  • Security: the tool should have adequate security measures in place to protect your data and ensure that your tests are performed securely.

Don't know what tool to use to automate your test cases? Check out our reviews on the top testing tools on the current market. Once adopted, these tools can truly change the way you approach and do your tests:

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, automation testing is a critical component of any software development process. It ensures the quality and reliability of applications while reducing the time and effort required to perform manual testing. With the right tools and approach, organizations can improve the speed and accuracy of their testing, catch bugs earlier in the development cycle, and ultimately deliver better products to their customers. 


Your Automation Testing Journey Starts Here