What is Test Automation Framework? All You Should Know


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Any software must undergo some kind of testing before getting into the hands of end-users. Thus, software testing is an essential part of any software development process. It ensures the delivery of flawless and quality software products to users.

Business-critical software requires rigorous testing before delivery, often conducted as automated testing with the help of test automation frameworks. These frameworks play a key role when it comes to automated testing.

This guide offers you a deep understanding of test automation frameworks, including different framework types, their importance in software testing, components, etc. Here, we also look into the well-known Selenium automation framework and its Hybrid framework

Before diving deeper into the test automation frameworks, let’s grasp the concept of a framework.

What is a Framework?

A framework is a set of defined guidelines and best practices that should be systematically followed to accomplish the expected outcomes. Hence, we have to deal with these guidelines and practices set by specific automation frameworks to fulfill our automation goals.

What is a test automation framework?

A test automation framework is a collection of tools and guidelines that aid the design, creation, and execution of test cases. These guidelines include coding standards, practices, and processes for handling test data, treating object repositories, etc., which are essential for automated testing.

Software development is a continuous cycle where a particular phase occurs repeatedly. So do testing. For instance, once developers release a new version or fix some bugs discovered in production, the software needs to be tested again. In that case, repeatedly running the whole and the same set of test cases manually will be a tedious task. Automation frameworks come with a set of tools that let you easily codify manual testing efforts as a program. So whenever you need to test a specific feature, you can simply run that program. This way, automation frameworks will bring significant benefits for users, such as high code reusability, increased portability, and reduced script maintenance efforts and costs.

Importance of test automation frameworks in software testing

A framework acts as a technical implementation guideline for automated testing. Utilizing an automation testing framework will undoubtedly boost the test speed and efficiency of your testing team. Moreover, they will improve the accuracy of testing while minimizing risks.

Code reusability is another major plus of these test automation frameworks. They not only allow testers to reuse code in different scenarios but also help them create test cases in a standard format.

Following is a list of benefits you can gain through test automation frameworks.

Establishing a well-defined strategy among different test suites
Improved testing speed
Code reusability
The ability to precisely test URLs or applications
The ability to maintain test code easily
Reduced code maintenance costs
High test coverage
Minimum manual intervention
The ability to achieve constant testing and delivery of software

Types of test automation frameworks

Since we now have a basic idea of test automation frameworks, let’s move on to see the different test automation framework types in the market. Basically, there are seven types of automation frameworks, each with distinct architectures, pros, and cons.

1. Linear automation frameworks
2. Data-driven frameworks
3. Modular testing frameworks
4. Library architecture testing frameworks
5. Keyword-driven testing frameworks
6. Hybrid testing frameworks
7. Behavior Driven Development Framework

Linear automation frameworks

This is the simplest and most commonly used framework type for testing small-scale applications. These frameworks are also known as Record and playback frameworks. Linear frameworks allow you to create and execute test scripts individually for each test case. The tester manually records each step of user behavior, such as navigation and user inputs, and adds checkpoints in the first round. Then he plays back the recorded scripts in the following rounds.

Linear automation frameworks do not require testers to write custom code. Thus, they can be used by anyone even who doesn’t have much expertise in test automation. These frameworks provide an easy way to create test scripts by allowing testers to record them faster. Moreover, the test workflow is easily understandable for anyone involved in the testing as the test scripts are arranged in sequential order.

The major downside of linear frameworks is test data being hardcoded in the test script, preventing the ability to re-run those test cases with different test data. Maintaining test scripts is also difficult as application changes will require a lot of modifications to them.

Modular testing frameworks

These frameworks allow testers to create module-wise test cases, breaking down the complete application into smaller modules. This module-wise segregation of test scripts results in easy maintenance and scalability of test code. Furthermore, it allows you to write individual test scripts independent of other modules.

However, users must spend more time analyzing test cases and finding reusable flows with modular testing frameworks. Besides, the hardcoded test data makes it impossible to utilize the test scripts with different test data sets. These frameworks also require coding knowledge to set up the framework.

Data-driven frameworks

These frameworks aim to decouple the logic of the test scripts from test data. Thus users can create and execute automated test scripts by passing various test data sets. These test data can be stored in external files and resources such as spreadsheets, XML files, MS Access, and SQL databases. Testers can obtain the test data by connecting the test script with these external resources.

Data-driven frameworks significantly reduce the number of required test scripts compared to modular frameworks. Besides, the ability to reuse test cases offers more test coverage and flexibility. Users can run tests only when necessary by simply changing the test data. Thus, these frameworks enable testing much faster, saving time.

However, one major drawback is the need for sound programming knowledge to write test cases using these frameworks. Furthermore, it will take a significant amount of time to set up these frameworks.

Keyword-driven testing frameworks

These frameworks are also known as table-driven testing. Here, we define keywords/ action words for each executable method in a spreadsheet using a table format. Then, the automated test scripts are run based on the keywords defined in the spreadsheet. The logic for reading keywords and calling the necessary methods is included in the main class.

These frameworks support code reusability by allowing the use of a single keyword across multiple test scripts. They also require minimal coding knowledge to utilize the framework. Furthermore, they allow creating test scripts independent of the application to be tested.

However, implementing this framework is complex and time-consuming, with a high initial cost. These frameworks are appropriate for testing only small apps and projects.

Hybrid testing frameworks

As the name implies, hybrid frameworks can be referred to as a blend of two or more framework types mentioned above. They help leverage the strengths of specific framework types while mitigating any drawbacks.

These hybrid frameworks are often used by manual testers who don’t have much expertise in programming. They can simply refer to the keywords, test data and object repositories and go ahead with creating test cases without the need for any coding.

Behavior Driven Development Framework

Behavior-driven development frameworks aim to create a platform that allows anyone, including developers, business analysts, and testers, to be actively involved in the testing process. Thus, they enhance the collaboration between developers and testers of your team. The major plus of this framework type is the ability to use non-technical, natural language to write test specifications.

However, users need to have good technical skills and previous experience with test-driven development to utilize this type of framework. As you can see, the above test automation framework types have their own strengths and weaknesses. Thus, choosing the right framework type is essential when preparing a test plan for your automation project.

What is the Selenium Framework?

Selenium is a leading open-source test automation framework for web application testing. This framework consists of a set of test automation tools built on the JavaScript framework.

Selenium enables testers to speed up their testing by providing an interface to write test scripts. These scripts can be written in various languages such as C#, PHP, Python, Ruby, and JavaScript. Users can create their own automation tests for different browser and OS combinations using Selenium.

The Selenium ecosystem consists of the following four major components.

1. Web Driver

The Selenium web driver is a browser automation tool that allows you to perform cross-browser testing. It is the most important component of the Selenium test suite.

The web driver accepts requests and sends them to the browser over a protocol that adheres to the W3C standard. This communication happens via a browser-specific driver. This browser- specific driver directly communicates with the browser and manages it.

Selenium web driver is compatible with multiple programming languages like C#, Python, Java, PHP, JavaScript, Perl, and Ruby. Testers can use Webdriver with Selenium grid to run tests on remote systems.

2. Selenium IDE

This is one of the oldest and simplest versions of Selenium which is mainly a Firefox plugin. It provides a full integrated development environment for Selenium tests. This IDE comes with a record playback feature for facilitating functional tests. You will have to integrate Selenium Web driver or RC with this IDE to create a more sophisticated framework.

This web driver performs faster than Selenium RC as it directly communicates with the browser.

3. Selenium Grid

Selenium Grid is a tool used along with Selenium RC. It supports conducting tests on different combinations of browsers and OSs parallelly. It routes the commands the clients send to remote browser instances and thereby enables executing web driver scripts on remote machines.

4. Selenium RC

Selenium RC is also another essential component of the Selenium test suite. It is a server built with Java, which accepts commands for the browsers through HTTP. Selenium RC allows testers to write test cases in various programming languages.

Selenium RC helps overcome many drawbacks of Selenium IDE and Selenium Core. However, it performs slower than the Web Driver as it communicates with the browser through an additional JavaScript layer called Selenium Core.

Advantages of Selenium

This framework is highly customizable, adaptable, and compatible with all the major browsers, Operating systems, and test frameworks. It has made Selenium the de-facto choice when it comes to automation testing, even after 16 years of its invention.

The code structure of the Selenium framework supports code reusability and provides high code readability while allowing easy code maintenance. It also enables multiple users to work on the same software module.

Moreover, Selenium has a user-friendly interface that facilitates easy creation and execution of tests. Its open-source nature allows users to create their own extensions that support integration of customized actions and manipulating them at a high level. Selenium tests run directly on browsers and users can watch as they progress.

Features of Selenium automation framework

Following are some notable features of the Selenium framework.

1. Cross-browser compatibility
Selenium supports almost all the major browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera. You can launch any browser using simple commands.

2. Support for multiple programming languages
Selenium allows users to write test cases in various programming languages like C#, Java, Python, PHP, and Perl.

3. High speed and fast execution
Selenium directly communicates with the browser without the need for an intermediate server. Thus, it offers outstanding performance in automation testing.

4. Compatibility with different Operating systems
Test scripts created in the Selenium web driver can be run on various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and macOS.

5. Support for parallel testing
The ability to conduct parallel testing not only reduces the time spent on testing but also improves the efficiency of tests.

6. The ability to perform different kinds of tests
Selenium enables automation of many testing types such as regression testing, unit testing, and automated browser testing.

7. Portability and open-source nature
The open-source nature of Selenium is one of its biggest advantages. You can freely download Selenium through its official website.

8. Not requiring server installation
The selenium web driver eliminates the need for server installation by directly communicating with the browser.

9. Support for CI/CD
Users can integrate Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines with Selenium to adopt DevOps practices in automated testing.

10. Minimum hardware resource usage
Selenium uses very low hardware resources than other automation frameworks such as QTP, SilkTest, and UFT.

Selenium has even more cool features to offer with its latest release, Selenium 4. Selenium is also the base framework for many other popular frameworks such as TestNG, WebDriver.IO, Nightwatch, and Junit.

Limitations of Selenium

1. The need for expertise and resources
Users need to have sound knowledge, technical skills and experience to work with
Selenium and its sub frameworks. Furthermore testers should be familiar with the
architecture of the Selenium framework to fully utilize its features.

2. No support for Desktop applications
Selenium mainly works in the web domain and doesn't support the automation of Desktop applications.

3. No built-in support for mobile automation.
Selenium itself doesn’t support the automation of mobile applications. Testers need to depend on Appium to automate Android and iOS apps with Selenium through a
WebDriver Protocol.

4. Not providing any test management tool
Test management tools are useful for monitoring the execution of test cases and storing data when it comes to testing complex web applications.So many test automation tools come with built-in test management tools to simplify testing of complex apps. Yet, Selenium still lacks such a test management tool.

5. The need for highly skilled testers
Selenium requires engineers with high skill sets to conduct automation effectively and utilize the full capabilities of the framework.

6. Not having a built-in reporting facility
Reporting is a must-have feature in any test automation framework. Yet, Selenium still doesn’t have its own reporting capabilities and relies on third-party frameworks like Cucumber and TestNG for report generation.

7. The inability to provide accurate results with dynamic web elements
There are some dynamic web elements that are not immediately visiblewhen the web
page loads. Selenium finds it difficult to handle this kind of dynamic elements.

8. Selenium has difficulty in dealing with frames and popups.
Selenium doesn’t support automating native popup windows generated by the Windows operating system.

9. Not automating captcha and barcodes
Selenium is unable to handle captcha and barcodes. While there are a few third party
tools to integrate with Selenium for automating captcha, they don’t guarantee accurate results.

10. Limited support for image testing

Components of Test Automation Frameworks

Building and maintaining an effective test automation framework is the key to the success of any test automation project. A test automation framework comprises six major components to perform automated testing successfully. Let’s see what they are:

1. A system to be tested
The target system is the initial component of a testing framework. However, the subsystems of the system must be stable to get the desired output from automated testing. Furthermore, these subsystems must function properly as a whole before starting the automated testing.

2. Testing platform
The testing platform is the network infrastructure on which the application will be tested. A proper network setup should be implemented to carry out automation testing. It will include servers, routers, switches, hubs, and configuration management utilities that are essential for setting up the test environment and executing test cases.

3. Test case libraries
Various tools are required to create test cases. A few examples of these tools include test automation tools, support tools, traffic generation, monitoring tools, etc. It is crucial to integrate test automation tools with support tools for automatically reporting the captured defects of failed test cases. A support tool called the Test Factory is capable of providing trends and result patterns of automated testing.

4. Automated testing practices
It is vital to document how to automate test cases utilizing test case libraries and tools. It is also recommended to maintain a standard test case template for automated testing. It will ensure consistency across all automated test cases created by different testers. Preparing a list of all the utilities with guidelines on how to use them will improve the efficiency of testing. In addition, the procedure for maintaining test case libraries must be documented.

5. Testing tools
Various tools are required to create test cases. A few examples of these tools include test automation tools, support tools, traffic generation and monitoring tools, etc. Integrating test automation tools with support tools is crucial for automatically reporting the captured defects of failed test cases. A support tool called the Test Factory is capable of providing trends and result patterns of automated testing.

6. Test administrator
Test administrator is the person who is responsible for carrying out automated testing. He is responsible for the following tasks.

Managing test platforms, tools, and test case libraries.
Providing guidelines for testing
Maintaining a collection of templates
Assisting testers in writing test scripts using test case libraries.
Providing documentation guides to the new users of tools and collaborating with vendors and users of the tool.

What is Hybrid Framework in Selenium?

Selenium has different types of frameworks to meet the needs of various automation projects.
Selenium web driver has three types of frameworks to automate test cases.
Keyword-driven test framework
Data-driven test framework
Hybrid test framework

In this section, we’ll discuss only the Hybrid framework in Selenium.

The Hybrid framework is a combination of data-driven and keyword-driven frameworks and may also include any of the framework types discussed earlier. It utilizes different structures of these individual frameworks and integrates them to build a more effective framework.

Here, the keywords and test data are both retrieved from external sources. Users will maintain keywords in a separate Java class file while using spreadsheets to maintain test cases. They can use the TestNG framework as the data provider for test data.

This hybrid framework of Selenium is much similar to the keyword-driven framework. There’s nothing to update rather than simply replacing the ExecuteTest.java file with the HybridExecuteTest.java file. This HybridExecuteTest.java file contains all the code for the keywords along with the data provider concept.


In the current fast-paced software development lifecycles, test automation plays an
indispensable role in maintaining the speed and productivity of software testing. Automation frameworks further simplify this job by providing an ideal environment for developing and executing test cases. When selecting an automation framework for your project, you should look for one with great flexibility and support for an extensive range of applications and languages. It will enable your team members to effectively contribute to the testing process, regardless of
their background or skill set.