Yet another software testing pyramid

A fellow ThoughtWorker James Crisp recently wrote an interesting article about his take on an automated test pyramid.

Some of the terminology he used was interesting, which is what I believe led to some questioning comments and a follow up article by another fellow ThoughtWorker, Dean Cornish, who stated the pyramid “oversimplifies a complex problem of how many tests you need to reach a point of feeling satisfied about your test coverage“.

I believe that one of the most unclear areas of James’s pyramid is the use of the term Acceptance tests, which James equates to roughly 10% of the automated test suite. One commenter stated these should instead be called functional tests, but as James points out, aren’t all tests functional in nature? I would also argue that all tests are about acceptance (to different people), so I would rephrase the term to express what is being tested, which in his case is the GUI.

The other fundamental issue I see with James testing pyramid is that it is missing exploratory/session based testing. The only mention of exploratory testing is when James states ‘if defects come to light from exploratory testing, then discover how they slipped through the testing net’, but I feel this could be better represented on the pyramid. Exploratory, or session based testing, ensures confidence in the automated tests that are being developed and run. Without it, an automated testing strategy is fundamentally flawed. That’s why I include it in my automated testing pyramid as the Eye of Providence (I originally got the ‘eye’ idea from another ThoughtWorker Darren Smith).

Show me the Pyramid

Without further ado, here’s my automated test pyramid. It shows what the automated tests use to test: being the GUI, APIs, Integration Points, Components & Units. I’ve put dotted lines between components, integration points and APIs, as these are similar and it might be a case of testing not all of these.

Another way of looking at this, is looking at the intention of the tests. Manual exploratory tests and automated GUI tests are business facing, in that they strive to answer the question: “are we building the right system?”. Unit, integration and component tests are technology facing, in that they strive to answer the question: “are we building the system right?”. So, another version of the automated testing pyramid could simply plot these two styles of tests on the pyramid, showing that you’ll need more technology facing than business facing automated tests, as the business facing tests are more difficult to maintain.


By removing the term acceptance, and showing what the automated tests test, I believe the first automated test pyramid shows a solid approach to automated testing. Acceptance tests and functional tests can be anywhere in the pyramid, but you should limit your GUI tests, often by increasing your unit test coverage.

The second pyramid is another way to view the intention of the tests, but I believe both resolve most of the issues Dean has with James’s pyramid. Additionally they both include manual session based testing, a key ingredient in an automated test strategy that should be shown on the pyramid so it is not forgotton.

I welcome your feedback.

Watir-WebDriver: A detailed introduction

Update: 22 August 2011: Please see: for a detailed guide to Watir-WebDriver

Update: 22 July 2011: I have updated quite a number of things that have changed since the earlier releases

Watir-WebDriver is a really great tool; Jari Bakken‘s done a really good job of it. There’s not a huge amount on the web about it, how to get it up and running and use it. I’m aiming to fix that here.

For those who don’t know what Watir-WebDriver is, it’s basically a nice Watir (ruby) implementation on WebDriver, so it gives you four browsers (three real, one headless) using one neat API, out of the box. The thing I like about it is you don’t need to use JRuby (like Celerity), which means it plays nice with Cucumber (although Cucumber does work under JRuby).

I’ve written about how Watir, WebDriver and Selenium all fit together before, so this post aims to be a lot more hands-on.

Getting Watir-WebDriver Running

There are essentially two components you need: the Watir-WebDriver ruby gem, and the remote WebDriver server. The remote WebDriver server is only needed if you want to run your tests in headless mode without a real browser (or want to use Opera). You obviously need ruby first but I won’t detail that here. You can find info about ruby versions etc. at If you’re on Mac or Linux, I strongly suggest using RVM and bundler.

The Watir-WebDriver ruby gem

It’s a simple matter of opening a command prompt and typing:

  • gem install watir-webdriver (windows); or
  • sudo gem install watir-webdriver (osx or linux – better to use RVM and bundler)

The remote WebDriver Server

This is the slightly tricky part. This is so that WebDriver can run headless without a real browser, and isn’t needed for real browser support (bar Opera). The quickest easiest way to get up and running is to download this java jar file, open a command prompt where you have saved it, and run:

java -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.0b1.jar

You can also specify the startup and max memory allocated, which is handy when running large test suites.

java -Xms1024M -Xmx2048M -jar selenium-server-standalone-2.0a7.jar

You need to have this java server running whenever using WebDriver, but it’s easy enough to bootstrap it.

Update: Jari has pointed out you can run the server programmatically which is even better:

require 'selenium/server'
server ="/path/to/jar", :background => true)
# run your tests

First Impressions

Waiting in Watir-WebDriver doesn’t seem as straightforward as with Watir, probably due to the underlying drivers, but fortunately there’s an inbuilt waiting library to use (also available in Watir 1.6.7+):

  • Watir::Wait.until { ... }: where you can wait for a block to be true
  • object.when_present.set: where you can do something when it’s present
  • object.wait_until_present:; where you just wait until something is present
  • object.wait_while_present:; where you just wait until something disappears

Hello Watir-WebDriver

It seems pertinent to start with a google search example.

Hello Watir-WebDriver in three browsers

These three browsers seem to work very similarly, but obviously Internet Explorer will only run on Microsoft Windows.

require 'rubygems'
require 'watir-webdriver'
b = :chrome
b.goto ''
b.text_field(:name => 'q').set 'Watir-WebDriver'
b.button(:name => 'btnG').click
b.div(:id => 'resultStats').wait_until_present
puts "Displaying page: '#{b.title}' with results: '#{b.div(:id => "resultStats").text}'"

The only difference for Firefox:

b = :firefox

The only difference for IE:

b = :ie

Hello Watir-WebDriver in Headless (HTML Unit)

I imagine this is the most anticipated feature for Watir users, as it means your tests run much faster, and you can still use ruby (unlike Celerity which uses JRuby). The script is fairly straightforward, you simply specify the hostname for your WebDriver server you started above. You need to specifically enable JavaScript by creating a capabilities profile.

require 'rubygems'
require 'watir-webdriver'
include Selenium
capabilities = WebDriver::Remote::Capabilities.htmlunit(:javascript_enabled => true)
b =, :url => '', :desired_capabilities => capabilities)
b = :firefox
b.goto ""
b.text_field(:name => "q").set "Watir-WebDriver"
b.button(:name => "btnG").click
b.div(:id => "resultStats").wait_until_present
puts "Displaying page: '#{b.title}' with results: '#{b.div(:id => "resultStats").text}'"

Sample Timings

As an experiment, I looped the Google Search script above 100 times to measure and compare the execution times.

  • Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7: 400 seconds
  • Firefox 3.6 on Mac OSX: 277 seconds
  • Headless HTMLUnit on Mac OSX: 269 seconds

Very surprisingly, the headless run wasn’t much quicker at all. This may be due to running the test on Google over the Internet and not a local application.

Caveat Emptor

There are a number of differences between Watir-WebDriver and Watir. The main ones that are important to me are:

Zero based indexing as opposed to 1 based

For example,

In Watir/FireWatir: this finds the first table on a page:

puts b.table(:index => 1).text

But in Watir-WebDriver, it finds the second table on a page.

Attaching to windows
Attaching to new windows (for example pop-ups) has been fairly straightforward in Watir with its attach method, which is missing in Watir-WebDriver. It looks like you can iterate through a collection of windows in Watir-WebDriver using, but I haven’t tried this out yet.


Watir-WebDriver is a very solid testing tool that uses a great browser automation engine (WebDriver) with a clean ruby API (Watir). I believe it will be a popular choice amongst testing teams, particually those using it for ATDD through Cucumber and running it as headless on a continuous integration server.

Further Reading

Elegantly handling basic browser authentication with Watir

In programming, I find there’s little that compares to the feeling of deleting code; like finding a one or two-line solution that means you can remove a good-sized chunk of code no longer needed.

A fellow ThoughtWorker (who I shall call the Awesome-est Tom™) showed me a solution to handling the basic browser authentication in Internet Explorer, which effectively meant I could delete lines and lines of ruby code that called the AutoIt dll to handle the modal authentication dialog.

Internet Explorer Basic Authentication Dialog
Internet Explorer Basic Authentication Dialog

The code I had was loosely based upon the solutions available on the Watir wiki, all which roughly use the same technique of locating and authenticating the authentication dialog using AutoIt. Because the dialog is modal, the code I had used to run in a separate thread, and this caused me problems with debugging, and I find if I can avoid AutoIt, then my Watir tests run a lot more reliably.

Tom’s Occam’s Razor solution simply embeds the username and password in the URL that usually triggers an authentication dialog.

Instead of using:

Watir::Browser.start ""

you use:

Watir::Browser.start ""

This means you don’t see the authentication dialog at all! No more messy AutoIt code. The only tricky part is ensuring that Internet Explorer allows you to do this. Since Internet Explorer 6, this has been disabled by default, but it’s a simple matter of enabling the functionality by setting two registry keys.

This can easily be done running a .reg file you can create, that sets the required values:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

You then run this file from the command line: regedit.exe /s IESecurityURL.reg and Robert is your father’s brother.

Running Watir reliably on a CI machine

I’ve found that Watir generally works well when running under Windows on a Continuous Integration machine (for example, Hudson or TeamCity) but if you use any of the autoit stuff to handle things like security authentication dialogs, it can fail when the machine is locked or not actively logged in.

I’ve found two ways to ensure Watir reliably runs tests without issues.

Run Caffeine to stop the machine locking or screensaver activating

Your Windows sys-admin might not like this one, but caffeine is a tiny executable that’s perfect for ensuring your Windows machine never locks or activates its screensaver, by simulating a keypress every 59 seconds. It’s a matter of installing it and a coffee cup appears in the tray to show you you’re machine is now on caffeine!

Use a command to release any remote desktop sessions to console

Caffeine works well, but if you use remote desktop to control the machine, when you disconnect, the machine will be locked and this will cause problems. What you need tp do is create a batch file, on your desktop say, that releases the RDP connection to console, so it’s ready to run any watir tests. The command you’ll need in the batch file is:

cmd.exe /Q /C "%windir%\System32\tscon.exe 0 /dest:console"

By using the combination of the above items, it’s easy to set up a reliable suite of Watir tests to run on a CI machine that you can easily remote into to see what is running when needed.

Dismissing pesky JavaScript dialogs with Watir

Dismissing JavaScript dialogs has historically been an issue when using Watir, demonstrated by the lengthy JavaScript Pop Ups wiki page full of complex, messy code with multiple sleep statements and polling to dismiss these pesky things.

Recently a fellow ThoughtWorker showed me a much simpler and more elegant solution, which he had learned off another ThoughtWorker.

It simply overrides the JavaScript function being called and returns true always, so the dialog never appears.

b.execute_script "window.alert = function() { return true; }"

The beauty of this solution is you don’t need to use problematic click_no_wait method like all the other solutions available, and you can override any JavaScript function, including the three types of dialogs.

require 'watir'
b = Watir::Browser.start ""
b.execute_script "window.confirm = function() { return true; }"
b.execute_script "window.alert = function() { return true; }"
b.execute_script "window.prompt = function() { return true; }"
b.button(:value => 'confirm').click

The downside is it only works in Internet Explorer at the moment; I am trying to work out why it doesn’t work in FireWatir.

I’ll update the wiki page to include this solution so other don’t waste time on complex polling techniques.

Update: 6 Nov 2010

Jarmo Pertman has written an excellent follow up post to this one, where he talks in more detail about what values you should return. You should check it out.

Thoughts on Thoughtworks Australia Team Hug September 2010

I haven’t started yet at Thoughtworks (it’s still a week away), so I felt very privileged to be invited to the the bi-annual Thoughtworks Australia Team Hug over the weekend in country Victoria.

The weekend consisted of a series of talks and heaps of fun. I really enjoyed the talks by Martin Fowler on DSLs (Domain Specific Languages) and Chris Bushell on how to avoid branching code which was interesting as it relates to the new focus on Continuous Delivery.  I also enjoyed the two Dev-Ops talks, one frightening story by Tom Sulston and a much calmer one by Evan Bottcher. I need to look more closely into the Twist automated testing tool after seeing a demonstration of its features.

Besides the talks, there was a great Wild West themed party on Saturday night, complete with a photo booth that produced lots of hilarious photos. I dressed up as a cowboy, complete with chaps, boots, hat and guns. People went to huge effort in getting dressed up, there was even someone in a giant cow costume!

I managed to fit in a nice morning stroll on Sunday morning to enjoy the fresh country air and surroundings, which was very pleasant as I live in the city-city.

It was a great introduction to Thoughtworks culture and people and an all round enjoyable event.

A ThoughtWorker to be

I’ve recently accepted an opportunity with Thoughtworks, who are setting up a presence here in Brisbane, Australia.

I am thrilled to be offered this opportunity to work for a company who is passionate about revolutionizing IT and is so well aligned with my values and ideas. I found the Thoughtworks recruitment process to be very thorough, whilst not over the top, and actually enjoyable. This is because it gave me a great insight into the company as I got to meet a lot of thoughtworkers, and I felt very confident to  accept the job offer without any reservations. Thoughtworks thoroughness in assessing candidate’s technical ability and aptitude also made me confident that I will be working with other very capable individuals.

I look forward to beginning at Thoughtworks in mid-September as a Senior QA Consultant, and in the meantime I will be having a short break with my family.