AMA: more details about our JS e2e tests

Satyajit Malugu asks…

Saw your recent post on JS vs Ruby. As a recent migrant from Ruby to JS for mobile test automation – couple of questions 1) how are you doing page objects (ES6 works too) 2) Are you able to run your E2E tests in parallel? 3)Is there anything like binding.pry for debugging JS whilst execution?)

My response…

  1. This post explains how we’re doing our page objects in ES6, and since all our e2e tests are open source, you can see for yourself :)
  2. We use CircleCI which supports parallel test execution, which I enabled in the past, but it’s currently disabled as it was consuming too many build containers which are shared across our organization. Since we have a lot more containers available now I have it on my list to renable these.
  3. I believe WebStorm supports debugging Node Mocha tests; I’ve been meaning to investigate this over console.log statements; I’ll report back when I get around to it.

AMA: R.Y.O. Page Objects 2.0

Michael Karlovich asks…

Do you have any updated thoughts on rolling your own page objects with Watir? The original post is almost 4 years old but is still the basis (loosely) of every page object framework I’ve built since then.

My response…

Wow, I can’t believe that post is almost four years old. I have also have used this for the basis of every page object framework I have built since then.

I recently had a look at our JavaScript (ES2015) code of page objects and despite ES2015 not having meta-programming support like ruby, our classes are remarkably similar to what I was proposing ~4 years ago.

I believe this is because some patterns are classic and therefore almost timeless, they can be applied over and over again to different contexts. There’s a huge amount of negativity towards best practices of late, but I could seriously say that page objects are a best practise for test automation of ui systems, which isn’t saying they will be exactly the same in every context, but there’s a common best-practice pattern there which you most likely should be using.

Page objects, as a pattern, typically:

  • Inherit from a base page object/container which stores common actions like:
    • instantiating the object looking for a known element that defines that page’s existence
    • optionally allow a ‘visit’ to the page during instantiation using some defined URL/path
    • provides actions and properties common to all pages, for example: waiting for the page, checking the page is displayed, getting the title/url of the page, and checking cookies and local storage items for that page;
  • Define actions as methods which are ways of interacting with that page (such as logging in);
  • Do not expose internals about the page outside the page – for example they typically don’t expose elements or element selectors which should only be used within actions/methods for that page which are exposed; and
  • Can also be modelled as components for user interfaces that are built using components to give greater reusability of the same components across different pages.

The biggest benefit I have found from using page objects as a pattern is having more deterministic end-to-end tests since instantiating a page I know I am on that page, so my tests will fail more reliably with a better understanding of what went wrong.

Are there any other pattern attributes you would consider vital for page objects?

AMA: Page Object Best Practices

Anonymous asks..

What do you think is best practice for storing element locations? I’ve heard about having an “Element map”, a single place where all element IDs or methods for location are stored. Is that a good idea? Should each Page Object have it’s own element map?

My response…

First let me preface my answer with a quote:

“best practices are useful reference points, but they must come with a warning label: the more you rely on external intelligence, the less you will value an internal idea. And this is the age of the idea”

~  Gyan Nagpal, Talent Economics

I tend to store the element locators, or selectors, in the page objects themselves. Typically if I am going to use an element locator more than once within a page object I will store this as a property of the page object, otherwise I will just use it within a method.

So I would typically do this in ES6:

import { By } from 'selenium-webdriver';
import config from 'config';

import BaseContainer from '../base-container.js';
import * as driverHelper from '../driver-helper.js';

export default class LoginPage extends BaseContainer {
	constructor( driver, visit ) {
		const loginURL = `${config.get( 'authURL' )}?redirect_to=${config.get( 'baseURL' )}`;
		super( driver, By.css( '#loginform' ), visit, loginURL );

	login( username, password ) {
		driverHelper.setWhenSettable( this.driver, By.css( '#user_login' ), username );
		driverHelper.setWhenSettable( this.driver, By.css( '#user_pass' ), password, { secureValue: true } );
		return driverHelper.clickWhenClickable( this.driver, By.css( '#wp-submit' ) );


import { By } from 'selenium-webdriver';
import config from 'config';

import BaseContainer from '../base-container.js';
import * as driverHelper from '../driver-helper.js';

export default class LoginPage extends BaseContainer {
	constructor( driver, visit ) {
		const loginURL = `${config.get( 'authURL' )}?redirect_to=${config.get( 'baseURL' )}`;
		super( driver, By.css( '#loginform' ), visit, loginURL );
		this.userNameSelector = By.css( '#user_login' );
		this.passwordSelector = By.css( '#user_pass' );
		this.submitSelector = By.css( '#wp-submit' );

	login( username, password ) {
		driverHelper.setWhenSettable( this.driver, this.userNameSelector, username );
		driverHelper.setWhenSettable( this.driver, this.passwordSelector, password, { secureValue: true } );
		return driverHelper.clickWhenClickable( this.driver, this.submitSelector );

Although I would use the second style (properties) if I had a second method that used the same element locators.

Anonymous also asks..

When creating a new instance of a Page Object, should there be any validation that you’re a) on the correct page and/or b) the correct elements exist? From what I understand, best practice is to keep assertions in the actual tests. Should an error be thrown if I create a LoginPage object but the login page isn’t displayed?

I like to do b) as I find it keeps tests very deterministic meaning if you know at all times you’re on the correct page, then it’s easier to work out when things go wrong. This also works well for single page applications since the DOM ready state doesn’t necessarily mean the page is loaded, so passing in an element you expect you can poll for its existence.

Other ways to check you’re on the right page would be to check the browser title and/or URL but I have found these aren’t as reliable for example the title might be translated and change depending on your locale, and the URL might be dynamic or not change for each dynamic page update.

In the above examples, the base container that all pages/components extend requires an element locator which it uses to check that page exists within a given explicit wait time. It also optionally takes visit and url parameters which allows you to navigate to the page in the browser before checking that the element exists. This is only used for specific pages like login.

WebDriverJS & Mocha Part 3: Page Objects

I recently shared how to get started with WebDriverJS and Mocha, and how to use hooks.

This post continues on from there: I will share how to set up our own page objects to model our application for maintainability.

Continue reading “WebDriverJS & Mocha Part 3: Page Objects”

Roll your own page objects

There seems to be a lot of focus being put into page object ruby gems at the moment. Cheezy has done a fantastic job of the aptly named page-object that supports Watir-Webdriver and Selenium-Webdriver, and then there’s the more recent site_prism (also fantastic) by Nat Ritmeyer that works with Capybara. Before these two came along, I even wrote my own; the now retired watir-page-helper gem.

The premise of these gems is they make it super easy to create page objects for your ruby automated testing projects. But today I want to discuss another crazy idea with you: do you even need a gem at all to do page objects?


I recently refactored some automated tests that Chris McMahon wrote as a potential framework for Wikimedia Foundation (creators of Wikipedia). Chris’s code used Cheezy’s excellent page-object gem so I happily went about my refactoring his code using that gem. Suddenly… I found instead of helping me it started to hinder me. I kept having to refer to page-object user guide I got from Cheezy in Austin to work out how things work. Namely:

  1. How to define elements: as they are different from watir-webdriver (eg. list_item vs li, cell vs td etc.)
  2. How to identify elements: as they are limited to certain supported attributes by element type, unlike watir-webdriver which supports every attribute for all elements
  3. What methods each element provides and what each does: as different elements create different methods with different behaviours, so calling a link element clicks it, whilst a span element returns its text.

The main problem I personally found was that Page-object has essentially created its own DSL to describe elements in page objects, and this DSL is subtly and not so subtly different from the Watir-Webdriver API, so the API I know and love doesn’t work in a lot of places.

An example. There’s a common menu bar on all the Wikimedia sites that displays the logged in user as a link (to the user’s page).

The link is only recognizable by its title attribute, and whilst this is supported by watir-webdriver (it supports any attribute), it is not supported by page-object. The source html looks like:

<a class="new" accesskey="." title="Your user page [ctrl-.]" href="/wiki/User:Alister.scott">Alister.scott</a>

What I would have liked to do was:

  link :logged_in_as, :title => 'Your user page [ctrl-.]'

But, instead, I had to do this (which isn’t very DRY):

  def logged_in_as => 'Your user page [ctrl-.]').text

I believe essentially what has happened is the page-object, in its neutrality between selenium-webdriver and watir-webdriver, has created its own DSL that is somewhat of a halfway point between the two. This is probably fine for most people starting out, it’s just an API to learn, but for someone like me who has extensive experience with the watir-webdriver API (and loves the power of it), I find it limiting. This is particularly evident when I write a majority of my code using the watir-webdriver API under IRB.

So, I had to take a re-think. Why not roll my own page objects for Wikimedia Foundation?

Roll your own page objects

I recently had a discussion with a colleague/good friend about page objects which went along the lines of “I don’t understand those page object gems because you end up writing a custom page object pattern for each project anyway, as every project/application you work on is different in its own way”. It was one of those aha moments for me.

What I needed was to roll my own Wikimedia page objects.

Taking it back to basics, essentially there are three functions I see a page object pattern provides:

  1. Ability to easily instantiate pages in a consistent manner;
  2. Ability to concisely describe elements on a page, keep it DRY by avoiding repetition of element identifiers (using the underlying driver’s API); and
  3. Ability to provide higher level methods that use the elements to perform user oriented functions.

You can probably notice the helper methods – the magic – that gems like page-object and site_prism provide are missing from my list. This is on purpose, and is because, after lots of thought, I actually don’t find these useful, as they encourage specifications/steps to be too lower level. I would rather a high level method on the page (eg. login) than exposing my username and password fields and a login button.

A Wikimedia Page Model

Taking those things into consideration: this is the page model I came up with for Wikimedia.

Generic Base Page Class

The generic base page class is what everything else extends. It contains the instantiation code common to all pages, and the class methods needed to define elements and methods (more on these later).

Wikimedia Base Page Class

This page class contains elements and methods that are common to all Wikimedia pages. The ‘logged in user’ example above is a good example of something that is the same on every Wikimedia page, whether you’re on Wikipedia, or Wikimedia Commons etc.

Commons & Wikipedia Base Page Classes

These two classes are placeholders for elements and methods are common to a particular site. At the moment with my limited examples, these don’t contain content.

Commons & Wikipedia Page Classes

These are the actual pages that are representations of pages in Wikimedia. These are in separate modules so they are in different namespaces (you can have a Wikipedia::LogonPage and a Commons::LogonPage).

Some example pages:

class Wikipedia::LogoutPage < Wikipedia::BasePage
  page_url "#{Wikipedia::BASE_URL}/w/index.php?title=Special:UserLogout"
  expected_title "Log out - #{Wikipedia::TITLE}"

  element(:main_content_div) { |b| b.div(id: 'mw-content-text' ) }
  value(:main_content) { |p| p.main_content_div.text }

Here we can see we define a page_url and expected_title, which are used to instantiate the page.

Next we define an element passing in a block of watir-webdriver code for it, and a value by referencing the element we defined before it. Since these element and value methods execute blocks against self, and the class delegates missing methods to our browser, we can refer to either the browser (shown as b) or the page class (shown as p) in our blocks.

class Commons::LoginPage < Commons::BasePage
  page_url "#{Commons::BASE_URL}/w/index.php?title=Special:UserLogin"
  expected_title "Log in / create account - #{Commons::TITLE}"

  value(:logged_in?) { |p| p.logged_in.exists? }

  def login_with username, password
    username_field.set username
    password_field.set password

In this example, we again define the page_url and expected_title, but we have stored the login_elements with the WikimediaBasePage (as they are the same across all the sites) so we include them by specifying login_elements. We have also defined a login_with method that performs actions on our elements.

There are three available methods to define page elements, values and actions, and these all follow the same format of specifying the method name, and passing in a block of watir-webdriver code.

Calling the page objects from Cucumber step definitions

I chose to use Cucumber for the Wikimedia Foundation framework over Chris’s choice of RSpec as I find it easier to specify end-to-end tests in this way. I find the Cucumber step definitions encourage reuse of steps typically used to set up a test (that are often duplicated in RSpec).

I try to stick to calling the exposed methods, values or actions instead of the elements themselves from my Cucumber steps to ensure I am writing them at a high level. An example step using the page above looks like:

Given /^I am logged into Commons$/ do
  visit Commons::LoginPage do |page|
    page.login_with Commons::USERNAME, Commons::PASSWORD
    page.should be_logged_in

The visit and on methods are defined in a Pages module that is mixed into the Cucumber World so these available on all step definitions. As named, the visit method instantiates and visits the page, whereas the on just instantiates it.

module Pages
  def visit page_class, &block
    on page_class, true, &block

  def on page_class, visit=false, &block
    page = @browser, visit page if block


That’s all there really is the rolling your own page objects. I found this excercise useful as it gives me maximum flexibility and allows me to clearly define pages how I want to define them. I appreciate all the great work that Cheezy and Nat have done on their page object gems, if anything these contain great inspirations on how to roll your own custom page objects most suited to your environment and applications.

You can check out my full code here on Github.

Watir-page-helper has been end-of-lifed


I am happy to announce that the watir-page-helper gem has been end-of-lifed: meaning no further development will happen on it and it will remain as it stands. I am thoroughly supportive of Cheezy’s page-object gem and recommend you move onto this when you have the first opportunity to do so.


When I initially released this gem, Cheezy had yet to release his page-object gem. I borrowed a lot of his concepts and packaged them into a gem specifically for watir-webdriver. A few weeks later, Cheezy released his page-object gem that not only supports watir-webdriver, but also selenium-webdriver. He has iterated faster than I have and his gem has come along way to support additional features such as defining page-routes and default data. I have supplied a couple of tiny pull requests to him and there is nothing now that watir-page-helper can offer that page-object can’t, so I am EOL’ing watir-page-helper.

So how do I change to use page-object instead of watir-page-helper?

I converted an existing suite of tests that use watir-page-helper to run against Etsy to use the page-object gem (link to tests). It was a fairly straightforward task, and here are the fundamental differences:

  • Accessing an actual element object is done via an _element suffix: for example, defining a link :home, provides a home_element method. Watir-page-helper provided a home_link method, and I prefer Cheezy’s approach (the home_link method is actually supported by page-object but you should move away from it).
  • Watir-page-helper supported p,li,ol as methods, but these are defined as paragraph, list_item, and ordered_list in page-object.

Using Cheezy’s Page Factory

One of the neat features of the page-object gem is the page factory. This is a way to conveniently access pages from Cucumber steps and the like.

There are a couple of things you need to do:

In env.rb, you should mix in the PageObject::PageFactory module

require 'page-object/page_factory'

You then have access to helper methods to visit and set the page you want to use (originally there were just visit_page, and on_page, but I added on and visit – I think they read nicer):

visit_page RegistrationPage
on_page HomePage
visit HomePage
on HomePage


Good things come to an end and get replaced by even better things. Here’s to your future success using the page-object gem.

Removing local page references from Cucumber steps

I’ve been giving some thought about the maintainability of having local page object model references in Cucumber steps. To explain what I mean, here’s some code of mine from an Etsy page model step:

When /^an item is added to the cart$/ do
  @advanced_search_page = @browser, true
  @search_results_page = @advanced_search_page.search_for 'hat'
  @etsy_item_page = @search_results_page.click_first_result
  @item_title = @etsy_item_page.item_title
  @etsy_cart_page = @etsy_item_page.click_add_to_cart

Here I am using instance variables in Cucumber steps to store references to pages that I am interacting with. As you can see, it’s quite easy to lose track of which page is which.

If I want to use one of these pages in another step, I have to refer to the same variable name. The key to this concept is having pages return pages, so you don’t have to initialize pages in your steps (except for the first visit, which normally happens only once per scenario).

A colleague and good friend of mine has been showing me some alternatives. One alternative to this is to actually dynamically refer to pages only when you need them. This means you don’t need to return a page from a page, as they are always initialized when needed. The above method would look like:

When /^an item is added to the cart$/ do
  visit EtsyAdvancedSearchPage do |page| page.search_for 'hat' end
  on EtsySearchResultsPage do |page| page.click_first_result end
  on EtsyItemPage do |page|
    @item_title = page.item_title

This introduces two new methods at the Cucumber step level that need to be created: on, and visit. The on method simply creates a new page object so you can call methods from it. As each page initialize checks expected title and expected element, it will raise an error automatically if either are incorrect. The visit method is an extension of on, which actually initalizes the page and visits it.

These are defined as a module in our Cucumber env.rb file, and then mixed into the Cucumber World, so that steps automatically have access to these.

module Browser
  BROWSER = ENV['WEB_DRIVER'] ||:firefox

  def visit page_class, &block
    on page_class, true, &block

  def on page_class, visit=false, &block
    page = BROWSER, visit page if block

World Browser


By introducing the on and visit methods, it means that we no longer need to have instance variables for page classes in our Cucumber steps. We also no longer need to worry about state transformations in pages, as these can be done in a modular way in the steps themselves. It means that when an error occurs initializing a page, it is more likely to to occur in the correct place. I find the steps more readible, as you only have to initialize the page once using the on block, and then can refer to page.

I have updated my set of Etsy Watir-WebDriver steps if you’d like to take a look.

What do you think? How will this scale?

Update: I have updated the WatirMelonCucumber project to use this style. It’s slightly different in that it supports two sites, and therefore the on method dynamically switches between these.

Cucumber Steps:

When /^I search for a? ?"([^"]*)"$/ do |term|
  on :home do |page|
    page.search_for term

The on method:

def on page, visit=false, &block
  page_class = Object.const_get "#{@site}#{page.capitalize}Page"
  page = BROWSER, visit page if block