Browser Automation: What It Is and How to Start

Browser Automation: What It Is and How to Start
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Automation is an essential part of software and web development. If everything was done manually, web developers would waste their precious time clicking on all the buttons, testing submission forms, and looking for broken links. Thanks to browser automation, they don’t have to manually do any of these things.

 

Browser automation helps perform various browser tasks automatically. This is widely used in automated testing that helps trial how a website works and performs in different environments. 

 

If you’re looking for a way to automate your browser, you’re at the right place. Read on to learn about different scenarios where browser automation can help you with various tasks, what test suites are the best, and what challenges you may face when it comes to browser automation.

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What is Browser Automation?

In simple words, we could say that browser automation is the process of automating tasks that a computer browser performs. But providing a more in-depth definition of browser automation requires a careful look into what we mean by automation.

 

Automation means performing tasks without human interference. A human may set up these tasks, but then they can be done independently. Process automation removes all possible human errors, which helps achieve more efficient and quicker results.

 

Browser automation means performing tasks on a web browser without human interference. Automation tools help perform various processes much faster and with higher efficiency than they could be done manually.

Browser Automation: Use Cases

Browser automation has many use cases, mainly in web development. It helps perform tasks that could not be done manually or would require a lot of time and human resources. To explain what these tasks are, here are the main use cases of browser automation:

Broken Link Detection

Having broken links on your website means a poor browsing experience for your site visitors. Moreover, it can also reduce your ranking on search engines. The only way to avoid that is by fixing or deleting all the broken links on your website.

 

This may sound easy if you have a small site with a few pages. However, most websites are more complex than that and have dynamically generated pages that are hard to track. A website may have hundreds or even thousands of pages, so imagine verifying those links manually. 

 

This is where browser automation comes to the rescue. You can employ browser automation tools to check every link on your site and report if any of those are broken.

Web Data Extraction

Automation tools and frameworks are often used for web data extraction or, in other words, web scraping. The most popular ones are Selenium, Puppeteer, and Postman, among others.

 

These tools are mainly used with headless browsers to make the web scraping process quicker since these browsers return content without the graphical user interface (GUI). 

 

Web data extraction has many use cases. Companies collect public web data to monitor competitors, extract pricing data, track brand mentions, etc. The web is full of valuable data, and many companies already use it to gain a competitive advantage.

Performance Testing

Testing your site to ensure it can handle the load and keep outstanding performance is essential these days. Users aren’t willing to wait for a slow system to load and will leave if they can’t access the site in a few seconds.

 

Browser automation can help test how your site performs under increased load. These stress tests can help protect your page from breaking during the most inconvenient times when you have increased traffic coming to your website.

Automated Testing

Automated testing encompasses all kinds of different web testing. This may also include the previously mentioned performance testing and broken link detection, but it also covers much more. For example, you can test if various forms work well on your website. You can also see if login blocks function as planned. 

 

Automated tests help ensure that your website works how you want it to, and this can be done with the help of browser automation tools.

Grid Testing

Grid testing, or parallel testing, allows you to see how your app or a website performs on different platforms, browsers, operating systems (OS), or devices. 

 

Testing your sites manually would take loads of time because you’d have to check your site against every possible OS, browser, device, etc. Not running these tests may mean your site won’t function as you want in specific environments. 

 

Luckily, browser automation can help you perform grid testing quickly, efficiently, and with minimum manual effort.

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What Are the Best Browser Automation Test Suites?

As you recently learnt, browser automation is used for various tests, including performance, parallel, and automated testing. These tests can be done with different frameworks that have multiple features. Here are the best browser automation test suites:

Selenium

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Selenium is one of the best and the most popular web automation test frameworks. It has been around for nearly two decades, so it’s a well-known tool among developers. 

 

Some of the main Selenium advantages are its programming language support, WebDriver API for cross-browser testing, and record and replay feature. This feature allows creating automation tests without knowing a programming language. 

 

Selenium covers all parts of browser automation testing and is one of the most developed tools for the job on the market. It’s also widely used for web data extraction, especially with JavaScript.

Cypress

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Cypress is an open-source platform with a wide range of features for automation testing. Although it hasn’t been on the market as long as Selenium, this platform is not falling far behind with its benefits.

 

Some of the main advantages of Cypress are its capability to test the front-end quickly and efficiently. It runs on JavaScript, one of the most popular programming languages. For this reason, Cypress is a widely popular browser automation test suite.

Robot Framework

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Developed in 2008, Robot Framework has gathered a large community of contributors. This open-source framework is mainly used for robotic processes and test automation. It’s written in Python and can be used with other automation tools.

 

Robot Framework provides detailed reports that allow analyzing logs in case something goes wrong. The test writing with Robot Framework is easy because it uses the English language and familiar keywords.

How Do I Automate My Browser?

How to automate your web browser depends on a few things. The answer may vary based on what tasks you want to automate and how much knowledge you have. 

 

If you simply want to automate your browser to help you perform daily tasks quicker, you can use browser automation extensions. Most web browsers have code extensions that can help add more functionalities to your browser. You can build your automation in JavaScript and save them as a toggle on your browser. 

 

This will allow you to use your browser automation quickly and easily. You can simply click on the icon of your developed feature and enjoy whatever automation you built.

What Are the Challenges of Browser Automation?

There are two main groups of challenges that may arise when it comes to browser automation. The first group is related to team communication, internal resources and knowledge. Companies often face these challenges, and it takes time to build a team of experts who can effectively perform test automation. 

 

Another group of challenges is technical. The best way to solve these technical challenges is by doing the research before you begin browser automation. And this is exactly what we’ll help you with here. Consider these challenges, and you’ll be ready to get off on the right foot.

Scalability

If you’re starting small, you should still consider how big you want to go. Set your priorities right to ensure you have enough space to scale your automation tests. If your website is still small and you’re only automating a few tests, keep in mind that your company can significantly grow in a few years, and you’ll need a reliable testing infrastructure that can serve your growing needs.

Automation Tools

You should do extensive research before committing to an automation tool, especially if a tool requires learning a new language. The truth is that there are great tools out there that can be easily scaled and are flexible enough to serve various needs. You may consider Selenium and Cypress, which are among the most popular frameworks.

CAPTCHAs

Getting a CAPTCHA when running a performance test is frustrating because it can stop all the operations. The way to solve this challenge is by using proxies together with your automation framework. 

 

Depending on your tests, you may consider using datacenter vs residential proxies, but in most cases, datacenter IPs are the best choice for automation. These proxies are much quicker and cheaper than residential IPs, so they’re perfect for testing. 

 

Proxies can help with much more than CAPTCHAs. They can also help you access your website from different locations, which is especially relevant for testing. And when it comes to data scraping, proxies are essential.

Conclusion

You should now have a good understanding of what browser automation is, what it’s used for, and what challenges it may cause.

 

If you’re thinking of starting automation tests, you should consider different test suites, such as Selenium or Cypress. Keep in mind that proper preparation can help you avoid serious challenges, especially if you need to scale your projects.

 

You can also automate your web browser for personal use. For that, you can work with browser extensions and make your daily tasks much quicker and more efficient. Simple things like automated scrolling through the page can be a great starting point if you’re just beginning to learn this science.

 

Proxies are also essential to browser automation because they can help you avoid IP blocks and access your website from different locations. Choosing suitable proxies will help you run automation tests much more smoothly.

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