A Comprehensive Guide to the XCUITest Framework

Reading Time : 10min read
A Comprehensive Guide to the XCUITest Framework

Elevating your mobile app testing with the XCUITest framework can bring faster, dependable, and confidence-inspiring test execution. Today, consumers expect digital networks and applications to run seamlessly. And, when they don’t, organizations risk losing a lot more than just data: frustrated customers can search for better experiences from other providers. Underwhelming customer experiences can be difficult for companies to bounce back from, if at all.

UI testing (User Interface Testing), however, ensures that website or mobile apps exceed user expectations. Potential problems can be resolved before they impact user interaction and experience.

Let’s talk about how that testing takes place.

First, what is the XCUITest test framework? Simply put, it’s a test automation framework for apps and web applications on Apple devices, allowing you to efficiently carry out XCUITest automation. It was released in 2015 as part of Apple’s expansive XCTest system, built into XCode, Apple’s IDE (Integrated Developer Environment).

If you’re eager to learn more about XCTest vs. XCUITest, you’ve come to the right place! Kobiton is proud to assist organizations of any size make sense of tools like these. We’re committed to helping enterprises deliver on the promise of a better mobile experience by taming the complexity of mobile app development. We know that customer experience is vital to brand perception, and we want nothing more than to help companies reduce app abandonment and enhance delivery — all while accelerating customer satisfaction.

What is XCUITest framework?

This was developed by Apple in 2015 as part of its XCTest framework, which is an integrated test framework for Xcode. The difference between XCTest and XCUITest is that the former is a testing method for when the tester has access to code; the latter is when the tester doesn’t have test code access. They’re both built into Xcode, and allow you to oversee testing with assertions, methods, and subclasses.

Why Employing XCUITest for iOS Testing?

The benefits of using XCUITest for iOS apps testing include:

  • Integration with Xcode: allows you to execute tests directly from Xcode.
  • Native support from Apple: it’s developed for – and integrated with – Apple software standards
  • Minimal test flakiness: less likelihood of random fails
  • Simple setup method: get to work, faster
  • Quick test execution: default value is only about 10 minutes

Here, you can learn more about iOS automation testing

Basic Concepts of XCUITest 

Let’s also explain some concepts that are fundamental to this XCUITest API tutorial. Many of the terms below are helpful in understanding the differences between XCTest vs. XCUITest, and how they work together.

  • XCTest Framework: A framework to create and run UI, unit, and performance tests for Xcode projects 
  • XCUIApplication: A proxy object to represent target apps
  • XCUIElement: An application’s UI element
  • XCUIElementQuery: An object to define criteria used to identify UI elements
  • XCUIDevice: A proxy to simulate buttons, orientation, and Siri interaction for an Apple device
  • Interactions: Any way that a program or user inputs data or responds
  • Assertions: A programmer’s comment, used to consider the ways a particular code is working; an assertion can also be documentation of a system constraint
  • Predicates: A function of the parameter set
  • Wait Expectations: An expectation to wait on an interface call, which facilitates a completion handler for result returns
  • Screenshots: A great way to capture the current UI state of classes that conform to the XCUIScreenshotProviding protocol
  • Accessibility Identifiers: Independent of button text and the accessibility label
  • Launch Arguments and Launch Environment: Launch arguments enable configuration of app behavior before running UI tests; Launch environment are the different variables that pass to the application upon launch
  • Test Recording: A means of saving test data for further review
  • XCUIElementAttributes Protocol: Provides attribute-related functionality to the XCUIElement class
  • Test Navigator: A section containing play buttons for every UI test class you create in a test group

Getting Started with XCUITest: Setting Up Your Environment

Support on Getting Started with XCUITest  


Some of the basic requirements to get started with XCUITest include working with a macOS, or having an Apple Developer account.

What about those working in Android? Appium is typically used by QA teams as an Android equivalent of an XCUITest; and Android developers use Espresso.

Visit this link to learn more about xctest vs espresso vs appium.

Installing Xcode

Downloading Xcode from the Mac App Store is a snap! Here are step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, open the App Store from any Mac device
  2. Sign in to the App Store
  3. Search for Xcode
  4. Select “Get” and click “Install” (you’ll have to log in with your Apple ID or password)

That’s it!

Creating a New XCTest Project

For the next step of this XCUITest tutorial, let’s set up a new Xcode project together.

  1. Launch Xcode
  2. Click “Create a new Xcode project” (or choose File > New > Project)
  3. On the screen that appears, select your target OS or platform, and template
  4. Then, simply complete the forms you see for project configuration

Writing Your First XCUITest with Kobiton

Set Up Kobiton 

Getting started with Kobiton is a breeze — just sign up, install, and set up your basic configuration.

Creating a New XCUITest in Xcode 

Here’s how we typically initialize a new XCUITest in Xcode.

Create a test target in Xcode by selecting File > New > Target, and then choosing iOS UI Testing Bundle.

Writing the Test

Properly scripting a basic test method is always important. And, by emphasizing user interactions, you can make the most of this vital tool.

Configuring Kobiton Capabilities

Setting up Kobiton’s desired capabilities within the XCUITest [describe].

#ProTip: Note the benefits offered by its automation setting feature, which include tbd.

Visit this link to learn more about iOS automation testing.

Running the Test on Kobiton

Okay, so this part can get a little technical, but here’s a summary of what you can expect:

  1. From your Kobiton portal’s device list, navigate to the desired Apple device and click the ellipsis icon
  2. Click on Automation Settings
  3. In the Automation Settings box, fill in a few testing capabilities
  4. Use the copy to clipboard icon to copy the generated desired capabilities
  5. Paste the capabilities to your scripted test

Reviewing Test Execution

There are three functions of reviewing test execution. They are:

  • Interpret test results
  • View logs
  • Access other diagnostic data

Debugging and Troubleshooting in XCUITest

Now, let’s take a look at some common issues faced during XCUITest execution — and potential solutions.

Test Execution Failure

XCUITest may sometimes fail to execute due to issues like unexpected nil values or unrecognized selectors. Solution: Make sure that parameters and return void aren’t present in your testing methods.

Interacting with System Alerts

But, some test cases might fail when XCUITest has trouble interacting with system alerts. Solution: Set up handlers for expected system alerts with the addUIInterruptionMonitor (with Description:handler:).

Accessibility Identifiers Not Set

Sometimes, elements can’t be located when XCUITest’s accessibility identifiers aren’t properly set. Solution: Be sure that accessibility identifiers are assigned to all UI elements.

Best Practices for XCUITest  

Okay, let’s break down some tips to make your XCUITest automation suites more efficient.

  • Use built-in XCUITest UI recording features to record a test interaction as a source code.
  • Any test case converted to a test script should be [recorded?], to save time doing so with others.
  • Always wait for the view’s presence [to load?] before asserting anything.
  • Create a framework and a guideline to assist.

Remember, suggestions like these will ultimately help you get the most out of any XCUITest automation scenario.

Leverage the UI Test Recorder

In Xcode, user interface tests include a UI test recorder — this helps to simulate interactions that a user might have, while recording, to make creating tests much easier.

Page Object Model (POM)

Page Object Model exists to create a place for application page objects to reside, which can then be used during testing.

Implement Proper Wait Mechanisms

A vital command, Wait is used in XCUITests Automation for dynamic loading of UI Controls on mobile applications. In a nutshell, it helps us to make sure that a mobile application is reliable.

Minimize Brittle Test Cases

XCUITest cases can help you address projects that are likely to fail.

Test on Different Devices and OS Versions

It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of all this work is to prevent problems in the real world, on real devices. You’ll want to investigate how testing might work on different devices, and even different OS versions.

Keep Tests Atomic

Think of it this way: Atomic = effective. This hones in on a single feature of any particular app, and lets you know if it’s working the way it should.

Clean Up Resources

Sometimes, you’ll want to clean up temporary files or capture data to analyze at a later date. To do so, use the XCTestCase tearDown() class method.

XCUITest vs. Appium vs Espresso: A Comparative Analysis

Okay, so we know that the difference between XCTest and XCUITest is that the former is a testing method for when the tester has access to code; the latter is when the tester doesn’t have code access.

But let’s also acknowledge that different testing platforms do exist; there’s value in taking time to understand Appium vs. Espresso vs. XCUITest.

Designed to automate UI testing of iOS applicationsAutomates both Android and iOS mobile app testingAutomation framework for Android
Supports Swift and Objective-CSupports multiple languages — including Java, JavaScript, Python, and PHPSupports Java and JUnit
Minimal test flakinessModerate test flakiness
Easy to set upComplex to set upEasy to set up
Quick test executionSlower test execution

Note: Additional resources that compare XCTest vs. Espresso vs. Appium can be found on the Kobiton website.

Recognizing the Constraints of the XCUITest Framework 

Limitations and challenges do exist. We often are asked, “Can we write tests with XCUTest using any programming language?” Unfortunately, XCUITest only currently supports Objective-C and Swift. Here are some other limitations to be aware of.

  • To run on a physical device, XCUITest needs to be running Xcode (it also needs to be a Mac). This can be especially difficult if the testing setup is working remotely.
  • XCUITests are specific to iOS only.
  • Unfortunately, versions of iOS 8 and earlier aren’t supported.

Perform XCUITest with Kobiton

It can be difficult for organizations of any size to ensure the products they’ve invested in creating or maintaining meet the expectations of users. Understanding the differences between platforms like Appium vs. Espresso vs. XCUITest can help, but their implementation sometimes presents unique challenges to teams.

That’s where Kobiton comes in. Allow us to help you deliver better user experiences by bringing revolutionary preliminary security measures to your team’s mobile app development, in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

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