Visual Testing: A Complete Guide

Reading Time : 10min read
visual testing blog

The process by which we develop software – regardless of end use – includes a number of essential steps and testing strategies, all of which contribute to a more successful product release. Visual testing is one of those important software development components.

Visual testing helps engineers determine the success of a website or mobile application’s visual elements. User experience has always been important for developers to consider, and that rings true today. Fortunately, this critical portion of the testing process can be easily managed with a number of automated visual testing tools, sometimes referred to as visual regression testing tools.

Here, we’ll be sharing some of the best visual testing tips, tools, strategies, and concepts to properly navigate the application testing roadmap. Once complete, you should have a solid foundational understanding of application visual testing procedures.

What is Visual Testing For Mobile Applications?

By taking a closer look – pun intended! – at the output of any application, we’re able to more properly evaluate its ability to deliver as intended; if it’s not doing so accurately, then we’re able to make whatever adjustments may be necessary for a more robust and rewarding user experience.

To put it another way: visual testing helps us to detect and correct elements that transmit a lot of information.

Those elements might contribute any number of ways to screen display and interactive component appearance. Separate from functional bugs, mobile visual testing issues can also contribute to the mood and attitude of users.

There are, of course, tools today that help engineers  make the most out of our technological investments. Automated visual testing tools accelerate our development timeframe in the most efficient manner, eliminating the potential of human error that manual verification might introduce.

Vision regression testing should be conducted after changes are made to be sure that those new changes don’t produce unintended complications.

Now that we’ve discussed a bit of the background for visual testing, let’s consider other ways it might impact software application development strategies.

Why is Visual Testing For Mobile Applications Important?

Visual bugs affect companies of every style and every size; no one is completely safe from concern about preventing them. In fact, companies comparable to Amazon, Slack, and Target struggle every day with testing initiatives created to benefit user experience — and visual testing is part of that.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that an application you happen to be using has just displayed all of its intended text, but bunched together or overlapping; in other words, making it difficult or impossible to properly read. That sort of application behavior can significantly impact your financial bottom line!

That’s right: In addition to visual testing helping to reduce cosmetic issues, it absolutely can have a major financial impact as well.

screenshot of visual testing manual session

Manual vs. Automated Visual Testing

Automated tools for functional testing certainly have their time and place for best use. However, when considering only visual testing initiatives, we find that those functional testing tools just aren’t properly suited to address visual testing bugs.

Which has led us to a problem. With automated functional testing tools unable to properly deliver on mobile app testing, companies the world over are spending a lot of money on people-power and resources to locate and address visual issues. Where is the bulk of that investment going? To manual testing management, and the manual testers it includes.

What is Manual Visual Testing?

Any manual tester can likely attest to the difficulty of manual visual testing processes. It begins with an in-person glance at visual elements, with a contextual understanding of why those elements are included in the first place. This manual mobile visual testing step can then be duplicated on any combination of possible operating systems, screen orientations, browsers, and dimensions or measurements.

Manual testing can take quite a bit of time to complete. That’s why industry experts like those at Kobiton strongly recommend learning about ways to automate the visual testing process.

What is Automated Visual Testing?

As with other steps of the application testing process, engineers are increasingly leaning on automation and AI processes to accelerate testing timelines and to produce complex testing initiatives more simply. By implementing cutting-edge software to automate the visual testing process, visual defects are more likely to be found, sooner.

The Limitations of Functional Tests

As we’ve covered, functional testing does present a great deal of value to the mobile application testing process. But, it also has a number of unfortunate limitations. With a greater understanding of those limitations, your knowledge of the overall testing process can better reach conclusions impacting every contributing element and function.

Examples of what functional tests might not catch include:

  • Layout responsiveness
  • Color and shading differences
  • Issues related to rendering
  • Element spacing and potential overlap
  • Shifts to alignment
  • Differences in font use/assignment

Now let’s imagine that you’re going to test on the above measures, with only a functional test at your side. Better get a chair — you’ll be there for a while. The sheer amount of time involved utilizing functional testing for those examples can be significant, and it contributes to scripts that are flaky and difficult to maintain.

Benefits of AI for Mobile Visual Testing

AI algorithms are impacting nearly everything around us today, and it only makes sense that they impact our mobile game testing or web application development process.

Within the scope of visual testing, we use a concept called “computer vision” for comparison of data on the visual agenda. Technology is getting better and better, and computer vision has little problem detecting and properly identifying things like a smiling face, a blue square, or an animal making its way through a field.

Visual testing automation has revolutionized the ways in which we go about software development. Image comparison can now be done automatically, or otherwise in ways to complement manual visual testing. Resources, financial stakes, and deadlines are all in flux today — because AI-powered automation uses its learning algorithm to change the way testing is done.

AI-powered resources are effective, too. We no longer need to provide static environments to guarantee accuracy, and an ability to evaluate complex or dynamic content carries with it revolutionary solutions.

The industry is paying attention: We know that customer satisfaction is at stake, and the ways automation allows our workflows to become much more manageable, with no small degree of flexibility and agility.

Why Do You Need a Test Runner (and Other Tools)? 

Okay, time to share something else important about your visual testing strategy: the need for an effective test runner. What does that test runner do?

Simply enough a great test runner is required to write and run tests. They allow developers to reproduce potential user activity with the creation of helpful code, and to produce assertions from organized blocks or files that evaluate functions.

Next, smart engineers will then put visual regression testing tools like Cypress or Selenium to the test, allowing them to interact with browsers to produce examples of what web pages might ultimately look like for curious users.

Finally, there’s the matter of testing process management. To properly conduct and manage automated visual testing, you’ll want to rely on tools to both simulate, collect, and evaluate findings across the process. Automated processes can make that a breeze.

But, many business teams have difficulty understanding which automated tools are best to use for each part of the testing journey. That’s where a complimentary evaluation by Kobiton can truly shine — introducing insights and potential tool strategies to save both time and money.

Making sense of test runners and other resources doesn’t have to be confusing.

Importance of Visual Testing

Because visual testing is such an important part of the software development puzzle, it can be helpful and provide new perspectives to think about it from the viewpoint of all that it encompasses.

It’s no secret that expectations for software development extend beyond your own project. And, guess what? New expectations are being reestablished on a daily basis. Are your own releases keeping pace?

Mobile and web application growth has been explosive in recent years, and there’s an obligation on the part of designers, engineers, UX technicians, and project managers to not only deliver a proper product, but to do so in a way that maintains heightened those expectations.

It’s a valuable suggestion to spend time becoming familiar with popular tools and pricing structures introduced by visual testing automation strategies. With an understanding of proper tool application and use – as well as learning more about resource allocation and budgetary concerns – you’ll be able to work smarter than ever before. Once updates have been made, don’t forget the importance of vision regression testing, as well.

Ready to take the first step? Kobiton is an established industry leader, but that doesn’t mean our assistance is out of reach. Organizations of every size and with varying objectives have called upon us to share time-tested perspectives, as well as insight into how new tools are being put to use for more efficient and effective testing strategies.

Tips for Visual Testing

AI-powered automated visual testing tools are also able to provide a great deal of accuracy. It also presents new insights into ways that components might render or appear on-screen, given the introduction of any number of impacting events. Automated visual testing also allows testing professionals to validate new code against platforms already in existence.

Use the Right Tool for You

Today’s marketplace is filled with manual and automated visual regression testing tools, all designed to help engineers and testing professionals speed up application development and properly test before release to the public. The impact of that process can be both cosmetic and financial.

With a better understanding of our evolving industry expectations and shifting technological tools, we can be better equipped to understand advantages and challenges that affect the way we strategize today, for a more rewarding tomorrow. Mobile test automation trends are constantly in a state of development. We can help. 

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