Effective Strategies for Handling Flaky Tests in Automated Test Suites

Effective Strategies for Handling Flaky Tests in Automated Test Suites

3 July 2024 Stephan Petzl Leave a comment QA

Flaky tests, which show both passing and failing results with the same code, are a common issue in many automated test suites. Addressing this problem is crucial to maintaining the reliability and trustworthiness of your test automation framework. This article explores strategies to handle flaky tests effectively, drawing insights from industry experiences and expert recommendations.

Understanding the Risks of Retrying Tests

Retrying tests can be a tempting solution to deal with flaky tests. However, this approach comes with significant risks:

  • Masking Real System Failures: If the variability causing the test to fail is within the system, each failure provides valuable information. Ignoring these failures by relying on retries can lead to overlooking critical issues.
  • Destroying Trust: Unreliable tests can erode trust in the automated testing process. Even a small degree of unreliability can make stakeholders doubt the validity of test results, making it challenging to restore confidence.

Therefore, it is advisable to avoid automated retries and instead focus on identifying and controlling the sources of variability.

Strategies for Managing Flaky Tests

Here are some effective strategies to manage flaky tests:

  • Investigate Failures: Diligently investigate each test failure to understand the root cause. This helps in distinguishing between issues in the system under test and problems within the test environment or code.
  • Isolate Flaky Tests: Run unreliable tests separately from stable ones. This ensures that flaky tests do not affect the overall test suite’s reliability.
  • Refactor Test Environment: Analyze and improve the test environment to reduce instability. This could involve enhancing isolation between tests or optimizing the infrastructure.
  • Monitor and Analyze Trends: Use monitoring tools to track test results and identify patterns in flaky tests. This enables targeted efforts to stabilize the most problematic tests.

Case Study: Google’s Approach to Flaky Tests

Google employs a strategy where tests are automatically re-run upon failure, and tests can be marked as flaky, causing them to report a failure only after multiple consecutive failures. While this approach helps mitigate the impact of flaky tests, it is crucial to balance it with thorough investigation and control of the underlying variability.

Best Practices for Reliable Test Automation

To ensure the reliability of your test automation suite, consider adopting the following best practices:

  • Write Reliable Tests: Focus on creating tests that consistently provide accurate information about the system’s behavior.
  • Separate Unreliable Tests: Clearly mark and isolate flaky tests to prevent them from affecting the overall test suite’s reliability.
  • Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and improve your test environment and test code to minimize flakiness.

Enhancing Test Automation with Repeato

Managing flaky tests can be particularly challenging in complex environments. This is where tools like Repeato can make a significant difference. Repeato is a no-code test automation tool for iOS and Android that leverages computer vision and AI to create, run, and maintain automated tests efficiently.

With Repeato, you can quickly edit and run tests, ensuring that your test suite remains reliable and easy to maintain. Its simplicity in setup and use makes it an excellent choice for quality assurance teams looking to enhance their test automation processes.

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