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How End-to-End Testing is Evolving

End-to-end (E2E) testing is more critical than ever before. The large number of moving parts in modern enterprise applications needs modern E2E testing approaches.

March 2, 2022

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End-to-end (E2E) testing is more critical than ever before. The large number of moving parts in modern enterprise applications needs modern E2E testing approaches.
Evolution of End-to-End Testing
End-to-End (E2E) testing has traditionally been seen as a ‘final frontier’ of sorts in software development.

Build the small parts, build the big parts, put the parts together. Test the parts, big and small, by themselves. Test them in small groups. Test the whole. Makes sense, right?

End-to-End Testing: Then

Back in the old days, software development followed an adorably meticulous step-by-step approach. Known as the waterfall methodology, so named for its cascading flow of steps, the approach created a highly structured, linear software development lifecycle (SDLC). It depended on heavy-duty requirements-gathering and analysis at the start. Software engineers would design and develop an application for only and exactly what the client needed. Accuracy is what drove quality. 

Coding and unit testing followed, which ushered in the formal testing phase: integration testing, system testing and user acceptance testing. E2E testing made an appearance towards the end of this cycle usually between system testing and user acceptance testing.

The waterfall model
Figure 1. The waterfall model. Image source: Functionize

testing pyramid

E2E testing tries to test the flow of information across all the layers, components and touchpoints. This means middleware, libraries, OS, hardware, 3rd party integrations, APIs, web services, network dependencies, services and databases. It tests the user journey, or all possible journeys. It’s logical to presume that you should build an application piece by piece and test the whole once all the parts are in place.

However, in the age of the ‘digital transformation race’, applications are a sum of many moving parts. And that too of unprecedented scale. E2E testing is now getting more attention than ever.

Digital Transformation: Our World Then and Now

Just think about what your technology was like around the turn of the millennium. What phone did you have? Was it a smartphone? What laptop were you using? What were your office tools like – your email, your document editors, your file management? How was your data authenticated?

How about at home – were you able to order groceries online? How did you listen to your favorite music? Where did you watch your movies? How did you talk to your cousins overseas? 

The world has changed drastically in these last two decades. Cloud computing has made technology ubiquitous. We are ‘always-on’. Without even realizing it, we go from morning to night accessing documents, audio and video, editing files on the go, and making payments across jurisdictions. We are collaborating and communicating on platforms that didn’t even exist then. We are processing information all day long. Businesses are constantly innovating with digital technologies to make their products and services more convenient and more empowering for us. 

The software engineering behind the interconnected experiences that we enjoy is vast and complex. Today’s engineers create, change and test hundreds of features and thousands of user journeys. It’s no longer satisfactory to have things just work correctly. Accuracy is now only one of many, many factors driving quality. Today’s applications are ever-changing, scaling rapidly, and releasing updates by the hour and often automatically.

Businesses map their strategies to customer journeys. They expect all their touchpoints to deliver a brand-level experience to the customer. If the user journey breaks at any point, they lose a customer. Insights from E2E testing are valuable for developers to incorporate into design.

End-to-End Testing: Now

The siloed ways of the waterfall methodology gave way to iterative and agile approaches, which further evolved into continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD). Cloud-powered software engineering companies started embracing DevOps models, where Dev, QA, and Ops teams are more unified and in-sync. Automation features at every level of development and testing. 

In their book Continuous Architecture: Sustainable Architecture in an Agile and Cloud-Centric World, authors Murat Erder and Pierre Pureur describe the ‘Continuous Architecture’ approach: “Continuous Architecture provides a broad architectural perspective for continuous delivery, and describes a new architectural approach that supports and enables it. As the pace of innovation and software releases increases, IT departments are tasked to deliver value quickly and inexpensively to their business partners. With a focus on getting software into end-users hands faster, the ultimate goal of daily software updates is in sight to allow teams to ensure that they can release every change to the system simply and efficiently.”

The accelerated pace of development that CI/CD enables needs to be supported by comprehensive E2E testing. One could be compelled to make a case to flip the traditional testing pyramid to emphasize end-to-end UI tests. These new paradigms have necessitated a wave of E2E testing tools and frameworks, but practitioners have found that these have problems of their own.

Modern applications depend on 3rd party plugins, dynamic content and embedded plugins. E2E testing is about testing the complete functionality that affects the end user, which means: 

  1. Verifying that the content displays correctly in the UI.
  2. Validating the functionality as seen by a user.
  3. Checking what happens in the backend or 3rd party service.

The new software development methodologies have testing shifting left in the SDLC. Unit testing is straightforward and tests basic units of code. Compare this to E2E testing, which tests a user’s experience with the final product. E2E testing is most valuable early in the design phase but lives at the end of development. Shifting E2E testing left provides valuable insights that impacts the code. 

The role of E2E testing in the SDLC is evolving to a much larger, all-encompassing one than the traditional final frontier.

Implement E2E Testing with Functionize

Functionize has taken a unique approach to E2E testing. Instead of trying to drive native desktop and windows applications and requiring installations on every test machine, we have brought the most common E2E scenarios to the cloud. We’ve created a suite of web-based tools that allow you to test not just the UI and UX of your web application, but also databases, excel sheets, pdf files, APIs, text messages, emails, and much more. 

With an AI-powered intelligent testing platform supported by big data, machine learning and computer vision, Functionize is helping enterprises future-proof their testing. Our customers drive innovation by empowering their teams with E2E tests that don’t break and run at-scale in the cloud. 

Functionize is purpose-built to manage large-scale automated testing. This includes an enterprise-grade E2E testing solution. To learn more about how your teams can leverage AI to transform your end-to-end testing, book a demo now.