Why Automate View Testing?
Before getting into the meat of the article, let me define the scope of my argument. For the purposes of this post, I am only interested in dealing with web applications. My specific expertise is in the Rails framework, but I think my concerns are framework and language agnostic.
Alright, so with an understanding that I’m only talking about web development let me just put it out there: I don’t see the value of writing automated tests for view logic.
Allow me to explain:
Let’s say that we want a given endpoint to display a given object. So we write a test that ensures that the output of the view includes that object. If your only business requirement is that said object happens to be in the returned source code, an automated test would provide value. But I’ve never worked in an environment whose only concern was that an object was delivered to a page.
With the exception of API endpoints that render in a format like JSON or XML, how an object renders on a given page (e.g., its styling) is almost as important as whether or not that object appears on the page. The presence of the object is a necessary but insufficient requirement.
As long as different browsers have different rendering engines, you will still need to manually load up a given endpoint in as many browsers as you support to make sure that things look they way you want, not just that all information is present.
Everything except the most trivial changes to your views will require manual testing in a variety of browsers. And if you have to fire up N browsers to check that something looks right, how do you come out ahead by writing an automated test?
Now if someone can point me to a test that can automagically tell me that IE hasn’t destroyed my layout, I’d love to be wrong!…
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