What is automated website testing?
Ensuring that your website is accessible and free from errors is an impossible task. Especially if you’re a large organization whose website contains many thousands of pages.
No single person can be expected to be an expert in all facets of web development and content creation. Nor can any single person be responsible for finding and fixing problems.
With automated website testing, web teams in large organizations can audit their websites in great depth and at scale. It reduces the burden on teams and individuals responsible for ensuring great content. Automated testing finds a wide range of issues. These are presented to appropriate team members based on priority.
How does automated website testing work?
Generally, automated website testers read the code that each of your web pages is made from, and they ascertain whether there are any obvious problems in that code.
Some tests are relatively straightforward, like finding issues with spelling or grammar. Others are more complex and not all website testers can find them.
Web pages are generally made from three types of code
- HTML – the content and structure of a web page
- CSS – code that gives the content styling, like font types, sizes, and colors
Most automated website testing software will only read HTML. This causes problems with accuracy, because unless all the code is run and the page is fully loaded and displayed, many problems will be missed.
For example, if a tester doesn’t read and run the CSS, it cannot know whether there are problems with color contrast on your website, or whether the text is large enough to be read.
Silktide runs all the code and tests the page as rendered, essentially seeing it as a person would. This makes a big difference to its effectiveness. You can read about the technology in more detail in this blog post.
Who should use automated website testing?
Large organizations with multi-thousand-page websites particularly benefit by using automated website testing. Web managers, developers, and content creators can create better user experiences because they can see where problems occur and how to fix them.
Senior management uses automated website testing to monitor improvement against their goals. Reporting lets them see how their teams are doing. These give a holistic view of the entire web estate.
In regulated industries, like government, healthcare, or education, automated testing helps to ensure compliance with local accessibility and privacy laws.
Benefits of automated website testing
Manual testing is limited in scope and requires people to check one page of your website at a time. This is a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process.
Automated website testing tests many thousands of pages in far less time. It saves hundreds of hours of manual labor, finds issues that are otherwise missed, and allows web teams to act.
Manual testing is usually performed on an ad-hoc or one-off basis. Automated website testing happens at regular intervals. It monitors a website for issues in the background.
It’s also possible to test individual pages before they’re published. Automated testing also works as a preventative measure against potential problems.
Many resources are expended on manual testing, both in time and on personnel. For example, checking for accessibility problems using a screen reader may take many minutes per page. Multiply this by thousands of pages, and there is a real problem.
Automated website testing covers a breadth of elements in one pass. You will find things like screen reader incompatibilities without checking every page yourself.
Mobile device testing
Testing a website manually on a phone is fraught with difficulties. You need a team of people, a range of mobile devices, and the time to check each page.
Certain accessibility problems are unique to mobile websites. For example, pages that scroll in two dimensions fail under WCAG 2.1.
Rather than load every page on a real phone and try to scroll side to side, Silktide can do this for you on every page.
Easy-to-understand content is key to user engagement. Content should be as clear and simple as possible.
Reading level, defined as the years of education the target user has received, can be measured. Computers study passages of text and apply formulae to determine their complexity.
Depending on the target audience, the reading age should be taken into account. Technical and scientific papers usually have a higher reading age. A news article does not.
Automated readability testing helps you measure reading age on your website.
Brand terms and other unique ways of describing your organization should be consistent. You may have specific ways of describing your goods, services, and products.
Automated website testing keeps track of brand terms across thousands of pages. It makes sure they are correctly spelled and capitalized.
Manual website testing creates problems with logging changes and monitoring progress. How should you log issues you find on the website? A spreadsheet?
The person who finds the problems may not be the person fixing them. Creating a repository of issues in a spreadsheet or in project management software is laborious and error-prone.
Instead, automated website testing presents issues to your team members. It prioritizes them and shows you when they’re fixed.
Monitoring scores over time allows the management team to see progress against goals.
Types of automated website testing
Websites can be large and complex, with many moving parts. Often, they are updated daily by many contributors. There are too many aspects for a single person to be able to understand and monitor manually. Automated website testing can help in a range of areas, including those outlined below.
Automated web accessibility testing
In recent years, accessibility has become far more important to global organizations. Accessibility should be a fundamental part of your website design and content creation. But it’s often difficult to understand.
In the public sector in the EU or in any sector in the US, sufficient web accessibility is a legal requirement.
Read more about automated web accessibility testing here.
Automated user experience testing
Generally, a poor user experience would be given by a website that is slow to load, doesn’t work on mobile, has broken links or spelling errors, and has broken interactive elements like forms and buttons.
Automated website testing can help you uncover these problems.