Recently, visual testing tools have been a popular way for designers and developers to evaluate a website’s responsiveness across browsers. However, to some software teams, a visual testing tool might seem like a luxury instead of a necessity.
While the idea of a good full-page screenshot is satisfying to any UX enthusiast, when does visual testing become really valuable? There are a few key moments where software teams tend to end up wishing they had a visual testing tool.
1. When you change code – In a perfect world, we could simply integrate changes to code every day without worrying about it breaking another part of our application. Sadly, that’s not an accurate reality. When we change code, we have to check to make sure everything still works. Then, we have to do this again on a few different browsers. However, doing this manually every time on your work computer is not only annoying, it’s also inefficient. Instead, running visual tests lets you compare your new changes to historical versions across browsers for easier and more accurate regression testing.
2. When you don’t have the same machine your customers use – Again, life would be a lot easier if you could get away with just testing on the same computer you use for developing every time. Of course, your customers are actually on hundreds of different browser and device combinations. Check out Google Analytics to see which configurations you should be testing on, and make sure they’re being visually verified. You can do this laboriously with a device lab or smoothly with a visual testing tool for screenshot comparisons — the choice is yours.
3. When a new browser, OS, or device is released – Even after looking at Google Analytics, you can’t depend on these few machines to cover your testing needs for very long. New browsers, operating systems, and devices are coming out all the time. While a good amount of users might be on the iPhone 7 now, the iPhone X will surely throw a wrench in your testing. Unless you want to go out and buy all these devices yourself and physically compare them side-by-side, a visual testing tool provides a way to access browsers that are continuously added, updated, and maintained via the cloud.
4. When you want to increase communication – Test reporting and documentation is always a struggle, not to mention getting results to the people that need them. Fortunately, visual testing tools usually have a few ways to make test reporting more accessible for everyone. With integrations like Slack, Hipchat, and Jira, screenshots can be easily shared on the messaging platforms that your entire team uses. Additionally, features like visual reporting make it simple to analyze usage and stay on the same page every sprint.
5. When you need extra help finding layout differences – There’s a lot of reasons we still need dedicated testers. But if you’re working on building your QA team or operating as a one-man-band (a.k.a. freelance developer/designer) then having a tool that literally highlights browser differences can be a lifesaver. This way, you can stop searching each browser for elements that ruin your design and instead, get to fixing them faster.
6. When you want to speed things up – We’re living in the golden age of test automation. It’s not good enough just have to have access to unlimited browsers at the drop of the hat, getting the results should be automated. While live testing is a great tool in itself, it can only take you so far when it comes to gaining fast feedback and meeting deadlines. Automating your visual testing is multi-beneficial — you can more easily pull up screenshots, evaluate them more quickly, and debug them in a more timely manner.
7. When you want to test your design before the public sees it – The whole point of testing is to make sure your application looks great before it gets to the user, so what’s the point of running regression tests after you put a redesign into production? Using a tool that includes local testing allows you to address issues before your website goes live so a bug doesn’t ruin your latest unveil.
Visual testing is more than just a pretty interface, it’s a tool that’s inherently helpful during development. Additionally, as teams continue to shift left and users continue to access the web from increasingly fragmented devices, a visual testing tool will be an asset for creating your goal app.