I've been wanting to post about using Selenium and TeamCity to build and test .NET websites on Windows for a while. Unfortunately it hasn't been forthcoming as I only really use Windows/.NET at work these days.

I decided I would get my shit together today and write, what may be my last post on .NET for a while, in response to @DavidBurela's Developer Blog Banter topic "How do you test your applications?"

I'm going skip unit-testing (which do and try to get better at), BDD and JavaScript testing (which I would like to do and get better at) and focus on automated browser testing.

The Build Process

Watching automated test may be fun the first few runs, but that won't last long. Anyway if you want automated browsers tests, surely you want to automate the automated tests, right?

The build process is going to need to somehow automate the browser and run the site the browser is browsing. For this we use IIS which is scriptable with the PowerShell WebAdministration module (maybe I will write another post on .NET).

Standard Build Process

The problem with having the UI Test step in this iterative process is it very quickly starts taking ages. This sucks, I want feedback as soon as possible. TeamCity provides feedback after each stage, but we don't get our green light.

This could be resolved by putting the UI tests in a nightly build, but I think a staged build or build pipeline would be better.

The first stage compiles and unit tests and produces a deployable website as an artifact, this process is hopefully quite fast. If the first stage is successful the next stage in the pipeline is triggered which can be setup in the TeamCity administration web interface.

Pipeline Build Process

If you want to get awesome you can also start using Selenium Grid to distribute test agents or a cloud based solution like source labs

Tools

Our automated build process consists of a few tools.

TeamCity for our build management and CI server. After years of using CC.Net and a very brief and painful exposure to TFS, I love TeamCity. I also hear great thing about Hudson.

NUnit and included NUnit-Console. It does what I want a unit test framework and runner. I am yet to be convinced to changed.

MSBuild with the MSBuild Community Tasks for our build scripts. I think you have to have some sort of build script to do continuous integration when not using TFS. I would like to be using script or DSL instead, but msbuild is doing the job for now.

Selenium for our browsers automation tests.

Creating Tests

SeleniumIDE is a Firefox plug-in for recording and running tests.

SeleniumIDE

SeleniumIDE is pretty slick and importantly it's a tool non-developer-testers-types can quickly get their head round and start producing some tests.

What we really want though, is to have our tests in code so we can run on them on build machine and version them in a repository.

Test Scripts

SeleniumID Export

That should generated something like this.

Generated code

This is pretty sweet, it generates test files you can pretty much just add to your project as NUnit tests. For me this mean automation tests can be run by the nunit-console just as our unit tests projects were.

The .NET client drivers are in the Selenium Core download.

I think it is worth considering generating C# test scripts may not necessarily be ideal.

Selenium

Selenium server run of the JVM - Yes Java - Suck it up, TeamCity does too :)

Any version of the standard JRE should be fine. If you've installed Java correctly it should be in your path and you should be able to type this in a console.

c:\>java -version

java version "1.6.0_18"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_18-b07)
Java HotSpot(TM) Client VM (build 16.0-b13, mixed mode, sharing)

This should output the Java version and build information. If so you have successfully installed a java runtime. Yay!

You need to download the SeleniumRC JAR file.

Once you have Java and the Selenium JAR you should be able to start the server from the command-line.

java -jar selenium-server.jar

Selenium as a Service

I wanted to run SeleniumRC (the same Jar) as a service. Console windows on servers, not so cool. Another, probably better, option is to have the build script itself instantiate the server and take down the server. I went with the service.

I found a solution but it didn't work on Windows 2008, luckily that lead me to the Non Sucking Service Manager.

Non sucking service manager

The parameters I used were "-Xrs -jar [path/to/selenium-server.jar]"

Discussion

I went down the path of browsers automation because I was finding none of our other testing efforts, while valuable, were actually ensuring the website would work.

We were still have problems where a page or an entire site would return a HTTP 500 Server Error. Sometimes it was code and a unit-test would would ensure the fix, Sometimes it was IOC or ORM/Database configuration. What we needed was an end-to-end integration test. Browser automation provides these tests, and it helps.

I actually don't see the tests themselves as being particularly fragile. No doubt they can be, but I think it also encourages clean markup. If the hierarchy or class/id attributes change in the markup then UI tests are not the only thing the could break. Stylesheets, scripts and some server logic also depend on it.

While I have found the testing value of browser automation is good, I feel that mocking out the entire web framework (like gaeunit for appengine) or testing at HTTP level could achieve the same thing more easily and run quicker.

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