Tag Archives: hand coded

What’s in a Name?

Notes on naming:

  • It’s easy to cause confusion between objects and name strings. In the statement below, are the objects strings? We don’t know.

    previousUser = user;

    For a user object, I use an unadorned word user:

    User user = new User();

    For a user name, I adorn:

    String userName = "George Washington";

    That way it’s clear throughout the code when I’m talking about an object, and when a name.

  • It’s also easy to make confusion about what exactly are the keys and values of a dictionary (hash). In hash users, are the keys user names? User IDs? We don’t know.

    I embed the word By in my hash name, to make it obvious what’s indexed by what:

    Dictionary usersByUserName = new Dictionary();

    All is perfectly clear here in the declaration, of course, but elsewhere in the code, it won’t be. Give your code maintainer (usually yourself, six months later) a break!

The key principle in creating a name is that the code will be read far more often than it will be edited. Make it easy to understand your code.

Hey, what are your pet peeves and great ideas for naming?

Clean and DRY Verifiers

In a Coded UI Test (CUIT), a test method is a method that has attribute TestMethod. A test method is what many might call a test script. It’s the outermost method in the test, and directs the test steps.

Some say that only the test method itself should perform verifications, that a method in a page object (or other supporting object) should not perform verifications automatically:

The usual reason given is that such automatically performed verifications definitely will affect performance, and may not even be wanted or needed in a particular test context.

I agree, but with one addition: a method can appropriately perform verification at the request (direct or indirect) of the test method. So the request for verification should originate in the test method.

No matter where the actual verification is performed, the verifier method must log the expected value, the actual value, the verdict (pass or fail), and a descriptive message.

Question: Where is the best place to perform the actual verification?

Answer: Wherever it will be clean and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself).

A that will be where the verification method has the fewest and simplest parameters passed to it: in a page object!

A page object encapsulates its entire page, so it already has access to the HTML control that has the actual value for the verification. That means that a verification method in the page object need not pass the actual value. And that means, in turn, that a call to the verification method has fewer parameters: at most, just the expected value and a message string. That’s pretty DRY.

But wait, there’s more!

When the expected value is a constant (a table column header, for example), that value can also be stored in the page object. So in that case, the verification method would have no parameters at all. That’s really DRY.


  • Home page verifies logged-in user’s name:
    public Boolean VerifyUserName(String expectedValue, String message = "User name")
  • User page verifies user data:
    public Boolean VerifyUser(User expectedValue, String message = "User")
  • Users page verifies that user does not exist:
    public Boolean VerifyUserNotExist(User expectedValue, String message = "User does not exist")
  • Page object knows its own column headers: public VerifyColumnHeaders()
  • Page object knows its own URL: public VerifyUrl()

Finally, I have a special-purpose verifier:

  • Verify that the locators in a page object correspond to actual controls in the UI: public Boolean VerifyLocators()

So performing verification in a page object, under the supervision of the test method, is easy. And doing so improves both cleanliness and DRYness.

Object not Found? Log the Context!

“Object not found.”

That’s what a GUI test tool is likely to log when an object is, well, not found. And many times no useful additional information — context — is available.

But there are situations when context is available, but usually not reported: and that situation is when some sort of selection fails.


  • Menu item not found.
  • Tree view or cascaded menu item not found.
  • Radio button not found.
  • Select list option not found.

In these situations, it’s very useful for the test log to report what was found:

  • Menu: items found in the menu and the item not found.
  • Tree view or cascaded menu: nesting-level of the failure, items found at that level, the item not found, and the items successfully found farther up the tree.
  • Radio button: buttons found in the set and the item not found.
  • Select list option: options found in the list and the option not found.

This can really matter.

Suppose, for example, that the spelling (or even the casing) of an item is changed. You might have to breakpoint the test and run it for minutes, just to see what’s going on. But if the context of the failure — the items that were found — are logged, you’d immediately see what’s wrong.

So how to do this? In the GUI encapsulator, discussed in post
“Encapsulate the GUI Tool?”

For example, suppose in the GUI encapsulator you have a method whose job it is to select a given option from a given select list:

  • Create a new method that logs all the options in a given select list.
  • There will already be code to search for the relevant control. Around that code, place a try block.
  • In the catch block, call the new logger method, then re-raise the exception.

Now when a desired select option is not found, the log will contain all the items that were in the list, which you can now examine without re-running the test. Time-saver!

Try it! You’ll like it!

Location, Location, Location

In my Coded UI Test (CUIT) page objects, I encapsulate locator data into a Locator object. A locator defines and specifies the search for a specific HTML control in the target web application.

The Locator object has:

  • A locator name.
  • One or more name/value pairs, each of which indicates an attribute name and value to search for.
  • A search criterion: Contains or EqualTo.
  • A status:
    • Required: The control is expected to be on the page now; it is an error if it is not present.
    • Forbidden: The control is expected to not be on the page now; it is an error if it is present.
    • Allowed: The control is allowed (but not required) to be on the page now; it is not an error whether or not it is present.

Locator Creation

A page object creates locators when it is instantiated. Many of the locators will be Required. Some may be Forbidden or Allowed.

Locator Maintenance

The page object is responsible for maintaining the status of its locators. For example, if a locator is initially Forbidden, but some Javascript creates the corresponding control, the page object must change the status to Required.

More specifically, I have a user page with a delete button. If the test presses that button, the application will put up a display with buttons for confirming or cancelling the deletion. The locators for these two buttons, which have been Forbidden must now be changed to Required.

Conversely, when one of those two buttons is clicked, their containing display is removed, and the two locators must be returned to Forbidden.

The reason for this strict locator maintenance is that the page object may be called upon at any time to verify its locators’ controls: to confirm that each Required locator’s is present, and that each Forbidden locator’s control is absent.

In the Page Object: Locators, not Controls

A page object operates on an HTML element by passing a locator to a lower-level library method. That method finds the control and performs the operation. For example, a page object can call a button-click method, passing a locator; the button-click method uses the locator to find the button, then clicks it.

The page object does not retrieve a control, nor, I think, should it. It’s not clear to me when or why the object might to go “stale” (no longer reflect the state of the UI), so I prefer to get a fresh object for each operation. And, I think, doing so is just good data-hiding.

A Thorn in My Side

A very few of the HTML elements I’m interested in do not have sufficiently unique attributes to support unambiguous location. For example, there may be several h2 elements on the page, each with no attributes at all.

Perhaps the most fragile way to get at one of these is to search for all h2 elements, then take the one with the appropriate index. A change in the number or positions of the elements can break the test.

A way that’s only a little better, and one that I’ve felt obliged to use occasionally, is to find a nearby element (one that can easily be located), then “walk” the DOM (accessing parent and child elements) to get to the desired element.

I hate having this DOM-walking code in my page object, even though it’s factored into a method. Doing things this way means that there are two completely different ways the page can operate on a control:

  • The right way: Call for the operation to be done, passing a locator object.
  • The wrong way: User a locator to retrieve a control, walk the DOM to get to the desired control, then call for the operation to be done, passing a control.

Note that this means that for the same operation on different HTML elements, I need two method overloads: one that accepts a locator object, and another that accepts a control object.

A Partial Solution

A partial solution I’m considering is enhancing class Locator so that it stores one of the following:

  • Name/value pairs, representing the usual attributes in the element to be searched for.
  • The method that’s called finds the control and performs the operation.

  • A reference to a method that returns a control. The method that’s called calls the function, gets the control, and performs the operation.

Doing this would at least mean that a page object always works with a locator, and never with method that returns a control object. And that in turn would mean that if (when?) the HTML is improved, the locator could be adjusted without requiring other changes.

Thoughts, anyone?

Initial Post

This blog will mostly be about testing software, but I’ll likely go off topic from time to time.

At first, I’ll mostly be blogging about the work I’m doing right now, which is building test automation.  My language for this work is C#, and my test framework is Visual Studio (Premium or Ultimate only) Coded UI Test, which I’ll call  by the unattractive but shorter name, CUIT.  My test target is a web application.  CUIT also supports testing Windows applications, which I may also be doing soon.

I am building what some people have been calling “hand coded” CUITs.  That is, I am not using record/playback (or even record), and I am not using CUIT’s UI maps.  (Now that’s hand-coded!)

Soon I’ll be writing about exactly what I’m doing, as well as how and why.

Burdette Lamar