What is a low-code test automation tool?
Low-code automation makes automated QA much more accessible than it normally is. A tester normally needs to be well-versed in Python/Java and the project’s programming language to automate the QA effort. Low-code test automation tools lower the entry barrier by taking input in a more accessible form than lines upon lines of Python code.
In fact, one doesn’t need to be a QA specialist to benefit from low-code test automation tools. These can be used by the Product Owner, designer, or any other non-tech personnel to quickly verify that everything works. Devs may benefit from such solutions as well, e.g. make unit tests faster than they could ever run manually with little effort.
Features of low-code QA automation tools
You can’t paint all low-code automation tools with the same brush. After all, this segment is new enough for most vendors to have a different idea of, “What is low-code automation?”. Still, let’s list some of the common features we have come to expect from such solutions at the end of 2022.
- Simple user interface is more than a feature: it is a requirement. A low-code QA automation tool needs to be as user-friendly as possible to fit non-tech people. Similarly, users with a coding background should not feel like they are wrestling with the software to actually make things faster than typing code out in Visual Studio would take.
- Cross-platform compatibility is another prominent feature of low-code solutions. You can save a lot of time if a script targeting the same idea can be executed or easily adapted across Android, iOS, web, and even API testing.
- Enabling behaviour-driven development is a major reason why some companies go for low-code solutions. The heavy emphasis on user experience that BDD brings also means that business stakeholders are deeply involved in all stages of the software development lifecycle. Low-code test automation tools guarantee that test cases will be accessible to potential end-users as well.
- Good external connectivity is a must to orchestrate a truly autonomous and efficient test automation flow. The best low-code test automation tools can be integrated into DevOps pipelines, share status on popular work messengers, and automatically feed test reports into your primary tool for tracking software and development.
Most low-code test automation solutions use AI, even if they don’t advertise it. The rise of GPT, however, paved the way for tools that can automatically make tests, too. aqua’s AI Copilot generates entire test cases or helps you complete them without any coding input at all. It even analyses your test case suite to make suggestions highly relevant, so you spend less to no time editing the output.
AI test generation with no coding required
One of the most seasoned enterprise vendors, Parasoft has a low-code test automation offering in their suite. The company has IRS, Comcast, and Volkswagen Group on their client portfolio, although it’s unclear what solutions individual clients use.
Parasoft’s tool is specifically designed to test low-code applications made with SAP, Salesforce Platform, Guidewire, and others. It converts manual inputs into automated Selenium tests, which are as powerful as regular test automation. You can also let Parasoft hook into your API to let their software create test scenarios from scratch.
Parasoft does not disclose pricing and instead makes you request an individual quote. Our experience with enterprise software suggests you are looking at fees that are much closer to Salesforce Platform’s pricing rather than Microsoft PowerApps’ rates (you will see what we mean later).
Alas, the biggest strength of Parasoft reflects the sad state of low code test automation. There are practically no solutions that specifically target quality assurance. You can, however, save time on QA by applying regular low code automation tools in areas that are prone to human error. There are tools to turn designs into pixel-perfect web pages, modernise legacy code, or automate some of the development routines. Have a look at some of them below.
Appian is perhaps the best buck-for-your-money low-code automation platform — because it is free. They have a lot of enterprise packages, but the only significant limitation is a cap of 15 users. The solution is popular with much larger clients, as their portfolio includes FDA, Santander, AON, and T-Mobile.
What Appian highlights the most about their product is workflows. You create applications by drawing a diagram, you use them to test software, and you use even more charts to distribute the workload. The heavy emphasis on visualisation is reflected in reports, which you can use to track automation testing metrics among other indicators.
Mendix is one of the few low-code platforms that support On-Premise deployment. Their client portfolio clearly demonstrates that, as Mendix is used by PostNL, Rabobank, and even Dubai municipality.
Workflow automation is a prominent feature of Mendix, but they also focus on compatibility quite a bit. Mendix is designed for class-platform development and targets modernisation of legacy code, both non-essential pieces and core components.
Mendix has a free version that seems to be powered by a finite amount of resources. You would ideally be looking at their second tier to get a dedicated tenancy, skip wait times, and access all the good scaling functionality. It starts at €800/month + €10/month per user.
App Builder targets the complete cycle of developing and testing web applications. It converts designs into code for some of the most popular open-source platforms: Angular, Blazor, and (work in progress) React. Users are then prompted to modify and adjust the designs with regular drag-and-drop controls.
Resourcefulness is another strong point of App Builder. It comes with dozens of layouts and app templates. They also give you a clear way out of the vendor lock-in with an OpenAPI integration. You are also free to upload the code straight to your GitHub repository.
App Builder comes with a 30-day trial. The pricing tiers ultimately drive you to the most expensive plan. The Ultimate subscription that brings the design conversion magic on top of low-code automation costs $1,495/year per user. There are also minor discounts if you sign up for multiple years.
Creatio is another low-code automation solution with a prominent client portfolio. They list TELE2, BNP PARIBAS, OTP bank, and Bayer CropScience among the customers.
Similarly to App Builder, Creatio boasts a good suite of tools out-of-the-box. There are workflow templates for different areas of the business, no-code integrations with third-party apps, and even some AI functionality that targets decision-making rather than software development. Creatio has Open API integration for simple data import/export as well.
Creatio offers a limited-functionality free version and a single paid tier at $300/year per user. You will, however, have to sign up for at least 3 years and also expand from 1 GB of free storage at $20/gigabyte per year.
Microsoft PowerApps is a low-code platform from a vendor that needs no introduction. It targets enterprise companies that want to build applications from pre-built components familiar to any Windows user. The client portfolio includes Toyota, H&M, and Ernst & Young.
PowerApps focuses on integrating with other Microsoft solutions, such as Power BI, SharePoint, the Office and Dynamics suites, and Azure SQL. PowerApps does work well with external solutions as well, as even their website mentions a Google Sheets connector.
The pricing is a very strong argument in favour of Microsoft PowerApps. It starts at $5/month for using one app ($10/month if you use Azure pay-as-you-go) and caps at $20/month per user with no app restriction. There is a 40% discount for clients with over 2,000 licences as well.
Salesforce’s spin on low-code automation extends the principles behind its CRM. It is a sales-driven solution with over 4,000 prebuilt apps and a solid integration suite. They even offer tools for keeping track of traditional software development if you would like to keep things centralised.
Salesforce Platform is also a good choice if you have or move your sales and marketing operations there. You get access to the AI functionality that draws insights for you as well as compliance-driven CRM.
The cheapest tier of Salesforce Platform comes at $25/month per user, but you may have to update to the $100/month tier for true customisation. Make sure to study the offered add-ons to see if you need them, as they come at an extra monthly cost per user.
Low-code automation is an emerging segment with offerings from both traditional software powerhouses and new companies. While QA-focused offerings are scarce, picking the right solution (alongside good tools for test automation management) can save you a lot of time. It will be even more impactful when you don’t have enough automated QA engineers in the first place.
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