What is Visual Testing? A comprehensive explanation.

What Is Visual Testing?

Visual testing is how you ensure that your app appears to the user as you intended.

Why Do Visual Testing?

We do visual testing because visual errors happen — more frequently than you might realize. Take a look at this visual bug on Instagram’s app:

Why can’t functional test cover visual issues?

Sure, functional test scripts can validate the size, position, and color scheme of visual elements. But if you do this, your test scripts will soon balloon in size due to checkpoint bloat.

  1. Upper-left x,y coordinates
  2. Height
  3. Width
  4. Background color

What is Manual Visual Testing?

Because automated functional testing tools are poorly suited for finding visual bugs, companies find visual glitches using manual testers. Lots of them (more on that in a bit).

Challenges of manual testing

If you’re a manual tester or someone who manages them, you probably know how hard it is to visually test

  • 5 popular browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer (Windows only) Microsoft Edge (Windows Only), and Safari (Mac only).
  • 2 screen orientations for mobile devices: portrait and landscape.
  • 10 standard mobile device display resolutions and 18 standard desktop/laptop display resolutions from XGA to 4G.

What is Automated Visual Testing?

Automated visual testing uses software to automate the process of comparing visual elements across various screen combinations to uncover visual defects.

What is Snapshot Testing?

First generation automated visual testing uses a technology called snapshot testing. With snapshot testing, a bitmap of a screen is captured at various points of a test run and its pixels are compared to a baseline bitmap.

What are Problems With Snapshot Testing?

Alas, pixels aren’t visual elements. Font smoothing algorithms, image resizing, graphics cards, and even rendering algorithms generate pixel differences. And that’s just static content. The actual content can vary between any two interfaces. As a result, a tool that expects exact pixel matches between two images can be filled with pixel differences.

Can you share some details of Snapshot Testing Problems?

For example, when testing on a single browser and operating system:

  • Ignore user data that might otherwise change over time, such as visitor count.
  • Determine how to support testing content on your site that must change frequently — especially if you are a media company or have an active blog.
  • Consider how different hardware or software affects antialiasing.
  • Image rendering software, which can affect the pixels of font antialiasing as well as images and can vary from browser to browser (and even on a single browser among versions).
  • Image rendering hardware, which may render bitmaps differently.
  • Variations in browser font size and other elements that affect the text.

Can I See Some Snapshot Testing Problems In Real Life?

Here are some quick examples of these real-life bitmap issues.

How do I use AI for Automated Visual Testing?

The current generation of automated visual testing uses a class of artificial intelligence algorithms called computer vision as a core engine for visual comparison. Typically these algorithms are used to identify objects with images, such as with facial recognition. We call them visual AI testing tools.

AI-Powered Test Tools In Action

An AI-powered automated visual testing tool can test a wide range of visual elements across a range of OS/browser/orientation/resolution combinations. Just running the first baseline of rendering and functional test on a single combination is sufficient to guide an AI-powered tool to test results across the range of potential platforms

When should I use visual testing?

You can do automated visual testing with each check-in of front-end code, after unit testing and API testing, and before functional testing — ideally as part of your CI/CD pipeline running in Jenkins, Travis, or another continuous integration tool.

Talk to Applitools

Applitools is the pioneer and leading vendor in AI-powered automated visual testing. Applitools has a range of options to help you become incredibly productive in application testing. We can help you test components in the development. We can help you find the root cause of the visual errors you have encountered. And, we can run your tests on a ultrafast grid that allows you to recreate your visual test in one environment across a number of others on various browser and OS configurations. Our goal is to help you realize the vision we share with our customers — you need to create functional tests for only one environment and let Applitools run the validation across all your customer environments after your first test has passed.

More To Read About Visual Testing

If you liked reading this, here are some more Applitools posts and webinars for you.

  1. How to Do Visual Regression Testing with Selenium by Dave Haeffner
  2. Why Visual UI Testing and Agile are a Perfect Fit
  3. The ROI of Visual Testing by Justin Rohrman

Deliver visually perfect web and mobile apps with AI-powered end-to-end visual testing & monitoring. Get started, free: http://bit.ly/ApplitoolsFree