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    The concept of visual regression testing isn’t new, but it’s been in the spotlight lately. There are two factors causing this growth of attention.

    First, the advent of rich UIs and responsive design has made it next to impossible to efficiently test web apps and websites without focusing on CSS and visual layout. Second, the ever-increasing competition among internet businesses forces companies to search for faster ways of testing their products.

    Can manual testing do the job?
    Given these trends, manual regression testing doesn’t seem like a viable option — it’s just too slow and inefficient.

    In fact, very few companies can afford to run visual regression tests manually after each UI revamp. Besides, humans aren’t that good at spotting visual differences in the first place due a thing called change blindness. Basically, if we don’t expect to see a minor change, we’re subconsciously bound to overlook it.

    Now, the problem here is that tweaking CSS is all about unexpected changes. Once you add a new class or CSS rule on one age, it will almost certainly override something on a completely different page. As a result, your users are more likely to spot the bug than your testers.

    Visual regression tests with Screenster
    So is there a solution that actually works for CSS regression testing? We’ve asked ourselves the same exact question when automating UI tests for our product AjaxSwing. We’ve researched a dozen of existing tools, and we’ve arrived as the age-old conclusion: if you want to do it right, do it yourself.

    Fast forward two years, and we’ve launched Screenster, our very own cloud-based platform that builds on the user-friendliness of the record/playback testing tools, but expands their functionality with a slew of advanced features.

    Here are our solutions to the widespread problems of visual regression testing that QA engineers and companies face on a daily basis.

    Code-free tests = higher ROI
    We get it, coding is fun. What’s not fun, however, is having to spend days scripting hundreds of UI tests that really don’t produce any business value. What’s even less fun is rewriting half of these tests every time someone adds a new menu item or removes a field from the subscription form. Besides, having to code your tests means that you’ll need experienced programmers to cover your UI testing needs.

    So what if you use a codeless tool for visual regression tests? The immediate benefit is that your tests can be created by manual testers, or even product managers — and they’ll record these tests faster. We put Screenster to the test against Selenium and regardless of the differences in programming abilities, this approach provided 10 times the ROI based on the development time alone. This is actually the main reason why Screenster is code-free.

    Screenster provides a fully functional integrated platform for visual regression testing, complete with with embedded browsers and a web-based portal. Your team is instantly productive and there are simple-to-follow reports for seeing the status of test suites and changes management.

    Visual Baseline with Smart Comparison and Smart Locators
    a screenshot of the Screesnter dashboard demonstrating visual regression testing functionality of the platfrom

    When creating Screenster tests, you record a series of actual user actions. Every time a user interacts with the UI, Screenster captures a screenshot of the page along with its DOM.

    The screenshots from the first test run become the Visual Baseline. Once you change your UI and start running visual regression testing, Screenster will compare new screenshots to the baseline. When comparing the two, the platform is smart enough to disable anti-aliasing to filter out insignificant differences caused by rendering. At the same time, it’ll detect layout issues, broken fonts, and unexpected color changes even if the difference comes down to a single pixel. Basically, we’re talking about here are visual/CSS regression testing suites with more precise tests and fewer false positives.

    Thanks to a feature called Smart Locators, Screenster will also recognize individual elements and store their DOM parent trees, CSS classes and IDs for future access. This way, even if the DOM structure of a page changes, Screenster will still be able to target these elements.

    Add to baseline and Ignore rules
    If a particular change is intended, you can add it to the baseline with one mouse click. In case there are dynamic areas on the page, you can exclude them from future comparison by clicking on the Ignore button in the dashboard. That’s right, there is no need to search for individual tests or hand-code workarounds — the feature is part of the native functionality of the platform.

    Bottom line
    When working on Screenster, we’ve made a point of streamlining visual regression tests. To do this, we addressed everything that we considered problematic in other tools. We’ve prioritized simplicity and efficiency, and we’ve put a particular focus on test maintenance. Finally, we’ve made sure Screenster tests provide an exact representation of what users see and how they interact with the UI.

    There’s a lot that can be said about the possible benefits of this solution. However, the only way to tell of Screenster suits your project is to try it yourself. Test our platform by running your visual regression tests and tell us what you think about.

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