Cukes and Apples: Writing Scenarios with Page Objects

Welcome Back

In the previous article, Cukes and Apples: App Automation with Ruby and Appium, I demonstrated a functional workspace setup for mobile automation by using Appium to launch the Google Play Store app while running a Ruby/Cucumber test suite. The implementation described in that post is enough to prove that the workspace is capable of mobile automation, but not yet a functional test suite.

This post will cover the implementation of a working Cucumber test suite. This means launching and closing the app in our tests, writing step definitions that can interact with the app, and designing support code to make tests easier to write.

Updated Capabilities

Since the last post, I’ve acquired a new .apk file and updated my capabilities to install it, as shown in the screenshot below. I’m using the Walmart app – it seemed a better test candidate than the Google Play Store.

Updated env.rb since last post

The “app” capability is used to reinstall the app when the driver is launched. There are fair arguments that execution speed could be improved by leaving the app installed, but my experience has taught me not to deliberately manage app state – it’s easier to start fresh every time.

Create Hooks

We need to launch the app at the beginning of every test, and close it at the end. To do this, we can start by moving the sample code from env.rb to a Cucumber hook.

Create a file called hooks.rb in the features/support directory. In that file, create a Before hook and move the sample code into it, as shown in the screenshot below.

Notice how the begin/rescue construct has changed. Cucumber hooks fail quietly, so it is helpful to rescue and print any exceptions that are raised; for that reason, the begin/rescue now encompasses all the driver code.

Before hook in hooks.rb

The remaining code in the env.rb file is short and sweet:

env.rb without sample code

One more hook will ensure the driver is terminated at the end of every test – the After hook. Use a begin/rescue block and call the quit_driver method as shown below.

After hook in hooks.rb that closes driver

A Simple Scenario

It won’t be possible to observe the Before and After hooks in action until we have a Cucumber scenario to execute. A very simple scenario will help us to test the driver action in those hooks, practice the language we want to use in our tests, and prove that this application can be automated.

Create a feature file under the features directory. I recommend organizing feature files in a single directory under features, like the “gherkin” directory in the screenshot below.

I created a feature called Welcome to describe the experience of launching the app for the first time.

Welcome feature for Walmart app

The step definitions that drive this scenario are very simple – each call upon the driver that was created in the Before hook to find an element on the screen, then two of the steps use that element to test a value or perform an action. These step definitions are intentionally crude, and will be improved.

Crude step definitions

Execute The Scenario

If you are following along with a similar implementation, it should now be possible to execute the scenario to test your work. Check out the following videos to see the automation in action.

Create Page Objects

One of the problems in our step definitions is a lack of clarity. Direct references to the driver (like uses of @driver in the steps screenshot above) generally hurt readability because the logic of an Appium driver is not like the logic of the application under test. Directly referencing the driver will create step definitions that are too technical to understand at a glance.

The Page Object pattern is a fine solution for improving the clarity of application logic in code, and would make a great improvement to our test suite. Implementing the pattern involves creating constructs in code to represent pages of an application, and then imbuing those constructs with data and logic that describe the pages.

The scenario implemented begins with a step that validates the display of the Welcome page by searching for a title element. The code is very simple – it finds an element, but the logic is obscure. How does the reader know that it validates the display of the page? If an object represented the Welcome page, and this step simply asked that object if the page is visible, then the intent of this step definition would be perfectly clear. Such an object, implemented with a Ruby class, might look like this:

Simple page class for Welcome page

By moving validation of page visibility into a method of a page object, we make the code reusable and get a descriptive method name for method name.

The step definition which calls upon this page object is now much easier to understand:

Step definition is more readable with page object pattern

To make this work, some additional environment setup is necessary. In the env.rb file, require the new page class like in the screenshot below.

Require page class file in env.rb

For the following steps, we can make similar changes. Take a look at these updated step definitions and consider whether they are now easier to understand:

Updated steps with page objects

Advanced Page Objects

Using the Page Object pattern creates a risk of generating lots of boilerplate code – for example, the initialize method from the Welcome page above would be reproduced in every other page object in the suite. A conscientious developer will quickly begin seeking optimizations to his or her Page Object implementation. An alternative is the Screenplay Pattern.

A great example to follow is page-object, the Ruby gem which implements the Page Object pattern for web automation with selenium webdriver via the Watir gem. Cheezy and other developers on the project have created a very nice framework for describing elements in page classes and for managing references to the driver and current page.

The first optimization that we can apply is to reduce duplicate code by establishing a common base class for pages. This immediately allows us to remove the duplicate initialize logic from pages that use this base.

new BasePage class
WelcomePage initialization has been moved into BasePage

The next optimization is to programmatically create methods for page elements. In the examples above, I created a method in my page class every time I needed to find an element, click on an element, or get the value of an element – this can get quickly get out of control, resulting in page classes that are hundreds of lines long and difficult to read.

An ideal implementation would streamline the process of creating elements. Examine the declaration of element and button in the following example:

WelcomePage with elements declared

That terse expression, which communicates that our page has one plain element and one button, can be accomplished with a little bit of metaprogramming.

Create class methods like element and button in the base page class and use define_method to create new element methods whenever a page class declares an element or button. This implementation is very similar to the page-object gem.

element and button methods in BasePage

Take a look at the full codebase on GitHub to explore the test suite upgrades implemented in this post:

Coming Up Next

  • Advanced Cucumber Steps – creating steps for mobile test automation that are readable, reusable, and highly-flexible
  • Cross-platform mobile automation – creating flexible execution mechanisms, page objects that cover multiple platforms, tags for platform-specific execution


Published by Joshua Russell

My name is Josh, and I’m a test automation developer in Columbus, Ohio. I’ve developed test automation for applications on several platforms - web applications, Android and iOS apps, mainframe systems, Windows desktop applications, and more - to serve the needs of insurance, banking, and retail.

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