Top 5 JavaScript Test Automation Frameworks in 2021

Posted Apr 1, 2021

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Chris Tozzi reviews the most popular JavaScript test automation frameworks and presents several things to consider as you select the best option for you and your organization.

JavaScript consistently ranks as the world’s most popular programming language among developers. It should come as no surprise, then, that a variety of JavaScript test automation frameworks are available to help developers test JavaScript apps.

Here’s a look at the top five such frameworks, with tips on the pros and cons of each.

WebdriverIO

Not to be confused with Selenium WebDriver, which supports only browser testing, WebdriverIO is a test automation framework for both browser and native mobile testing. It’s highly extensible and can automate tests for a wide variety of apps running in any mainstream browser or mobile OS.

WebdriverIO’s ability to support a broad set of testing needs makes it a great framework if you develop multiple types of apps and want a single framework for automatically testing them all.

WebdriverIO uses Puppeteer out-of-the-box. It also comes with integration to Mocha, Jasmine and Cucumber and the whole setup requires just a couple of npm commands. 

In sum: use WebdriverIO if you have extensive and broad testing needs that extend beyond just basic JavaScript tests. 

Cypress

Cypress has become one of the most popular JavaScript testing frameworks in recent years, due largely to the fact that it is simple to set up, especially if you’re a front-end developer.

Cypress also boasts the ability to perform both front-end and (to a certain extent) backend testing. That makes Cypress a good choice for developers who use JavaScript (or Node) for both server-side and client-side development.

The main limitations of Cypress include limited support for testing mobile apps: it can handle mobile apps that run natively in a browser, but not other types. It also currently only supports three types of browsers: Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.

In sum: if you want a simple yet powerful JavaScript test automation framework that will meet most standard testing needs, Cypress is a great solution. If you need full application and browser coverage, however, Cypress on its own falls short.

TestCafe

TestCafe is similar to Cypress in that it is easy to deploy. It also offers the advantage of supporting both JavaScript and TypeScript as the languages for writing testing scripts. The TypeScript option may be attractive to developers who prefer strongly typed languages.

TestCafe also supports all of the major desktop browsers, including Chrome, Internet Explorer, Edge, and Safari. It has some limited support for browser-based mobile apps, but in general it is not designed for mobile testing.

A drawback of TestCafe is that it only supports client-side apps. It’s also designed primarily to be an end-to-end and regression testing framework, and does not work well for unit testing or integration testing.

In sum: TestCafe is an excellent choice for testing any desktop or mobile JavaScript apps, provided they are client-side only. If you need server-side testing support or mobile testing, look elsewhere.

Playwright

Released by Microsoft in January 2020, Playwright, which is open source, is one of the newest JavaScript-based test automation frameworks available.

In addition to JavaScript, Playwright also supports testing in .NET C#, Java, and Python, which makes it handy for developers who need to work with multiple languages. Playwright also supports all of the major modern browsers except Internet Explorer, and it can handle both desktop and mobile testing.

As of right now, perhaps the biggest drawback of Playwright is that, because the framework is relatively new, it is still evolving, and it doesn’t offer as many integrations as more mature frameworks. The lack of Internet Explorer support is also a limitation, as is the fact that Playwright requires a custom browser that must be downloaded each time you want to run a test. This adds time to testing routines, and also means that you can’t test in the actual browser that your users are using. Finally, like Puppeteer, Playwright needs to be integrated manually with test frameworks like Mocha, Jasmine or Jest.

In sum: Playwright is an attractive choice for developer-friendly, cross-browser testing that supports multiple languages, including but not limited to JavaScript. But if you need to test for Internet Explorer, you’ll need a different framework. You may also want to wait a bit for Playwright to mature further if you are worried about having to handle rapidly changing APIs.

Puppeteer

If you like Playwright but wish it were more stable and mature, you should consider Puppeteer, which has been around in stable form since 2018.

Playwright’s lead developers formerly worked on Puppeteer, and the frameworks share much in common: they are easy-to-deploy, JavaScript-first browser automation tools that focus on desktop app testing.

The main limitation of Puppeteer is that it only fully supports Chrome and Chromium, so it’s not a true cross-browser testing solution. That said, the Firefox nightly builds are currently compatible with Puppeteer as well, thanks to collaboration between the Puppeteer team and Mozilla developers. Puppeteer support for stable versions of Firefox is in the works.

In sum: Puppeteer is the go-to test automation framework for developers who only need to support Chrome and Chromium. For cross-browser tests, frameworks like Playwright provide a similar experience.

Conclusion

To choose a JavaScript test automation framework, consider several variables:

  • How many types of apps and configurations do you need to support? Frameworks like WebdriverIO are the most extensible.

  • Do you need to test mobile as well as desktop apps? If so, frameworks that broadly support both types of apps, like WebdriverIO, are a good choice.

  • How robust and mature do you want the framework to be? Frameworks like Puppeteer, TestCafe, and WebdriverIO are tried-and-true.

  • Do you need a framework that can handle front-end as well as back-end testing, like Cypress?

  • How quick and easy do you want it to be to write, configure, and run tests? Currently, frameworks like Puppeteer and Playwright require some relatively complex configuration, especially if you are not using them for the narrow use cases that they support out-of-the-box.

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Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure, and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, was published in 2017.

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Chris Tozzi

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Automated testingMobile testingProgramming languages