Striking the Right Balance: A Guide to Effective Unit and E2E Testingby@andreydenisov
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Striking the Right Balance: A Guide to Effective Unit and E2E Testing

by Andrey DenisovMarch 7th, 2024
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Discover the optimal testing strategy with our guide on Unit and End-to-End (E2E) testing. Learn when to employ Unit Tests for individual components, and when to leverage E2E tests for comprehensive application flow. Dive into practical examples, consider feature complexity, balance time constraints, and prioritize based on risk. Armed with clear guidelines, enhance your testing approach and make informed decisions for robust software testing.
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This comprehensive guideline assists in decision-making regarding testing at different levels - from Unit to End-to-end. It offers practical practices, rules of thumb, and heuristics to answer key questions, such as when to create a Unit Test versus an End-to-end test and the criteria for End-to-end tests.

Focus on Unit Tests for Testing Individual Units or Modules

Start by writing unit tests that accompany the code, testing at the functional unit level. Unit tests, which mock or fake external services, are faster to execute, offering quick feedback for easier issue debugging.


test('calculates total correctly', () => {
  const result = calculateTotal(10, 20);

Use End-to-End UI Tests for Testing the Entire Application Flow

End-to-end tests mimic end-user actions, testing the application holistically, including the user interface. While slower, these tests help identify issues with the application flow.


test('user can successfully complete checkout process', () => {

Consider the Complexity of the Feature Being Tested

The complexity of the feature determines whether to rely on unit tests or opt for end-to-end UI tests. Simple features may be adequately tested with unit tests, while complex features with multiple module interactions benefit from end-to-end testing.

Balance the Time and Resources Available for Testing

While end-to-end UI tests offer comprehensive coverage, they can be time-consuming. Developers and testers should weigh the time investment against the additional testing coverage benefits.

When to Use Unit Tests

  • Testing individual units or modules of the application
  • Faster execution and quick feedback
  • Suitable for testing simple features

When to Use End-to-End UI Tests

  • Testing the entire application flow
  • Mimicking end-user actions
  • Slower execution but provides comprehensive testing
  • Suitable for testing complex features and critical functionalities
  • Prioritize based on risk and critical paths of the application
  • Suitable for covering error-prone areas not apparent through other testing forms

Steps to Define E2E Test Scenarios Based on User Story

  1. Start with user stories: Identify critical user stories to pinpoint essential features for end-to-end testing.

  2. Consider critical paths: Identify and test critical paths users take through the application for end-to-end scenarios.

  3. Evaluate risk (Leverage Risk-Based Testing): Prioritize testing based on risk, focusing on high-risk features or areas prone to errors.

  4. Balance time and resources: Concentrate end-to-end testing efforts on critical functionalities or high-risk features.

  5. Think like an end-user: Prioritize user goals, ensuring empathy in testing efforts to identify user-centric issues.


javascriptCopy code// E2E Test Scenario Example
test('user can easily navigate and complete purchase', async () => {
  await navigateToProductPage();
  await addToCart();
  await navigateToCheckout();
  await fillOutPaymentDetails();
  await completePurchase();

By following these guidelines, developers and testers can make informed decisions about when and how to conduct unit and end-to-end testing, optimizing their testing efforts.