Adeyemi Adekorede Electronics engineer solving problems with code. Has great obsession for FullStack software development, ioT and blockchain.

Using Nightwatch.js to write end-to-end tests

7 min read 2057

The Nightwatch Owl Logo

In this blog post, I’ll introduce users to end-to-end testing and developers to Nightwatch.js, a popular end-to-end test framework. We’ll set it up, explain how it works under the hood, and further show how it could help ship products faster by integrating with a Continuous Integration pipeline such as circleCI.

What is end-to-end testing?

End-to-end testing tests the application from a user’s perspective so you can determine how well the business use case of an application is being satisfied.

This process involves using a browser-based automated testing tool such as Nightwatch, as well as Cypress to test our application in the browser. Then, you can make assertions based on your test results.

End-to-end testing involves testing every feature of the application from, well, end-to-end — meaning from the frontend components and building blocks to the backend features and functionalities. It tests how well they integrate with each other to meet the goal of the application.

Introduction to Nightwatch

Nightwatch is an end-to-end testing library written in Node.js, which leverages the W3C webdriver API to interact with web browsers, give commands, and perform assertions based on commands given.

Why Nightwatch?

Nightwatch offers many benefits right out of the box, including:

  • Clean syntax
  • Built-in test runners
  • Continuous integration
  • Easy to extend (I use Nightwatch for this feature, as it allows me to write my own custom commands and assertions for testing)

Using Nightwatch for end-to-end testing

A webdriver is a general purpose library for automating web browsers, and all browsers have a specific webdriver server implementation. Nightwatch communicates via a restful API with the browser webdriver server by making HTTP calls. These protocols are defined by W3C Webdriver spec.

Nightwatch sends a minimum of two requests to the webdriver server in order to perform a command or assertion:

  1. Request to locate an element using CSS selector or X path
  2. Request to perform actual command or assertion on the given element

This approach to Nightwatch interacts with one browser and performs an automated test.

Nightwatch Requests to Webdriver
Photo credit by https://nightwatchjs.org/gettingstarted/.

Alternatively, Nightwatch is going to test our browsers in parallel using the Selenium Server (Selenium Grid). The Grid enables us to create sessions with multiple browsers and test them in parallel to ensure that our web app is compatible with various browsers.

We made a custom demo for .
No really. Click here to check it out.

How does the Selenium Server work?

The Selenium Server acts as a proxy between your Nightwatch test script (written with the WebDriver API) and the browser driver (controlled by the WebDriver protocols).

The server forwards commands from scripts in Nightwatch to the driver and returns responses from the driver to your script upon which assertions are being made. The Selenium Server can handle multiple scripts in different languages and can both start up and manage multiple browsers in different versions and implementations.

Multiple Requests and Browsers
Photo credit by https://nightwatchjs.org/gettingstarted/.

It’s possible to host our selenium server locally or remotely (via Sauce Labs or BrowserStack), or as an external infrastructure, depending on our preference and use case.

How to set up Nightwatch locally

First, bootstrap a new react application using create-react application
- npx create-react-app my-app

Now, install your browser web drivers of choice. For this article, we’ll run our test on Chrome and FireFox, so let’s install both drivers:

- npm install geckodriver --save-dev
- npm install chromedriver --save-dev

Install Selenium Server locally:

- npm install selenium-server --save-dev

Let’s now download the Selenium Server: Selenium-server-standalone-4.0.0-alpha-2.zip.

Extract the file and create a bin folder in the root of your project and move the selenium-server-4.0.0-alpha-2.jar into it.

Next, download Java. Because the Selenium Server is a Java app, you’ll need to have Java installed on your machine. Check if you already have it installed by running java -version.

Now, let’s Install Node Selenium Server package Selenium-server. This package exports a path string that contains the path to the Selenium Server binary/executable previously saved.

Create a nightwatch.conf.js file in the root of your project, then add the following configuration:

module.exports = {
    src_folders: ['e2e'],
    test_settings: {
      default: {
        selenium_port: 4444,
        selenium_host: "localhost",
        silent: true,
        screenshots: {
          enabled: false,
          path: "",
        },
        globals: {
          abortOnAssertionFailure: false,
          waitForConditionPollInterval: 300,
          waitForConditionTimeout: 10000,
          retryAssertionTimeout: 5000,
        },
        selenium : {
          start_process : true,
          server_path: require("selenium-server").path
        }
      },
      selenium: {
        selenium: {
          start_process: true,
          port: 4444,
          server_path: require("selenium-server").path,
          cli_args: {
            "webdriver.chrome.driver": require("chromedriver").path,
            "webdriver.gecko.driver": require("geckodriver").path
          },
        },
        webdriver: {
          start_process: false,
        },
      },
      "chrome": {
        extends: "selenium",
        desiredCapabilities: {
          browserName: "chrome",
          chromeOptions: {
            w3c: false,
          },
        },
      },
  
      "firefox": {
        extends: "selenium",
        desiredCapabilities: {
          browserName: "firefox",
        },
      },
    },
  }

src_folders:

Here, we specified that the default path to store our tests should be a folder named e2e. This property is an array, i.e., it can accept several entities where our test runner would look for tests to run.

Let’s dive into the major sections.

Test settings in Nightwatch

test_settings

An object in which we define the test environment. It consists of a default object as shown below.

default

This property under test_settings defines the environment in which other environments inherit from. Here, we defined the Selenium Server as local, as well as its port. Below are configurations made under default in the above file:

default: {
        selenium_port: 4444,
        selenium_host: "localhost",
        silent: true,
        screenshots: {
          enabled: true,
          path: "tests_output",
        },
        globals: {
          abortOnAssertionFailure: false,
          waitForConditionPollInterval: 300,
          waitForConditionTimeout: 10000,
          retryAssertionTimeout: 5000,
        },
        selenium : {
          start_process : true,
          server_path: require("selenium-server").path
        }
      }

Let’s explain the above code even further:

  1. selenium_port: The port number Selenium is accepting connections
  2. selenium_host: The host IP address in which Selenium Server is accepting connections
  3. screenshots: This configuration allows us to enable screenshots and sets the default directory screenshots of the test to be saved whenever we request them by using the save screenshot command
  4. globals: These are global configurations that are needed to ensure test flexibility. Let’s highlight a few:
    • abortOnAssertionFailure: This control is to abort test execution when assertion fails and skip the rest
    • waitForConditionTimeout: This overwrites the default polling interval which is (500ms) for waitFor commands
    • waitForConditionTimeout: This overwrites the default timeout the waitFor command and default waitFor value
    • retryAssertionTimeout: Automatically retrying failed assertions until timeout is reached before the test runner gives up
  5. selenium: Object containing Selenium Server related configuration options. If Selenium is not used, webdriver options should be set instead
  6. server_path: This is the path where the Selenium driver downloaded previously is referenced; thus the need for the selenium_server node package.

Selenium Server settings

Now, let’s cover the Selenium Server settings.

selenium: {
        selenium: {
          start_process: true,
          port: 4444,
          server_path: require("selenium-server").path,
          cli_args: {
            "webdriver.chrome.driver": require("chromedriver").path,
            "webdriver.gecko.driver": require("geckodriver").path
          },
        },
        webdriver: {
          start_process: false,
        },
      }

To break it down further:

    1. start_process: This determines whether or not to manage selenium process automatically
    2. Server_path: This is the location of the server path. Here we used the node selenium_server path to resolve our server path
    3. Port: Refers to the port that the Selenium Server listens to and Nightwatch connects to
    4. Cli_args: These involve a list of CLI arguments to be passed to the Selenium process. Above, we specify different drivers based on the type of browsers we want to run out tests. This was why we installed the following previously:
      - npm install geckodriver --save-dev
      - npm install chromedriver --save-dev

      Because we want to run our test parallel in Firefox and Chrome, we decided to go with these two alone.

      The above packages have been set up to fetch and run their respective browser drivers for the platforms they are installed, identified by node (Linux, macOs, Windows )

    5. webdriver: The webdriver runs in the background as a child process and is started and stopped automatically. Because we are using the Selenium Server to interact with our webdrivers, we disable this configuration.

Configuring web browser settings

The following code consists of an individual configuration for the web browsers (Firefox and Chrome) that would be managed by the Selenium Server:

 "chrome": {
        extends: "selenium",
        desiredCapabilities: {
          browserName: "chrome",
          chromeOptions: {
            w3c: false,
          },
        },
      },
  
      "firefox": {
        extends: "selenium",
        desiredCapabilities: {
          browserName: "firefox",
        },
      },
    },
  }

Folder Structure Example

After following these instructions, we should have a folder structure similar to the above.

Writing the end-to-end test

Create the application structure

I built a demo app in React so you can see end-to-end tests in action. This demo app server was built with a fake REST API using JSON SERVER, as found in the source code for this blog post.

Subscription Successful Alert

If I click on any of the subscribe buttons, it creates a request to our fake API to make an order for a new subscription. If successful, an alert pops up to notify us.

On success, the alert displays, “Subscription successful. Fire on!”

If it fails, the alert displays, “Unable to make a subscription at the moment, try again!”

Subscription Failure Alert

Write an end-to-end test for a React application

The E2E tests can be found in the E2E folder in the project. Below is a test for the subscribe functionality:

module.exports = {
    "SUBSCRIBE_USER": function(browser) {
     // the aside element css selector
        const alertElement = "div[role=alert]";
        browser
        .url("http://localhost:3005/")
        .waitForElementVisible("body")
        .click('#subscribe2')
        .waitForElementVisible(alertElement)
        .assert.containsText(alertElement, "Subscription successful. Fire on!")
        .saveScreenshot('subscription.png');
    }
}

The goal of this post is not to teach the specifics of writing an end-to-end test in Nightwatch, but I’ll explain the above test, which is an incredibly applicable use case.

 browser
        .url("http://localhost:3005/")

The above code navigates to http://localhost:3005/ in the browser.

.waitForElementVisible("body")

The waitForElementVisible command waits for 5000ms for an element to be visible on a page before performing any other commands or assertions. The element, in this case, is the body of the page.

.click('#subscribe2')

The click command enables us to click on any CSS selector passed as an argument to it, so we click on the “standard” subscribe button, which has an ID of #subscribe2.

.assert.containsText(alertElement, "Subscription successful. Fire on!")

The assert.containsText checks if the CSS selector it accepts contains the expected text.

.saveScreenshot('subscription.png');

Lastly, we save the screenshot of the test with a name in the test_output folder as defined in our Nightwatch configuration.

Screenshot to Save

We run the following command in the project directory to do the following:

First, start the fake server:

npm run server:start

Then, start the React app:

npm run start

Finally, run the E2E test:

npm run e2e

We can also run the following command to accomplish all of the steps from the above test:

npm run e2e-test

The command above is equivalent to the following.

concurrently -k --success first \”npm run start\” \”npm run server:start\” \”npm run e2e\””

Notice that we added a package concurrently because we need to run these commands at the same time.

We also need to ensure to terminate all other command processes when any of the commands fail or end.

Terminate Commands

Link end-to-end testing to CircleCI

Now that we are sure our test runs locally, we need to ensure it runs on our CI pipeline to accelerate development time.

Below is the CircleCI configuration file for this test.

Using CircleCI for Continuous Integration and Development

Let’s begin by setting up CircleCI for your project.

After completing this, edit .circleci/config.yml file in your root directory and paste the following:

version: 2.1
orbs:
  browser-tools: circleci/browser-tools@1.1.1
jobs:
  build:
    docker:
      - image: 'cimg/node:15.0.1-browsers'
        auth:
          username: $DOCKERHUB_USER
          password: $DOCKERHUB_PASSWORD
    working_directory: ~/repo

    steps:
      - checkout
      - browser-tools/install-browser-tools

      - run: npm install

      # run tests!
      - run: npm test
      - run: npm run e2e-test

We made use of CircleCI convenience images, which provide us with the necessary stable docker images required by our browsers for testing in the docker container running on CircleCI.

      - image: 'cimg/node:15.0.1-browsers'

We also leveraged the CircleCI orbs, which install a variety of browsers and tools for browser testing. It includes Chrome, FireFox, ChromeDriver, and GeckoDriver.

orbs:
  browser-tools: circleci/browser-tools@1.1.1

Npm Run e2e Test

Conclusion

In this article, we discussed how end-to-end tests work, the various approaches to tackle end-to-end testing — such as testing in parallel in various browsers to ensure browser compatibility — and leveraging on the Selenium Server grid.

We also learned how to set it up locally and hook it up to our CI/CD pipeline. Happy coding!

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Adeyemi Adekorede Electronics engineer solving problems with code. Has great obsession for FullStack software development, ioT and blockchain.

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