Acceptance testing can be performed by a non-technical person. That person can be your tester, manager or even client.
If you are developing a web-application (and probably you are) the tester needs nothing more than a web browser
to check that your site works correctly. You can reproduce an acceptance tester’s actions in scenarios
and run them automatically after each site change. Codeception keeps tests clean and simple,
as if they were recorded from the words of an actual acceptance tester.
It makes no difference what CMS or Framework is used on the site. You can even test sites created on different platforms,
like Java, .NET, etc. It’s always a good idea to add tests to your web site.
At least you will be sure that site features work after the last changes were made.
Probably the first test you would want to run would be signing in.
In order to write such a test, we still require basic knowledge of PHP and HTML:
This scenario can be performed either by a simple PHP Browser or by a browser with Selenium WebDriver.
We will start writing our first acceptance tests with a PhpBrowser.
This is the fastest way to run acceptance tests, since it doesn’t require running an actual browser.
We use a PHP web scraper, which acts like a browser: it sends a request, then receives and parses the response.
Codeception uses Guzzle and Symfony BrowserKit to interact with HTML web pages.
Good thing about PhpBrowser is that it can be run in any environment with just PHP and cURL required.
Common PhpBrowser drawbacks:
- you can click only on links with valid URLs or form submit buttons
- you can’t fill in fields that are not inside a form
Before we start, we need a local copy of the site running on your host.
We need to specify the
url parameter in the acceptance suite config (
We should start by creating a ‘Cept’ file in the
Let’s call it
SigninCept.php. We will write the first lines into it:
$I object is used to write all interactions.
The methods of the
$I object are taken from the
PhpBrowser module. We will briefly describe them here:
We will assume that all actions starting with
have describe the initial environment.
amOnPage action sets the starting point of a test to the
PhpBrowser you can click the links and fill in the forms. That will probably be the majority of your actions.
Emulates a click on valid anchors. The page from the
href parameter will be opened.
As a parameter you can specify the link name or a valid CSS or XPath selector.
Codeception tries to locate an element by its text, name, CSS or XPath.
You can specify the locator type manually by passing an array as a parameter. We call this a strict locator.
Available strict locator types are:
There is a special class
which may help you to generate complex XPath locators.
For instance, it can easily allow you to click an element on the last row of a table:
Clicking links is not what takes the most time during the testing of a web site.
If your site consists only of links you can skip test automation.
The most routine waste of time goes into the testing of forms. Codeception provides several ways of testing forms.
Let’s submit this sample form inside the Codeception test:
From a user’s perspective, a form consists of fields which should be filled in, and then an update or submit button clicked:
To match fields by their labels, you should write a
for attribute in the label tag.
From the developer’s perspective, submitting a form is just sending a valid post request to the server.
Sometimes it’s easier to fill in all of the fields at once and send the form without clicking a ‘Submit’ button.
A similar scenario can be rewritten with only one command:
submitForm is not emulating a user’s actions, but it’s quite useful
in situations when the form is not formatted properly, for example to discover that labels aren’t set
By default, submitForm doesn’t send values for buttons. The last parameter allows specifying
what button values should be sent, or button values can be implicitly specified in the second parameter:
In the PHP browser you can test the page contents.
In most cases you just need to check that the required text or element is on the page.
The most useful command for this is
You can check that a specific element exists (or doesn’t) on a page:
We also have other useful commands to perform checks. Please note that they all start with the
Sometimes you don’t want the test to be stopped when an assertion fails. Maybe you have a long-running test
and you want it to run to the end. In this case you can use conditional assertions.
see method has a corresponding
canSee method, and
dontSee has a
Each failed assertion will be shown in the test results. A failed assertion won’t stop the test.
Within a long scenario you should describe what actions you are going to perform and what results should be achieved.
expectTo help you in making tests more descriptive:
These commands retrieve data that can be used in the test. Imagine your site generates a password for every user
and you want to check that the user can log into the site using this password:
Grabbers allow you to get a single value from the current page with commands:
Cookies, URLs, Title, etc
Actions for cookies:
Actions for checking the page title:
Actions for URLs:
A nice feature of Codeception is that most scenarios can be easily ported between the testing backends.
The PhpBrowser tests we wrote previously can be executed inside a real browser (or PhantomJS) with Selenium WebDriver.
The only thing we need to change is to reconfigure and rebuild the AcceptanceTester class,
and to use WebDriver instead of PhpBrowser.
In order to run Selenium tests you need to download Selenium Server
and get it running. Alternatively you may use PhantomJS headless browser in
If you run your acceptance tests with Selenium, Firefox will be started
and all the actions will be performed step by step using the browser engine.
In this case
seeElement won’t just check that the element exists on a page,
but it will also check that element is actually visible to the user:
which can be used to specify what event you expect to occur on a page, before continuing the test.
In this case we are waiting for the ‘agree’ button to appear and then clicking it. If it didn’t appear after 30 seconds,
the test will fail. There are other
wait methods you may use.
See Codeception’s WebDriver module documentation for the full reference.
Multi Session Testing
Codeception allows you to execute actions in concurrent sessions. The most obvious case for it
is testing realtime messaging between users on a site. In order to do it, you will need to launch two browser windows
at the same time for the same test. Codeception has very smart concept for doing this. It is called Friends:
In this case we performed, or ‘did’, some actions in the second window with the
does command on a friend object.
Sometimes you may want to close a web page before the end of the test. For such cases you may use leave().
You can also specify roles for a friend:
Selenium WebDriver allows us to execute tests in real browsers on different platforms.
Some environments are hard to be reproduced manually, testing Internet Explorer 6-8 on Windows XP may be a hard thing,
especially if you don’t have Windows XP installed. This is where Cloud Testing services come to help you.
Services such as SauceLabs, BrowserStack
and others can create virtual machines on demand
and set up Selenium Server and the desired browser. Tests are executed on a remote machine in a cloud,
to access local files cloud testing services provide a special application called Tunnel.
Tunnel operates on a secured protocol and allows browsers executed in a cloud to connect to a local web server.
Cloud Testing services work with the standard WebDriver protocol. This makes setting up cloud testing relly easy.
You just need to set the WebDriver configuration to:
- specify the host to connect to (depends on the cloud provider)
- authentication details (to use your account)
We recommend using params
to provide authorization credentials.
It should be mentioned that Cloud Testing services are not free. You should investigate their pricing models
and choose one that fits your needs. They also may work painfully slowly if ping times between the local server
and the cloud is too high. This may lead to random failures in acceptance tests.
In the modern era of Single Page Applications, the browser replaces the server in creating the user interface.
Unlike traditional web applications, web pages are not reloaded on user actions.
However, testing Single Page Applications can be a hard task.
There could be no information of the application state: e.g. has it completed rendering or not?
What is possible to do in this case is to use more
For applications built with AngularJS v1.x framework
we implemented AngularJS module which is based on Protractor
(an official tool for testing Angular apps). Under the hood, it pauses step execution
before the previous actions are completed and uses the AngularJS API to check the application state.
The AngularJS module extends WebDriver so that all the configuration options from it are available.
Cleaning Things Up
While testing, your actions may change the data on the site. Tests will fail if trying to create
or update the same data twice. To avoid this problem, your database should be repopulated for each test.
Codeception provides a
Db module for that purpose. It will load a database dump after each passed test.
To make repopulation work, create an SQL dump of your database and put it into the
Set the database connection and path to the dump in the global Codeception config.
After we have configured the Db module, we should have it enabled in the
acceptance.suite.yml configuration file.
Codeception modules can print valuable information while running.
Just execute tests with the
--debug option to see running details. For any custom output use the
On each failure, the snapshot of the last shown page will be stored in the
PhpBrowser will store the HTML code and WebDriver will save a screenshot of the page.
Sometimes you may want to inspect a web page opened by a running test. For such cases
you may use the pauseExecution method of WebDriver module.
You can also record your tests step by step and review the execution flow as a slideshow
with the help of the Recorder extension.
Writing acceptance tests with Codeception and PhpBrowser is a good start.
You can easily test your Joomla, Drupal, WordPress sites, as well as those made with frameworks.
Writing acceptance tests is like describing a tester’s actions in PHP. They are quite readable and very easy to write.
Don’t forget to repopulate the database on each test run.