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The idea behind testing is not new. You can’t sleep well if you are not confident that your latest commit didn’t take down the entire application. Having your application covered with tests gives you more trust in the stability of your application. That’s all.

In most cases tests don’t guarantee that the application works 100% as it is supposed to. You can’t predict all possible scenarios and exceptional situations for complex apps, but with tests you can cover the most important parts of your app.

There are plenty of ways to test your application. The most popular paradigm is Unit Testing. But for web applications, testing just the controller and/or the model doesn’t prove that your application is working. To test the behavior of your application as a whole, you should also write functional or acceptance tests.

  Unit Tests Functional Tests Acceptance Tests
Scope of the test Single PHP class PHP Framework (Routing, Database, etc.) Page in browser (Chrome, Firefox, or PhpBrowser)
Testing computer needs access to project’s PHP files Yes Yes No
Webserver required No No Yes
JavaScript No No Yes
Additional software required None None chromedriver / geckodriver
Test execution speed Very fast Fast Slow
Configuration file Unit.suite.yml Functional.suite.yml Acceptance.suite.yml

One of the main advantages of Codeception is that you don’t have to decide on just one type of testing. You can have all three! And chances are, that you will (sooner or later) need all three. That’s why Codeception consists of three so-called “suites”:

  • A “Unit suite” for all unit tests,
  • a “Functional suite” for all functional tests,
  • and an “Acceptance suite” for all acceptance tests.

Let’s review those three test types in reverse order.

Acceptance Tests

How does your client know your website is working? By opening the browser, accessing the site, clicking on links, filling in the forms, and actually seeing the content on a web page.

This is what acceptance tests are doing. They cover scenarios from a user’s perspective. With acceptance tests, you can be confident that users, following all the defined scenarios, won’t get errors.

Any website can be covered with acceptance tests, even if you use a very exotic CMS or framework.

Sample acceptance test

public function trySignupForm(AcceptanceTester $I): void
    $I->click('Sign Up');
    $I->submitForm('#signup', [
      'username' => 'MilesDavis', 
      'email'    => '[email protected]'
    $I->see('Thank you for Signing Up!');

Functional Tests

What if you could check our application without running it on a server? That way you could see detailed exceptions on errors, have your tests run faster, and check the database against predictable and expected results. That’s what functional tests are for.

For functional tests, you emulate a web request ($_GET and $_POST variables) which returns the HTML response. Inside a test, you can make assertions about the response, and you can check if the data was successfully stored in the database.

For functional tests, your application needs to be structured in order to run in a test environment. Codeception provides modules for all popular PHP frameworks.

Sample functional test

public function trySignupForm(FunctionalTester $I): void
    $I->click('Sign Up');
    $I->submitForm('#signup', [
      'username' => 'MilesDavis',
      'email'    => '[email protected]'
    $I->see('Thank you for Signing Up!');
    $I->seeEmailIsSent('[email protected]', 'Thank you for your registration');
    $I->seeInDatabase('users', ['email' => '[email protected]']);

This looks very similar to acceptance tests. The behavior is the same, however, the test is executed in PHP without launching a real browser.

Unit Tests

Testing pieces of code before coupling them together is highly important as well. This way, you can be sure that some deeply hidden feature still works, even if it was not covered by functional or acceptance tests. This also shows care in producing stable and testable code.

Codeception is created on top of PHPUnit. If you have experience writing unit tests with PHPUnit you can continue doing so. Codeception has no problem executing standard PHPUnit tests, but, additionally, Codeception provides some well-built tools to make your unit tests simpler and cleaner.

Requirements and code can change rapidly, and unit tests should be updated every time to fit the requirements. The better you understand the testing scenario, the faster you can update it for new behavior.

Sample unit test

public function testSavingUser(): void
    $user = new User();
    $this->assertSame('Miles Davis', $user->getFullName());
    $this->tester->seeInDatabase('users', [
      'firstName' => 'Miles', 
      'lastName'  => 'Davis'


The Codeception framework was developed to actually make testing fun. It allows writing unit, functional, integration, and acceptance tests in a single, coherent style.

All Codeception tests are written in a descriptive manner. Just by looking at the test body, you can clearly understand what is being tested.

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