JMeter and WebDriver – Why would you want to combine them?

3 Reasons to combine JMeter and WebDriver in performance testing a webapplication

What is JMeter good at?

The Apache Foundation states the following about JMeter:Apache JMeter

The Apache JMeter™ desktop application is open source software, a 100% pure Java application designed to load test functional behavior and measure performance. It was originally designed for testing Web Applications but has since expanded to other test functions.

So in other words, it’s a tool you can use to generate functional load on an application or a platform. This also immediately describes what it is good at: generating load. Yes if implemented well you not only generate dumb-load but also hit the functional application layers with the tool. But the basic function of JMeter is aimed at generating load and measuring the (server) response times during this load.

What does JMeter NOT do?

Despite being capable of generating functional load, JMeter does not render pages nor is it very well equipped to execute embedded JavaScript (it is simply not equipped to do that actually), therefore JMeter will not tell you anything (out of the box) about the render times of pages. Especially not about render times when the server is heavily overloaded by your scripts!

What is WebDriver good at?

SeleniumHQ gives a wonderful description of what Selenium (or nowadays WebDriver) does:
Selenium Logo

Selenium automates browsers. That’s it! What you do with that power is entirely up to you. Primarily, it is for automating web applications for testing purposes, but is certainly not limited to just that.

In short, what Webdriver does is just about anything that happens within your browser. It does render pages, it does execute JavaScript, it retrieves the pages as if an actual human was clicking on a website. So for fully functional automated testing (or checking to stick with the more correct terminology) WebDriver is perfect.

What does WebDriver NOT do?

Well, it is not quite good at generating load. Since WebDriver basically requires a browser (yes, it is possible to run it headless of course) it is very difficult to generate multiple (virtual) users. That would require a bunch of browsers to start up, when talking about 10 users that may seem feasible, however when talking about generating real load (say several 1000’s concurrent users) a bunch of browsers becomes a lot more difficult to arrange.

Why combine them then?

The logical question then indeed is, why would you combine them? Below I have set out 3 clear reasons why combining JMeter and WebDriver scripts can be an excellent idea.

  • Impact of server-side load on render-times;
    When the load on a server increases, the response times of various parts of a web application may increase as well. These increased response times can have implications on the render time of the web application. For example: a web application heavy with Ajax requests is put under load, the server response times increase, this may result in all Ajax-requests becoming slower, therefore making the website extremely unfriendly to the end-user. When you just run a JMeter script, this will hardly be noticed, and if you do notice it, you cannot express the impact it will have on the user. You can merely speculate about it.
  • Impact of server-side load on functional behavior;
    Given that the server is experiencing increased load and therefore the business-logic of the application is working hard to handle all requests effectively, it can be safe to say the underlying database may also be stressed and therefore responding slower than expected. Slower response times of both application-logic and database requests can result in buggy behaviour of the application. For example incomplete data returned, or worse, a time-out on data or application-logic. How does the application deal with that? How are these errors reported to the end-user? Will the application still function normally within the browser when certain aspects of the application platform are malfunctioning? The best answer to this is by testing the functionality thoroughly while the application is under load. An easy way to test this repeatedly and consistently is by automating these functional tests, for example using (part of) the automated regression test while the servers are under increased load.
  • Advantage of screenshots of fully rendered pages and possible errors with the application under load;
    As a result of the two points mentioned above, it may be extremely useful for both developers/system engineers and your customer to see errors on the pages affected by the increased server load, such as stylesheets not loading or not loading properly, JavaScript not loading, images missing etc. Screenshots (or screencaptures in movie format) will help make clear to the customer what the problem is and more importantly how big the impact on the end-user will be.

I have listed 3 reasons why combining JMeter and WebDriver can be a good idea. I’d love to hear your suggestions of more reasons to want to combine the two.

In a follow-up post I will go into more detail on ways to achieve an effective combination of JMeter and WebDriver running along side each other, well timed and generating consistent logging and results.

Getting a junior up to speed on test automation with FitNesse

Last week we had the privilege of having a junior test engineer working with us for a few days to see what it would take to get him fully up and running with test automation as we have implemented it at our customer.

Our intern, as I introduced him at our client, has a solid eduction in Civil Engineering and lacked any kind of knowledge of test automation or writing software. He has just finished his first project as a junior tester, which was testing a data warehouse migration.


What drove us to try this was simple: curiosity and questioning of my personal coaching and explaining skills. Thus far I have had the feeling that I somewhat failed in showing how easy the setup of FitNesse with our custom fixture is to anyone who is not part of a management group. With this engineer I wanted to confirm whether this was me not explaining things clearly or people not following what I explained properly (e.g. me explaining things in the wrong wording).

Starting point

Our “intern”, as said, has little or no hard IT knowledge. He is one of the junior test engineers that came out of the group of trainees Polteq Test Services hired at the beginning of the year. With his degree in civil engineering he is for sure a smart guy, but considering he has never been on the construction side of software, he had some ways to go.

Considering that he had no prior knowledge of either the FitNesse/WebDriver setup nor the environment we are working on, we started with a morning session of explaining and overflowing him with information by answering the following questions.

  • What do the applications under test do?
  • What is the service oriented architecture underneath?
  • How does this all tie together into what you see when you start using the applications?
  • What is FitNesse?
  • What is WebDriver?
  • How do these two work together?
  • What is the architecture of the Fixture?
  • What is a fixture and how does that relate to WebDriver and FitNesse?

After this session he was set to work with FitNesse. The main thing that slowed him down somewhat was the getting used to the syntax as we force it through the use of our custom Slim fixture. At this point he still had only a minor base knowledge of what the application under test does or is supposed to do. Based on the existing functional testcases he managed to fairly rapidly automate a set of testcases, or more specifically, transform them from base functional descriptions into Slim tables which will run successfully as a test.

The result

Writing the testcases was easy work for him, he picked up the base syntax really fast and managed to pump out some 15 working tests in a very short period. It was time for a bit of a challenge.

Considering he had never written a line of code in his life I thought we might as well check to see how fast he would pick up writing a simple wrapper in C# around an Advanced Search page, which includes a set of dropdowns, textfields, radiobuttons and checkboxes which can be manipulated along with a submit and reset button.

The first two methods we wrote out together, him typing while I was explaining what is what. Why do you want the method to be public, why does it need to be a bool, what are arguments and how do you deal with that in FitNesse.  Where do you find the Identifier of the object you are trying to get the wrapper around, what do you do when there is no ID, how do you extract the xpath and make that work well. Once we got through the first few methods I set him at work to figure it out for himself.

The first question I received after a while was: ok, so now I’m done writing these things out in code, then what? How can I now see this working in FitNesse? After making an extremely feeble attempt at explaining what compiling is and deciding to just show where the compile button is, he then set to work to verify in FitNesse that his code indeed is capable of reaching and manipulating every element on the search page and getting to a sensible search result.

Take away

What did I learn in this week? For starters that when coached close enough it is very simple to get someone without experience up and running with FitNesse the way we set it up, which is good to have confirmed again, since that was the aim.

Another thing we have seen proven is that adding new methods to the fixture is dead-simple, changing the ID’s of objects on the pages should not lead to too much hassle maintaining the fixture. For the Base class quite some developer knowledge is still required, but once that part is standing expanding the testable part can be done with some of coaching. So technically we would need to start handing over maintenance of our Base classes to someone within Development and hand off maintaining the rest of the fixture to someone within the test teams here.

One of the things we might consider in making maintenance easier could be to split the leaf-nodes, e.g. the page level, off from the base and helper classes in order for these two to be complete independent of one another, which means that the developer can add and refactor in the base, without breaking the current functionality, once done refactoring or adding stuff, the new DLL can be used to talk to.

Maybe I am getting carried away with making things modular now though…

Overall, good to see our idea of making things easy to transfer indeed seem to work well, although I do not want to say that this one week was enough to hand over everything of course!

Based on this week I have started to explain things to the test team internally, which does seem to indeed be an improvement. I do believe that having this week gave me a chance to play around with the ways in which I explain stuff, especially on a non-technical level.

Erwin, thanks for being here and listening to my explanations, following instructions and asking questions! It was a joy working with you this week.

FitNesse – Test automation in a wiki

the assignment
When I started working at my current assignment I got told that the tools for automation had already been chosen, one of the tools being FitNesse. The way the tools were chosen is not my preferred way of picking a tool, the fact that the assignment was to “implement test automation across the organization through the use of the chosen tools” made me slightly worried whether or not FitNesse and the rest would indeed turn out to be the right choice.

Prior to this assignment I had heard a lot about FitNesse but had never had any hands-on experience with it, nor did I know anyone with hands-on experience with it.
Having worked with FitNesse for a few months now i feel the time has come to share my thoughts on it, what do I like, what do I believe is up for improvement, how is it working for me for now etc.

learning curve
Getting started with FitNesse was not all too intuitive. Getting it started is easy enough, but once you have it running it is not clear where to start and where to go from the FrontPage. Since we were not planning to use the standard fixtures but instead were planning to create our own we started on the fixture side rather than with FitNesse itself directly. Having created a generic login functionality in the fixture translating actions back int FitNesse became a lot more intuitive.

The base fixtures such as the DoFixture, WebFixture etc. are very powerful in itself, I however feel they somewhat miss the point of automating in clear text: the tests are not easy to read, logical to follow or intuitive to write. We chose to work with SLIM rather than with FIT since FIT gives too much flexibility in usage of (almost) psuedo-code. Examples as used in the acceptance test in FitNesse are not clear enough for our purpose at this client. The test team is, to say the least, not very technically inclined and examples such as below do not really help them very much:

This is still somewhat readable

!|Response Examiner.|
|type  |pattern|matches?|contents?|
|contents|Location: LinkingPage\?properties|true||

A while loop implemented in FitNesse however quickly turns into black-magic in the hands of the technically less inclined:

|put book in the cart|i|
|confirm selection|i|

With our custom implementation we now have test cases that can be read by most people within the organization and will be quite well understood, for example the below scenario for transferring money from one account to another:

|Scenario|Transfer Money|amount|From Account|accountFrom|To Account|accountTo|With Description|desc|
|Start               |TransferMoney |
|Go To|
|Select Van Rekening |@accountFrom |From Dropdown|
|Select Naar Rekening|@accountTo|From Dropdown|
|Enter Bedrag        |@amount|In Textbox|
|Enter Omschrijving  |@desc|In Textbox|
|Click On Verwerken|
|Select Content Frame|
|Is Text             |Het effect van deze overboeking op uw vrije bestedingsruimte is|Present|
|Click On Verwerken|
|Start               |CurrentAccount|
|go to|
|check               |Get data from column|Bedrag|3|

Having started with Selenium as the driver below FitNesse enabled us to quickly build out quite a lot of test cases for the web applications. Part of the beauty of FitNesse in my opinion is that it is driver agnostic. In other words, it doesn’t really care what the system under test is, be it a website, a JavaApplet, a database or desktop applications. We are currently starting to work on TIBCO interfaces and will soon have to move over to Delphi and C# desktop applications. With quite some traditional test-automation-frameworks this would force us to start working either with a different tool or at least in quite a different way. The great thing about FitNesse is that it is so flexible that we can not only test desktop applications, we can also test across several parts of the platform. For example start executing some functions on the web application, verify these actions directly in the database, start a management desktop application and approve the actions initiated from the web application, all within one test case. A test case that big would make the test fragile, but the great thing is, it is possible if you really would want to.

Quite some of the tests currently in FitNesse have been built up based on a functional mapping we initially made of the system, rather than the flows through the application. This is not quite ideal when running the tests, let alone when trying to sort through them and building up a suite for a particular type of flow or functionality.
Refactoring in FitNesse is probably the part where I believe a lot of improvements can be made. The current functionality, based on regular expression search is fairly crude.
FitNesse being a wiki, does have a wonderful different perk when needing to execute some bigger refactoring or moving around of test cases. All tests are text files within directories in the filesystem of your PC. In other words, if the built-in refactor function is too crude, a tool like Notepad++ or TextPad can be of immense value. These can search through files across directory structures and do a big part of the refactoring work for you. If you need to move whole folder structures, again you can copy them around directly on the file system.

My feeling regarding FitNesse so far is that it is a great tool which thus far seems to be underestimated out there in the world of test automation. Even when working directly with the standard fixtures FitNesse makes for easy to use, simple and quick to implement test automation. The main challenge is the initial learning curve, getting started with it and making the right choice in whether to go with Fit or Slim are for the newcomer the main hurdles.

My first experiences organizing a Testingdojo

A bit of background

While working as a testconsultant at an investment banking firm on a testautomation implementation with FitNesse we were in need of more customer engagement.

The custom fixtures for FitNesse were in place, a base test set in FitNesse had been written in FitNesse, regular runs of these tests were in place and showing beautiful green results. The time had come to get our customer more closely involved again in order for them to add the Acceptance tests and build up a solid suite of automated tests.

Our first attempts at getting people involved led to a few added testcases, but not a feeling within the team that this was going to help them a lot.

The audience

The team we had to work with is a fairly diverse group, ranging from a person who has quite a solid knowledge of coding and working with Selenium to a functional tester with little or no technical knowledge or interest in programming.A group so mixed makes life difficult when trying to engage them all, or so I thought.

When looking for possibilities to get them all together and work on FitNesse tests together I considered several options, such as a workshop kind of setup where we would feed the team the information. However experience has shown me that feeding information is not the best option when you want to actually teach something to a group of people. The most effective way to get them all learning and seeing the benefits we would have to get the whole group together, interacting and playing with the tools. Thus I came up with a testingdojo.


In the past I have participated in all kinds of interesting things such as dojo’s, hackathons etc, but never had I participated, let alone organised a testingdojo. All my previous experiences were software development related, with a group of relatively like-minded people.

I started reading up on the base ideas of what a testingdojo can be on the web, starting at The base idea behind a testing dojo is similar to that of a codingdojo: you put a group of people together, clarify the roles and expectations, set a challange or goal for the duration of the dojo and set off to work.

Considering the different levels within this group I decided to pair the participants up by their level of interest and base knowledge of FitNesse. In other words, someone without much base-knowledge of the tool was paired with someone with with a fair amount of baseknowledge. This way they were capable of showing oneanother new ideas and insights, especially since the people without the base knowledge also generally did not work with a testautomation tool before. They were a clean slate.

Besides the pairing setup I also prepared a set of testcases they could use as a starting point, I have noticed that within this organization people enjoy getting given a clear direction rather than having an open target. These testcases were also designed to be datadriven and sensible to repeat often, since they all touch the core of the business.

The dojo

The dojo was planned for an entire working day, this in order for everyone to have a chance to get enough experience in and raise their questions.

We started the dojo off with a brief introduction of why we all came together, what the idea behind a testingdojo is and most importantly, what FitNesse is, how it works and what you can do with it. One of the main takeaways that I ensured kept coming back during the entire day was that Testautomation is a tool, it is not a goal. At first this raised some eyebrows and the inevetable questions, but while working with FitNesse during the day the group started to see the point.

Once the introduction of the day was done people set to work with a few rules clearly laid out:

for the duration of this dojo silence is bad. Talk, have conversations, explain to your partner what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you hope to gain out of it.

there are no stupid questions. The only stupid question is the one you do not ask. If the answer you get is not clear enough, seems not to answer your question or does not suffice otherwise for you, keep on asking for clarifications until you get an answer you can accept.

a FitNesse testcase is DONE when it is on the server, in a logical spot within the suites and has 2 consecutive succesful runs.

The goal set for the group was: farmiliarize yourself with FitNesse and evaluate it, determine the added value this tool can have for you and how you can use testautomation. Create testcases that will be useful in your opinion to have running in a testautomation suite and will make your life as a tester easier.

The outcome

Beforehand I expected we would need to do a lot of coaching and helping to get started as facilitators of the dojo. My expectations were proven wrong thankfully! The pairs hit it off very good, the people with no or hardly any experience were at the keyboards playing with Fitnesse and writing tests while the other halves of the pairs, as observers and recorders, were indeed busy asking questions, coming up with ideas and suggestions, explaining what is and what is not useful to do with testautomation.

The people with little or no experience, by the end of the day, were enjoying themselves a lot writing testcases and seeing them run succesfully. The people with quite some experience also seemed to quite enjoy the feeling of having tought someone else a new skill, besides having gotten new insights into what other testers think is an important testcase.

Overall we all had the feeling this has been a great excercise both in learning some new skills, seeing more sense in testautomation and bringing the team closer together and collaborate more as a team, rather than as a group of individuals.

Next steps

We have already planned a second testingdojo session in which we will continue this line of working and thinking, this second dojo will be focussed more on the specifics you can do with FitNesse, such as working with suites, scenarios and make a test fully and truly datadriven, how to debug your test and stabilize it etc.