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Importance of Creating Non-brittle Test Suites

May 29, 2013

A tester cannot work productively with brittle test suites. They break easily and intermittently, requiring that the testers handle the test suites with care, which will in turn increase waste of time and effort.

Identifying Brittle Test Suites

In case of brittle test suites, a simple change in the UI of an application can break too many tests and cause unnecessary delays in web UI testing. Such test suites are not created with attributes such as reuse and low-maintenance. There is no one rule to identify brittle test suites. However, there are some common qualities that cannot be overlooked.

Qualities of Brittle Test Suites

qualities of Brittle Test Suites

Disadvantages of Brittle Test-suites

Are brittle test suites really that bad? Can’t we afford to have a few of them?

Brittle test suites may work on some machines, while fail to do so on the others. Their inconsistent behavior may let potential defects go undetected thus threatening the quality of end product/application. It could be time consuming to make sure that all your tests are robust and non-brittle, but it is worth the time and effort.

Problems with Brittle Test Suites

problems with brittle test suites

Creating Non-brittle Test Suites

Severe and negative impacts that brittle test suites have on the progress of your testing demands that they be isolated and fixed.

It is not very hard to create test suites that stand the test of time and frequent changes. For a few testers, creating such test suites might be a necessity, while for some, optional. However, from a testing point of view, it is best to create non-brittle test suites to avoid hiccups and unnecessary delays or quality depreciation in the product.

To create non-brittle test suites:

  1. Testers must not assume everything can be automated or run manually. Clear differentiation of automation and manual test suites must precede test suite creation.

  2. Identification of test automation tool and management tool must be done with a futuristic view.

  3. Testers must study the requirements clearly and understand the possibility of new features/changes.

  4. Testers must pair and coordinate with developers while understanding the product.

  5. A good test design must be created with ‘don't repeat’ finality. Creation of test suites without a solid design may not be productive all the way.

  6. Testers must write lean and high-value test cases that demand no/least maintenance.


Test suites become brittle when testers try to create too many or too complex test cases. When test cases get duplicated due to lack of proper mapping, test suites become unmanageable. One change in the requirement may trigger changes in hundreds of test cases.

It is best to thus avoid creating brittle test suites and spend time in writing high-quality and robust ones. This approach eliminates rework and saves effort, and assures quality output.

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