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Mastering the Art: Imperative and Declarative Ways of Writing Gherkin Tests

Imperative Gherkin Tests: The Step-by-Step Approach

Imperative Gherkin tests are centered around a step-by-step approach, providing explicit instructions on how to perform each action and validate the expected outcome. This style can be ideal for complex scenarios that require detailed scripting. Here’s an example:

 Scenario: User Login Given the user is on the login page 
When the user enters valid credentials 
And clicks the login button 
Then the user should be redirected to the dashboard

In this example, every action and its expected outcome are explicitly defined, guiding the automation tool or tester through each step. Imperative Gherkin tests are ideal for precise execution and debugging, as each step can be isolated and analyzed individually.

Declarative Gherkin Tests: The What, Not the How

Declarative Gherkin tests, on the other hand, focus on describing the intended behavior without explicitly defining the implementation details. They express the “what” rather than the “how” of a scenario, allowing for a more high-level, business-focused approach. Let’s see an example:

Scenario: User Login Given the user has valid credentials 
When the user attempts to log in 
Then the user should be granted access to the dashboard

Notice how the declarative style emphasizes the desired outcome rather than the specific actions. This approach promotes collaboration between business stakeholders and testers, as it abstracts away technical complexities and keeps the focus on business requirements. Declarative Gherkin tests also tend to be more resilient to changes in the user interface or underlying implementation, making them easier to maintain in the long run.

Choosing the Right Approach

Now that we’ve explored both imperative and declarative styles, you might be wondering which one to choose. Well, it depends on your testing goals, the complexity of your scenarios, and the collaboration dynamics within your team.

Imperative Gherkin tests shine when you require precise control over each step, want to isolate issues quickly, or have complex workflows that demand explicit scripting. On the other hand, declarative Gherkin tests excel in scenarios where collaboration and maintainability are crucial, such as when involving non-technical stakeholders or when the system’s implementation details are subject to change.

A hybrid approach can also be effective, blending both styles to strike a balance between clarity and maintainability. You can choose declarative statements for high-level scenarios and introduce imperative steps for specific critical actions that require detailed control.

In Conclusion

Gherkin tests offer a powerful way to document and automate behavior-driven scenarios, and understanding the imperative and declarative styles allows you to leverage their full potential. Each approach has its strengths, so choose wisely based on your testing goals and collaboration requirements.

Remember, testing is an iterative process, and the best approach might vary from project to project. So keep experimenting, learning, and adapting your testing strategies to ensure robust and efficient test automation.