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Revamp Selenium: Refine the way you use parent-child selectors

pjcalvo profile image Pablo Calvo Updated on ・3 min read

Revamp Selenium (2 Part Series)

1) Revamp Selenium: Refine the way you use parent-child selectors 2) Revamp Selenium: The power of explicit waits

Always keep in mind that automated tests should work for you... And should provide enough details on execution failures so all the involved parties spend less time analyzing failures, debugging and fixing problems!

The Statement

Imagine that we have the following DOM struct.

<ul class="post-list">
  <li>
    <a class="post-link" href="/testing/2019/12/18/broken-links-with-python.html">
      testing with python scrapy</a>
  </li>
  <li>
    <a class="post-link" href="/testing,/mocha,/javascript/2019/12/09/webdriverio-and-ddt.html">
      data driven testing in Mocha Js</a>
  </li>
</ul>

And lets say that for locating the first <a> element on the list you decide to use a simple css locator: .post-list .post-link or xpath: //ul[@class='post-list']//a[@class='post-link'].

when you run the following python script:

from selenium import webdriver
driver_location = './chromedriver'

driver = webdriver.Chrome(driver_location)
driver.get('https://pjcalvo.github.io')

parent_child_locator = '.post-list .post-link' #combined parent child locator
element = driver.find_element_by_css_selector(parent_child_locator)

print(f'Element was found with href: { element.get_attribute("href")}')
driver.close()

you get a console message like this:

Element was found with href: https://pjcalvo.github.io/testing/2019/12/18/broken-links-with-python.html

The problem

In case that one of the classes changed, and you re-run the script:

Message: no such element: Unable to locate element: {"method":"css selector","selector":".post-lists .post-links"}

Something happened!! but the message above is not really granular, we are using the class value of two different elements and so we can't figure out which class changed just by looking at the message. We will need to investigate, debug and tweak.

Solution

Let's change the approach on how we locate this element
first we are going to search the parent element, then execute a second search on the child element. Therefore we can easily and quickly understand what changes happened to our system.

from selenium import webdriver
driver_location = './chromedriver'

driver = webdriver.Chrome(driver_location)
driver.get('https://pjcalvo.github.io')

parent_locator = '.post-list' #only the parent
child_locator = '.post-links' #only the child

#search the parent then search the child
element = driver.find_element_by_css_selector(parent_locator) \
                .find_element_by_css_selector(child_locator) 

print(f'Element was found with href: { element.get_attribute("href")}')
driver.close()

in case of success the outcome is the same:

Element was found with href: https://pjcalvo.github.io/testing/2019/12/18/broken-links-with-python.html

but in case of failure:

Message: no such element: Unable to locate element: {"method":"css selector","selector":".post-links"}

Very fast we can identify that the problem is searching the child element, and the parent search is still working fine.

Final thoughts

This is a quite an easy example, but i feel that the point is also quite easy to understand. always be mindful about how you use css and xpath locators, you might be using them quite well, but as with any other system it is recommended to stop for a second, look at the code and re-factor in case of misuses.

There is something else to consider and give a thought. When you add more searches to the test you will also affect the performance of your execution; each search in this case is a new call to the selenium server. I am a fan of having tests working for me even when I have to write an extra line of code.

Comments?

cheers :) and remember to keep revamping your tests
https://pjcalvo.github.com

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Revamp Selenium (2 Part Series)

1) Revamp Selenium: Refine the way you use parent-child selectors 2) Revamp Selenium: The power of explicit waits

Posted on by:

pjcalvo profile

Pablo Calvo

@pjcalvo

Software developer with a passion for software testing. | Open source contributor

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