Phantom JS VS Selenium- Which testing framework will work for you?

With due consideration of the amount of time and effort that you put into developing a web application, it is imperative to test the app for any bugs/errors in its functionality. Especially, if you’re heading towards testing your web apps in headless browsers, you might have to face specific complexities. Fortunately, we have an easy access to remarkable JavaScript testing frameworks like PhantomJS and Selenium which make the task an easy job. Functionality testing can neither be ignored during mobile application development nor during web application development. And, with the easy available of such JavaScript testing frameworks, you can easily get on with the testing the apps in both the scenarios viz: real browsers as well as headless simulators. In today’s post, you’ll get to know about PhantomJS and Selenium-two very popular JavaScript testing frameworks. Here’s hoping by the end of this post you’ll be able to determine as to which one is best suited for functional testing of your web app.

What exactly are Headless browsers?

Well, before proceeding ahead, it is vital for you to understand as to what are the headless browsers. Headless browsers are the ones which provide an automated control of a specific web page in an environment that’s exactly similar to the one available within the contemporary web browsers. The main point about these type of browsers is that they are being executed using specific network connections or certain command line interfaces.

Firstly, what’s PhantomJS?


PhantomJS is basically a programmable browser that doesn’t spin up a real browser window, thereby resulting in faster execution of test cases. It is a headless version of WebKit and serves as a windowless command line browser. The best thing about PhantomJS is that it can easily work in conjunction with a test runner and a testing framework. For example, PhantomJS is compatible with Mocha, Capybara etc.

In addition to above, it is also interesting to know that PhantomJS will track all the testing-related issues on a priority basis. For instance, if the web application is an email client and the ‘signin’ is being broken, it is PhantomJS which saves you a hell lot of time in detecting such sign-in issues. To sum it up, PhantomJS helps you in detecting any errors way before the functionalities are being launched on different web browsers.

PhantomJS- The Pros

Now, let’s have a look at some of the pros associated with PhantomJS:

  • Requires lesser number of resources
  • Doesn’t require any external/third-party services
  • Acts as a self-contained command line application
  • Runs multiple test cases faster
  • Best suited for smoke testing of web apps; either as part of the app development workflow or within the consistent integration server

PhantomJS- The Cons

Now, coming to the cons associated with PhantomJS:

  • Serves as a single version of WebKit
  • Isn’t suitable for extensive testing of web apps
  • There’s a visible lack of Ecosystem

Next, let’s take a closer look at Selenium

Selenium is basically a suite of tools that are required for automating web browsers across multiple platforms. Packaged with the support of leading browser vendors, Selenium is being regarded as the core technology that’s used in an unlimited number of APIs, automation tools and frameworks. Selenium is available in two versions as explained below:

  1. Selenium WebDriver

You can choose this if you’re inclined on creating browser-based automation suites and tests. Additionally, this Selenium tool also works as the best fit for scaling and distributing scripts across varied browser environments. Selenium WebDriver uses the Selenium Server which includes built-in grid capabilities.

  1. Selenium IDE

Selenium IDE is the best option for developers who intend to create scripts in order to help with the automation-aided testing process. Plus, you can use this part of Selenium for creating instant bug reproduction scripts as well. Serving as a Firefox add-on, Selenium IDE will perform a record-and-playback of multiple interactions help with the chosen browser.

Selenium- The Pros

Let me walk you through some pros associated with Selenium:

  • Can be controlled by multiple programming languages and testing frameworks
  • Runs in multiple browsers and operating systems
  • Selenium permits an automated control of real browsers on real operating systems, thereby ensuring that the tests are too close to reality
  • Selenium bindings can be used for controlling PhantomJS, thereby covering over 90% of the testing requirements.
  • For extra powerful testing, Selenium permits you to set up additional browser connections without the need for altering even a single line of code

Selenium- The Cons

Finally, a closer look at the cons associated with Selenium:

  • Selenium doesn’t allow you to run more than just a few browsers on a single machine
  • Selenium setup would require centralization under a situation wherein different browsers are tested on different operating systems
  • Running multiple tests can turn to be quite a lengthy process

Final Thoughts

With the differences between PhantomJS and Selenium clear to you by now, it’d become quite convenient to choose the one that would fit your testing needs. So, all the good luck and do choose only after a lot of planning.

About the Author:

Amanda is currently working for Xicom Technologies Ltd- a renowned Android app development company. She has been an avid IT professional with special interest in writing posts that serve as handy guide for individuals looking out to build a strong career in IT services and solutions sector.

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