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Evaluating E2E testing tools: Playwright vs. Cypress comparison

Decoding E2E testing frameworks: Playwright and Cypress compared

September 5, 2023
 by 
David BrokerDavid Broker
David Broker

A high-end user experience can only be achieved by assessing and verifying the functionality of an application. In order to identify potential problems with web software, various tools are available, including Cypress and Playwright testing frameworks. 

These tools allow developers to quickly detect and identify bugs, errors, and other issues that can negatively impact user experience. As a result, developers are able to create a high-quality, error-free product that offers an exceptional user experience. If you aren't sure which end-to-end testing framework to choose for your development projects, this blog will help clarify when to choose each of them.  

What is Playwright?

Playwright is a modern, open-source, end-to-end testing framework developed by Microsoft. It allows developers to write tests that automatically navigate web applications, perform actions, and assert results. 

Playwright is primarily written in and supports JavaScript (and, by extension, TypeScript). This means it integrates seamlessly with most modern web development stacks and continuous integration pipelines. This framework provides the ability to run tests across a range of browsers, including Chromium, Firefox, and WebKit. This helps ensure compatibility and consistent behavior across all major web platforms.

Read: A Complete Guide to Web App Testing

What is Cypress?

Cypress is a frontend testing tool built for the modern web. It offers a complete end-to-end testing experience, providing developers and testers with tools to write and execute tests for web applications. 

Cypress is built on and supports JavaScript. It has out-of-the-box compatibility with popular JavaScript frameworks and bundlers, making it a favorite among many frontend developers. One of the distinguishing features of Cypress is its real-time, automatic reloading upon code change. This feature enables developers to see test results instantaneously, accelerating the test-debug cycle.

Before diving into how these differ and when you should leverage them, let’s hover over the similarities between Playwright and Cypress.

Also read: Uncovering a Few Popular Android Test Automation Frameworks

Primary similarities between Playwright and Cypress

Both Playwright and Cypress are emerging as top choices when it comes to end-to-end testing frameworks for web applications. Despite their unique offerings, they share some core similarities that make them stand out in the E2E testing landscape:

1. JavaScript-based: Both frameworks are primarily built around JavaScript. This ensures they align well with modern web development practices and are easily adoptable by today's vast community of JavaScript developers.

2. Real-time feedback: Both tools focus on providing real-time feedback. As tests are executed, developers get immediate insights into their test status, allowing for quick iteration and bug fixing.

3. Browser support: Playwright and Cypress are designed to support multiple modern browsers. This cross-browser compatibility ensures comprehensive test coverage, allowing for a more holistic assessment of web applications.

4. Rich debugging capabilities: Both frameworks offer powerful debugging features. From Playwright's ability to pause execution and inspect the browser's state to Cypress's time-traveling debugger, these tools aim to simplify the often complex debugging process.

5. Interceptor capabilities: Both Playwright and Cypress have features to intercept and modify network requests. This allows testers to mimic various backend responses or conditions, ensuring the frontend behaves correctly under different scenarios.

6. DOM interaction: Handling and interacting with the Document Object Model (DOM) is crucial for E2E tests. Both frameworks excel in this domain, offering intuitive commands and methods to navigate, query, and interact with web page elements.

Playwright vs. Cypress — The key differences

Test structure

● Playwright

Playwright follows the standard Jest-like pattern for structuring tests, using describe and its blocks.


const { test } = require('@playwright/test');

test.describe('Feature XYZ', () => {
  test('should display element on page', async ({ page }) => {
    await page.goto('https://example.com');
    const element = await page.$('selector');
    expect(element).toBeTruthy();
  });
});

● Cypress

Cypress uses a unique chainable pattern to structure and write tests, which some developers find more readable.


describe('Feature XYZ', () => {
  it('should display element on page', () => {
    cy.visit('https://example.com');
    cy.get('selector').should('be.visible');
  });
});

Interacting with elements

Playwright

Interaction is more straightforward, closely aligning with how developers typically engage with web elements programmatically.


await page.type('input[name="username"]', 'exampleUser');

Cypress

Uses a more chained, jQuery-like syntax for element interaction.


cy.get('input[name="username"]').type('exampleUser');

Handling asynchronous code

Playwright

Relies on JavaScript's native async/await syntax.


await page.click('button');
await page.waitForResponse(response => response.url() === 'https://api.example.com/data' && response.status() === 200);

Cypress:

Uses its own internal promise-like mechanism to handle asynchronous operations, which removes the need for async/await.


cy.click('button');
cy.wait('@apiCall');  // given that an alias 'apiCall' has been set up for the XHR request

Assertions

Playwright

Playwright integrates with Jest, so assertions typically use Jest's assertion library.


const title = await page.title();
expect(title).toBe('Expected Title');

Cypress

Cypress has its own built-in assertion library, powered by Chai, and uses a more chained approach.


cy.title().should('eq', 'Expected Title');

Selectors

Playwright

Playwright offers a range of selector engines to match elements. It combines CSS selectors, text selectors, XPath, and others under a single unified API. This gives testers the flexibility to use the most suitable selector type for their needs.

1. CSS Selector


const button = await page.$('button.myButton');

2. Text selector


const elementWithText = await page.$('text="Specific Text Here"');

3.XPath selector


const header = await page.$('//h1[@id="myHeader"]');

4. Combining selectors


const nestedElement = await page.$('css=div#parent >> text="Child Text"');

Cypress 

Cypress primarily leverages jQuery-based selectors, which means if you're familiar with jQuery or CSS selectors, you'd feel right at home.

1. CSS selector


cy.get('button.myButton').click();

2. Containing text


cy.contains('Specific Text Here').click();

3. Combining selectors


cy.get('div#parent').find('button.childButton').click();

While Cypress doesn't directly support XPath out of the box, there are plugins available that add this functionality. The jQuery-based approach is quite powerful, but those used to working with raw CSS selectors or XPath might find Playwright's approach more flexible.

HeadSpin's integrations with automation frameworks for E2E testing

HeadSpin's AI-driven Platform is designed to provide seamless mobile testing and monitoring experiences. One of the ways it accomplishes this is by offering integration capabilities with several popular automation frameworks for end-to-end (E2E) testing. By doing so, HeadSpin ensures that developers and testers can utilize their preferred tools while benefiting from the global device infrastructure and insights provided by HeadSpin. The Platform seamlessly integrates with frameworks like Appium, Playwright, and many others. 

By offering these integrations, HeadSpin ensures that businesses can maintain their existing testing practices while benefiting from the global insights and robust infrastructure that HeadSpin provides. This combination is key to delivering high-quality applications that work flawlessly for users everywhere.

Note: HeadSpin doesn’t yet support Cypress directly.

Cypress vs. Playwright — when to choose which one?

In the end-to-end testing landscape, both Cypress and Playwright have cemented their reputations as robust tools, but choosing between them depends largely on your project's specific requirements. Here's a compact guide:

When should you choose Cypress?

  • Ease of setup and use: You desire a testing framework that provides a fast and straightforward setup with an intuitive UI, which is especially beneficial for teams new to E2E testing.
  • Real-time reloading: You value real-time feedback during test development, with Cypress automatically reloading tests upon file changes.
  • Rich ecosystem: You are looking to leverage an ecosystem of plugins and integrations built around Cypress.

When should you choose Playwright?

  • Browser coverage: You require testing across multiple browsers, as Playwright supports Chromium, Firefox, and WebKit.
  • Mobile emulation: You need mobile device emulation to test different device-specific behaviors.
  • Advanced interactions: You're dealing with complex web apps that require sophisticated interactions like file uploads, downloads, video recording, or network throttling.

Additionally, with Cypress, teams cannot test on real phones, which can be a hindrance. 

Bottom line

In the rapidly evolving domain of software testing, both Playwright and Cypress have etched their mark as formidable tools for end-to-end testing. Each boasts a unique set of capabilities and strengths catering to a diverse testing requirement range. The optimal choice is not a mere reflection of the tool's capability but an intersection of your project's intricacies, browser preferences, and the granularity desired in your testing strategy. It's imperative to meticulously assess your project's specifications, delve deep into the nuances of each framework, and then make an informed decision that synergizes seamlessly with your overarching objectives.

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FAQs

Q1. Is Playwright suitable for testing Single Page Applications (SPAs)?

Ans: Yes, Playwright is designed to handle modern web apps, including SPAs. It waits for elements to be ready before interactions, and its navigation methods wait for the subsequent page to load automatically.

Q2. How does Playwright handle network throttling?

Ans: Playwright provides an API to emulate network conditions, allowing you to test your app under different network scenarios.

Q3. Can I test Shadow DOM elements with these tools?

Ans: Cypress: Historically, Cypress had challenges testing Shadow DOM, but there have been workarounds and plugins to help. Keep an eye on their documentation for updates on native support.

Playwright: Provides native support for Shadow DOM, making it easier to test web components.

Decoding E2E testing frameworks: Playwright and Cypress compared

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