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Role Objects in Acceptance Tests

I’m a big fan of utilizing page objects in acceptance tests. Page objects are used to model sections of your UI and minimize duplication within your specs. They also codify the actions which can be taken on specific pages. This minimizes how many files must be updated by encapsulating the details of how and where actions occur. All of us would agree that these are great things to have in your tests and code, but many of us are missing another hiding spot of behavior.

In Comes the Role Object

A role object, in this context, is an object that takes on the part of a system user. These objects maybe an admin, a buyer, a seller, or any other user of your system. Just as page objects codify the actions that are taken on a page, role objects codify the actions which a specific role can perform.




Through these abstractions a nice testing api emerges and the details of where and how are no longer a concern. In order to find out what actions are available to a buyer there is only one place to look. How about a seller? Still one place to look.

The power that you gain is not only in refactoring and organization, but you are now easily allowed to utilize polymorphism in your step definitions. Setting up a context in given steps allows When steps to no longer care which role is performing the action. In addition, the When step now no longer needs to care about the differences between how each role performs the action.

  Given "I am a buyer" do
    @user = Buyer.new

  Given "I am a seller" do
    @user = Seller.new

  When "I login" do

Let’s use the power of OO Design in our testing. If duplication is found between these role objects there are many OO design techniques which can be employed to fix that issue. Code is there to communicate and tell a story. Tests are used to communicate and tell a story. So let’s make sure that we are clear and concise when telling that story. Don’t let yourself get hung up in gritty details and duplication. You may also find that roles pop out in your head and help you think of new actions. Maybe you create a PowerUser role that utlizes keyboard shortcuts instead of clicking links. The only thing that needs to change in your scenario is the Given step and you have multiple paths through your UI.


As with all forms of abstraction you have to live with the levels you create.

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