Prefer WebTest to Django's test client for functional tests

Since watching Carl Meyer’s superb ‘Testing and Django’ talk, I’ve been using Ian Bicking’s WebTest library for functional tests, via django-webtest. I’ve been really impressed and I’d like to stress one of Carl’s points - that using WebTest for functional tests is superior to using the Django client.


Several reasons - here’s a few:

  • WebTest allows you to model a user’s experience much more closely as it is smart about mark-up. Instead of hand-crafting GET and POST requests, you can use the WebTest API to follow links and submit forms - this is what users actually do. As a result, your tests accurately capture user stories.
  • A corollary to the last point is that writing functional tests with WebTest is both easier and quicker than using Django’s test client. It’s much simpler to fill in forms that construct complicated arrays of POST data - this is particularly noticable with formsets.
  • The WebTest response object supports several ways of parsing the response HTML, making it easy to make complicated assertions about the response.

Watch from 29:48 in Carl’s talk for further details.

Example functional test

Consider this story from a functional spec:

A staff member can upload a CSV to create new credit allocations for customers.

Here’s a WebTest for this:

from django_webtest import WebTest
from django.core.urlresolvers import reverse
from django.contrib.auth.models import User
from django_dynamic_fixture import G

from myproject.credits import api

class TestAnAdmin(WebTest):

    def setUp(self):
        self.staff = G(User, is_staff=True)
        self.customer = G(User, username='10000', is_staff=False)

    def test_can_upload_a_csv_to_create_allocations(self):
        index ='credits-index'), user=staff)

        # Specify the file content to upload and submit the form
        form = index.forms['upload_form']
        # CSV content should be: username, credits, start_date, end_date
        content = "10000,250,2012-01-01,2013-01-01"
        form['file'] = 'credits.csv', content

        # Check that an allocation has been created
        self.assertEqual(250, api.balance(customer))
        self.assertEqual(1, api.allocations(customer).count())

As you can see, using WebTest allows the story to be captured in a simple and readable test. This is based on a real functional test from a current project of mine. Writing the above test took about 2 minutes.

Other useful testing libraries

The example test uses django_dynamic_fixture to create users, specifying only the attributes relevant to the test.

Note also the mildly unusual naming convention of the example TestCase and method are because I use django_nose with the ‘spec’ plugin from the pinocchio library. This causes the nose output to read like the stories from your functional spec:

$ ./ test tests/functional/eshop/

nosetests --verbosity 1 tests/functional/eshop/ --with-spec -x -s

An admin
- can upload a csv to create allocations

Ran 1 tests in 0.269s

This is a useful way of running functional tests. It also pushes you towards splitting your tests suites into more carefully named, tightly-focussed test cases - rather than bundling disparate tests into the same test case.


Use WebTest for your functional tests - you won’t regret it.


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Tagged with: django, testing
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