Solving Problems

Solving problems week 2: Cypress test automation, E2E, DevExp, code standards, rector

In this week's Solving Problems text, I have two topics: code quality and service reliability. I will share some ideas that can improve your set of tools that check if your codebase is healthy.

The problem with the Code Quality topic is how to keep your standards and some trivial issues out of the code without sacrificing your reviewer's time and patience.

And the problem with Service Reliability is how to be active in monitoring the most essential parts of your service without relying on human tests.

Automated tests

There are some red lights that you might be missing an important part of your Software Reliability: the QA team being a bottleneck due to human-resource timing constraints, too many PR reverts before deployment and lack of unit tests on each codebase. That usually comes with a very concerning outcome: customer support tickets. That is very bad for the product's reputation and a constant source of stress and bug lists to grow.

There are lots of quality checks that we could talk about, like enforcing unit testing coverage in the pipeline, applying feature flagging, improving the regression QA processing steps, etc. They are all pivotal and needed, but where to start? There is a first step, on similar scenarios, that I recommend prioritised, keeping the other processes running in parallel: automated end-to-end tests.

Testing plays a key role in development. By continuously monitoring application workflows and features, your tests can surface broken functionality before your customers do.

-- Best practices for creating end-to-end tests, DataDog

An Automated end-to-end test (we can also call it Smoke tests) must cover your most important scenarios and test them continuously and after any deployment. After you check those most four/five very important scenarios, you can keep improving the smoke tests based on the most used use cases. We have currently powerful tools to write them. Let's say cypress

describe('Verify dashboard', () => {
    const baseUrl = ${Cypress.env('baseUrl')};
    const env = Cypress.env('env');
    const dataFile: any = credentials_${env}.json;

    it('Verify raw Admin User profile', () => {
        cy.fixture(dataFile).then(testData => {
            const profileUrl = testData['adminUser'].profileUrl;
            cy.visit(baseUrl + profileUrl);

Developer experience

A quality code check that a mature codebase has is to lint and check code standards. As authors, we are used to waiting for CI to perform steps and be sure that the same successful result status we see when running the steps locally is also successful in CI. As reviewers, we are used to comments asking to check CI or asking to use the agreed pattern when the codebase doesn't have a good quality check step in place.

Both are part of the passive code review that steals our time from the essential problems we need to review in the code: architectural or business logic problems that are often missed by tired eyes. We can do better and use CI and the step tool in our favour.

This can be reproduced in any language, but focusing on PHP, we can use tools like Rector to check and fix those easy-to-spot problems. You can just set a step in our pipeline that will fix the errors and commit it again.

Some can say that it could be a pre-hook step, but this is usually skipped when takes more than 2s. I agree that this is easy to just run the fixes on the diff in our local, but we just have to do better if we automate the changes in case some developers just do not run it before pushing the commits or whatever reason.

This would be a very useful automation, that will run for every open Pull Request, committing code standards or lint issues. The pipeline will contribute a lot to your codebase with very little maintenance. Mind that this will execute Rector (therefore moving the code to the state your team agreed and not just code style) and Easy Code Standards (combine power of PHP_CodeSniffer and PHP CS Fixer in 3 lines)

name: Rector CI

  pull_request: null

    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    # run only on commits on main repository, not on forks
    if: github.event.pull_request.head.repo.full_name == github.repository
      COMPOSER_AUTH: ${{ secrets.COMPOSER_AUTH }}
      - uses: actions/checkout@v4
          # Solves the not "You are not currently on a branch" problem, see
          ref: ${{ github.event.pull_request.head.ref }}
          # Must be used to trigger workflow after push
          token: ${{ secrets.GH_PAT_TOKEN }}

      - uses: shivammathur/setup-php@v2
          php-version: 8.1
          coverage: none
          extensions: <your-extensions-here>

      -   run: composer install --no-progress --ansi

      ## First run Rector without --dry-run, it would stop the process with exit 1 here
      -   run: vendor/bin/rector process --ansi

      - name: Check for Rector modified files
        id: rector-git-check
        run: |
          export CHANGES=$(if git diff --exit-code --no-patch; then echo "false"; else echo "true"; fi)
          echo "modified=$CHANGES" >> "$GITHUB_OUTPUT"

      - name: Git config
        if: steps.rector-git-check.outputs.modified == 'true'
        run: |
          git config --global 'rector-bot'
          git config --global '[email protected]'
          export LOG=$(git log -1 --pretty=format:"%s")
          echo "COMMIT_MESSAGE=${LOG}" >> "$GITHUB_ENV"

      - name: Commit Rector changes
        if: steps.rector-git-check.outputs.modified == 'true'
        run: git commit -am "[rector] ${COMMIT_MESSAGE}"

      ## Now, there might be coding standard issues after running Rector
      - run: composer run ecs:fix

      - name: Check for CS modified files
        id: cs-git-check
        run: |
          export CHANGES=$(if git diff --exit-code --no-patch; then echo "false"; else echo "true"; fi)
          echo "modified=$CHANGES" >> "$GITHUB_OUTPUT"

      - name: Git config
        if: steps.cs-git-check.outputs.modified == 'true'
        run: |
          git config --global 'rector-bot'
          git config --global '[email protected]'
          export LOG=$(git log -1 --pretty=format:"%s")
          echo "COMMIT_MESSAGE=${LOG}" >> "$GITHUB_ENV"

      - name: Commit CS changes
        if: steps.cs-git-check.outputs.modified == 'true'
        run: git commit -am "[cs] ${COMMIT_MESSAGE}"

      - name: Push changes
        if: steps.cs-git-check.outputs.modified == 'true'
        run: git push


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