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How to Test Your Django App with Selenium and pytest

Posted by Bob on Thu 22 November 2018 in Testing • 8 min read

In this article I will show you how to test a Django app with pytest and Selenium. We will test our CodeChalleng.es platform comparing the logged out homepage vs the logged in dashboard. We will navigate the DOM matching elements and more. Overall you should learn enough Selenium and pytest to start testing a web page including a login. Sounds exciting? Let's dive straight in!

This article focuses on getting Selenium + pytest working with Django, but as the pytest + Selenium part is applicable to any web app, I ditched the Django / DB part from the final script which I will link to at the end of this article.

Project setup

First we want to make sure we have proper support for pytest in Django, hence after setting up my virtual environment, I installed pytest, pytest-django, selenium and python-dateutil:

$ more requirements.txt

I am going to use a test user account and need to access the DB (which we see in a bit) so I set the following environment variables in my venv/bin/activate:

export DB_HOST=
export DB_PORT=5432
export DB_NAME=
export DB_USER=
export USER_NAME=Github user

I also unset these in the deactivate function of venv/bin/activate so they don't linger around when I leave the virtual env, a trick I learned when writing Building a Simple Web App With Bottle, SQLAlchemy, and the Twitter API:

deactivate () {
    unset DB_HOST
    unset DB_PORT
    unset DB_NAME
    unset DB_USER
    unset DB_PASSWORD
    unset USER_NAME

pytest setup

Next let's create a pytest.ini file to set the DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE environment variable to point to Django's configuration file, by default settings.py inside the main app:

$ cat pytest.ini
DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE = mysite.core.settings
# -- recommended but optional:
python_files = tests.py test_*.py *_tests.py

Testing using a DB / conftest.py

Overall I don't need the DB for Selenium testing but for some tests it would be nice to match up the page elements with what's in the DB, for example the amount of Bite exercises shown on the page vs records in the DB.

Another use case I found while writing more Selenium code for our platform was the activation link when users add their email. No real email gets sent from my localhost and/or when testing so I needed to query the user's object to retrieve the newly generated link.

It took me a bit of trial and error to figure out how to use a real database because pytest-django takes a conservative approach.

I ended up using a conftest.py file (in the main app folder) as specified in the documentation:

$ cat mysite/core/conftest.py
import os
from django.conf import settings
import pytest

DEFAULT_ENGINE = 'django.db.backends.postgresql_psycopg2'

def django_db_setup():
    settings.DATABASES['default'] = {
        'ENGINE': os.environ.get("DB_ENGINE", DEFAULT_ENGINE),
        'HOST': os.environ["DB_HOST"],
        'NAME': os.environ["DB_NAME"],  # my dedicated test database (!)
        'PORT': os.environ["DB_PORT"],
        'USER': os.environ["DB_USER"],
        'PASSWORD': os.environ["DB_PASSWORD"],

This is a predefined fixture pytest-django provides which will be triggered if you decorate your test function with @pytest.mark.django_db. As we want to set this up once for the whole test session, I set scope='session' in the fixture's argument.

Test our homepage

Now let's use both pytest and selenium to test the homepage of our platform logged in vs. logged out. I added the following code to a tests.py file in my main app folder. pytest.ini makes that the pytest command line interface will find it.

Setup work

As per PEP8 first we have some standard library modules, then external ones, then own modules:

from datetime import date
import os
import re

from dateutil.relativedelta import relativedelta
import pytest
from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.keys import Keys

# here I use the DB/ORM Models to match page elements
from mysite.core.models import Challenge
from bites.models import Bite

HOMEPAGE = 'http://localhost:8000'
TODAY = date.today()

I load in my user from the corresponding env variables:

USER_NAME = os.environ['USER_NAME']

And I define a helper function to convert a datetime to an uppercase 3-char month string (SEP/OCT/NOV), we see why in a bit ...

def _make_3char_monthname(dt):
    return dt.strftime('%b').upper()

Selenium driver and pytest's tearDown

First I need to instantiate a Selenium webdriver. As required I have the geckodriver (I am using Chrome) sitting in my ~/bin folder which is in my $PATH, see the Selenium with Python documentation.

I wrote a second fixture to return a Selenium driver object which will span all tests in my module, so I set scope="module" (for now ... if I'd need to re-run this setup for each function, then I would leave scope off, defaulting to per function scope).

One really elegant thing I learned is to simply replace return with yield in a fixture, to have some tearDown code which suited me perfectly here to close out the Chrome browser that Selenium opens while testing:

pytest supports execution of fixture specific finalization code when the fixture goes out of scope. By using a yield statement instead of return, all the code after the yield statement serves as the teardown code docs

def driver():
    driver = webdriver.Chrome()
    yield driver

Generators are awesome!

Test the logged out homepage

Next a hello world Selenium test: driver.get(HOMEPAGE) reaches out to the platform's homepage and it just checks if the title is as expected. Here is the logged out homepage:

homepage logged out

def test_loggedout_homepage(driver):
    expected = "PyBites Code Challenges | Hone Your Python Skills"
    assert driver.title == expected

And that is how easy it is to write a Selenium test in pytest!

Note I am using localhost for HOMEPAGE here so prior to this I started my Django app server in a second terminal tab: python manage.py runserver!

Test the logged in dashboard

Let's do something more interesting. Here is the CodeChalleng.es dashboard of my test user:

homepage logged in

Let's see if we can test the following:

  1. The h2 headers are as expected.
  2. The new coding streak calendar at the right bottom shows the last 3 months.
  3. In that widget only one day has the css class today (orange border).
  4. Match the number of Bite of Py links with the number of published Bites in the DB.
  5. Match the number of Blog Challenges links (2nd tab alongside "Bites of Py") with the number of published Challenges in the DB.

DB fixture and login

As I am going to access my DB for steps 4. and 5. I need to decorate my new test function with pytest-django's predefined @pytest.mark.django_db fixture. This will then (magically) reference my django_db_setup in conftest.py (this took me some trial and error).

def test_loggedin_dashboard(driver):

First I go to HOMEPAGE again and login using the Sign In With Github button. First I located the image and clicked it:

    login_btn = '//a[img/@src="/static/img/ghlogin.png"]'

But we fixed that on the platform setting a class attribute on the login button: class="ghLoginBtn" (not an id because sometimes there are two buttons and id attributes should be unique).

So now I can just do:


This takes me to the Github login page and I can login using Selenium's send_keys method. Note the extra return key:

    driver.find_element_by_name('password').send_keys(USER_PASSWORD + Keys.RETURN)

Finding elements

I use Selenium's find_elements_by_tag_name to find all h2 elements (note the s in elements which gets you a list of all), then I check if the expected headers are in there:

    h2s = [h2.text for h2 in driver.find_elements_by_tag_name('h2')]
    expected = [f'Happy Coding, {USER_NAME}!', 'PyBites Platform Updates [all]',
                'PyBites Ninjas (score ≥ 50)', 'Become a better Pythonista!',
                'Keep Calm and Code in Python!    SHARE ON TWITTER']
    for header in expected:
        assert header in h2s, f'{header} not in h2 headers'

Assert calendar headers and a CSS class

You want to learn about dateutil's relativedelta. I use it here because datetime's timedelta does not have a delta of months. Here I calculate the last 3 months, at the time of this writing NOV-, OCT-, and SEP 2018. I then check if these are in the h2 headers:

    # calendar / coding streak feature
    this_month = _make_3char_monthname(TODAY)
    last_month = _make_3char_monthname(TODAY-relativedelta(months=+1))
    two_months_ago = _make_3char_monthname(TODAY-relativedelta(months=+2))
    for month in (this_month, last_month, two_months_ago):
        month_year = f'{month} {TODAY.year}'
        assert month_year in h2s, f'{month_year} not in h2 headers'

Only one day should be marked with the today css class, we can use Selenium's find_elements_by_class_name:

    # only current date is marked active
    assert len(driver.find_elements_by_class_name('today')) == 1

Inspect links

Selenium has a powerful find_elements_by_xpath method that lets me grab all links from the page like so:

    # next test if all bite and challenge links are present
    all_links = driver.find_elements_by_xpath("//a[@href]")

Then I check how many Bites we have in the database and match the link using a regex in a list comprehension:

    expected_num_bites = Bite.objects.filter(published=True).count()
    actual_num_bites = len([link for link in all_links
                            if re.match(r'^Bite \d+\..*',  # no class in html anchors :(
    assert actual_num_bites == expected_num_bites

Ditto for Challenges but I don't need the regex because they conveniently have a class name of challengeTitle so I can again use Selenium's find_elements_by_class_name:

    expected_num_challenges = Challenge.objects.filter(published=True).count()
    challenge_titles = driver.find_elements_by_class_name('challengeTitle')
    assert len(challenge_titles) == expected_num_challenges

That's an additional advantage of writing tests: you will find refactoring candidates. Like the Github button earlier we could add a class name to the Bite links to make it easier to target them.

Of course this is only one page and even so it only hits the surface. Other tests we could write for this page:

  1. Resolve a Bite, does your score go up? Cheat a Bite, is only 1 point added to score?
  2. Go from 8 to 10 points, do I earn my first badge?
  3. Go from 48 to 50 points, is my user starting to show up on the leader board (right top)?
  4. Are bitecoins changing from grey to colored when I complete a Bite?
  5. Are coding actions over multiple days get the corresponding green cells in the coding streak / calendar widget?
  6. The NEW background image label for new (< 1 week old) Bites and Challenges.
  7. The Bite Token Counter for the Cherry-Pick Tier this user is on.
  8. Etc. etc.

It is good to start thinking about all these scenarios because as your app grows the permutations of all possible outcomes grow exponentially, so automated testing is paramount.

And with that I hope this gave you a feel how you can test your Django app with pytest and selenium.

The final (stripped down) code

And the result:

pytest selenium result

Check out a simplified version here. I took out the Django requirement omitting the last two (DB) checks. No more Django runserver made me change the HOMEPAGE constant to use the live site instead of localhost.

Your turn!

Up for a challenge? We have a dedicated Django + Selenium Code Challenge available on our platform: PCC32 - Test a Simple Django App With Selenium.

Final tip when writing Selenium code

Set a breakpoint in the test you are writing. You can use breakpoint() if on >= 3.7, else import pdb; pdb.set_trace().

In the debugger it's easier to Selenium's methods on the website in frozen state. Then you can just copy+paste from debugger to script and vice versa. This will save you a lot of time and makes it more fun :)

It takes time to write extended Selenium tests but the exciting part is that you build up your regression suite that will catch future bugs for you, saving you time and assuring you write more reliable code!

Using Selenium on CodeChalleng.es

Update 26th of Nov 2018: I took this concept a bit further and started a serious regression test suite for our platform. Here you can see multiple users (tiers) logged in, going through various workflows, pretty exciting stuff!

Keep Calm and Code|Test in Python!

-- Bob

See an error in this post? Please submit a pull request on Github.