Back to blog

What is Browser Automation? Definition and Examples

Vytenis Kaubre

2022-12-15
6 min read
Share

Browser automation replicates actions on web browsers to effectively replace manual human labor. With bots doing the work of humans, you can bet on reduced effort, guaranteed efficiency, and speed that manual work couldn’t deliver. 

Browser automation tools work by implementing a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology. This is when the automation software records the user’s actions in the graphical user interface (GUI) of a browser, website, or web application and saves the action list. The automation program then executes the listed actions by injecting JavaScript into the targeted web page. As a result, the automation tool is able to repeat the actions directly in the GUI.

In the most abstract sense, browser automation:

  • Expedites the process of web browser tasks

  • Scales up the number of concurrent tasks

  • Assures accuracy by decreasing human mistakes

  • Lowers operational expenses when compared to manual labor

With browser automation tools, you can automate various web browser activities, like filling out HTML forms, data extraction, browser navigation, as well as the creation of online reports. While there is much more you can do with automation programs, web testing is one of the essential use cases of browser automation. Let’s take a deeper dive into the fields of use.

Where is browser automation used?

There are many specific reasons to use browser automation tools; here are the most popular use cases:

Web tests

Manual testing of websites and web applications is a strenuous assignment, but when automated, it can immensely speed up the process. Automated web testing differs in objectives throughout the web development process and, therefore, can be categorized into three common types:

  • Parallel tests with an abundance of browsers, operating systems, and different actively used versions of both, it’s necessary to test websites and web applications on all available environments to deliver an unhindered user experience. Automated parallel testing allows just that, but simultaneously and on a large scale.

  • Regression tests the aim is to ensure that recent updates to a website didn’t negatively impact performance and overall operation. Automated regression tests involve re-running test cases quickly and effortlessly to analyze results later and fix the emerged issues.

  • Performance tests it has everything to do with testing data processing and traffic load a website or a web application can endure before failing. With automated performance testing, you can consistently scrutinize the anticipated and maximum traffic loads over short and long periods of time. Browser automation streamlines the testing process and increases its scale.

Routine tasks

Repetitive tasks you do on a browser, be it clicking or typing, can also be done by a bot. For example, you can automate browser and web page interactions, logins to websites, and data inputting to HTML forms. 

In essence, browser automation allows re-enacting routine tasks that don’t require different navigation routes or different information to be entered each time. Solutions like AdsPower are the most convenient for this type of browser automation, as the user requires no programming knowledge.

Web scraping

While there are web scrapers designed explicitly for data extraction, browser automation is a simple yet effective method to gather public data. Companies scrape information from search engines and various websites, such as e-commerce sites, to analyze results later and gain insights.

Dedicated web scraping tools can usually extract data even from the most complex targets. Thus they’re better at scraping compared to browser automation tools. Although,  you can still take advantage of browser automation to automate uncomplicated information gathering within your process. 

Broken hyperlink verification

Another significant usage of browser automation is to verify broken hyperlinks on websites. When a link doesn’t route to the desired site or returns the 404: Page not found error message—it’s rendered useless as it brings no value and wastes potential user traffic.

If you own a sizable website or web application, it’s favorable to employ bots to verify hyperlinks on a large scale. This way, you’ll confirm the quality of content while also saving time.

Getting started with browser automation

To get into browser automation, it’s best to start on a smaller scale. Start with a simple problem you can solve without having to create and manage an extensive project. Here’s a guide you can follow to get on a path of using browser automation:

  1. Process find a process within your day-to-day activities that requires web browser usage. 

  2. Questions answer the questions “does the process involve repetitive actions on a web browser?” and “does it need predetermined input each time?”. If the answer to both is yes, then there’s a good chance you can automate the process.

  3. Tools research the browser automation tools with the features and capabilities to automate your process.

  4. Browser automation use the tool to re-enact the manual process.

You can rinse and repeat this method until you find what works best for you.

There are many great tools you can use to automate major browsers; however, the selection depends on whether your team has coding knowledge or not. Selenium is one of the most commonly used tools for browser automation that offers three solutions. One of the solutions, Selenium IDE, is straightforward as it doesn’t require programming know-how. Simply put, It’s a browser extension that records your interactions and then re-enacts them automatically. 

While tools like Selenium offer greater flexibility through the use of programming languages, a no-code solution is the best choice for businesses that don’t have in-house developers.

Browser automation: the challenges

Since bots and infrastructure have operational limits, you also have to expect difficulties during browser automation. Here are the three most common challenges:

Scalability

Test scalability is one of the biggest challenges in browser automation. There’s a necessity for testing on a number of different browsers, operating systems, and various versions of both, but with time, the process becomes more complex. Websites and web applications grow in size, and this expansion creates a need for more test cases, which in turn requires more resources and time. 

Thus, simultaneously running and monitoring multiple tests can be a real difficulty, especially when the testing infrastructure isn’t intended for a large scale.

CAPTCHAs and pop-ups

CAPTCHAs are a method websites use to prevent bot activity, such as browser automation. It requires a user to complete a specific task, like selecting pictures that match a term, in order to access another web page. CAPTCHAs are dynamic, meaning you can’t easily automate their completion due to the different tests presented each time. While there are ways to bypass CAPTCHAs, for example, with AI-driven bots, usually the least expensive method is to solve CAPTCHAs manually whenever they appear.

The same can be assessed about various pop-ups, like “Do you want to leave this site?”. You can’t easily foresee them, as websites and browsers are updated frequently, and so these pop-ups can come into effect with the next update. Such unplanned user interface appearances disturb the automated flow of bots and stop them from beginning the next planned step.

Dynamic content and geo-restrictions

Another influential difficulty in browser automation is the ever-changing content. Whether you want to automate your routine tasks or extract data with browser automation tools, you might not get the expected results due to website or web application changes. 

Let’s say you've automated a routine task. After some time, your target receives updates that change the place or the name of one button used in the automated process. Consequently, your task will fail, as the bot won’t be able to find the button according to the predetermined steps. Therefore, browser automation sometimes requires manual intervention to guarantee the success of automated tasks.

Additionally, some content might only be accessible to certain geo-locations. Thus, if you’re located somewhere else, you won’t be able to automate tasks with restricted content. If that’s the case in your experience, you might consider implementing proxy servers with the browser automation tool you’re using. 

However, some available solutions, including the ones that don’t require coding knowledge, don’t offer the ability to integrate proxy servers. And so, before choosing a browser automation tool, you should evaluate whether proxies are a necessary contribution to your operations’ success. If you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool, it’s once again worth mentioning AdsPower, which offers browser automation, browser fingerprint control, proxy server integration, and many more features for an undetectable browsing experience.

Conclusion

Browser automation is a challenging yet invaluable method, allowing bots to re-enact browser interactions, extract data, perform web testing, as well as verify broken links, and much more. While there are certain limitations to what browser automation bots can do, they remain ideal for scaling up and speeding up various browser tasks.

If you’re interested in automation, check out these blog posts to find out more: Marketing Automation Trends, Automating Competitors' & Benchmark Analysis, and Automating a Web Scraper.

About the author

Vytenis Kaubre

Junior Copywriter

Vytenis Kaubre is a Junior Copywriter at Oxylabs. As his passion lay in creative writing and curiosity in anything tech kept growing, he joined the army of copywriters. After work, you might find Vytenis watching TV shows, brainstorming ideas for tabletop games, or taking Raymond Chandler’s advice, “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand” too seriously (when writing short stories).

All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.

How to Parse HTML with PyQuery: Python Tutorial

Vytenis Kaubre

2023-01-25

Playwright vs Puppeteer: The Differences

Augustas Pelakauskas

2023-01-24

The Future of Web Scraping and Alternative Data - Predictions for 2023

Adomas Sulcas

2023-01-17

Get the latest news from data gathering world

I'm interested

IN THIS ARTICLE:


  • Where is browser automation used?

  • Getting started with browser automation

  • Browser automation: the challenges

  • Conclusion

Scale up your business with Oxylabs®