Proxy locations

Europe

North America

South America

Asia

Africa

Oceania

See all locations

Network statusCareers

Back to blog

How to Find Elements With Selenium in Python

Enrika Pavlovskytė

2024-06-214 min read
Share

Selenium is a web automation tool that enables users to perform tasks like web application testing, scraping, workflow automation, and more. In this article, we’ll try to focus on and outline some key points on finding HTML elements while using Selenium for scraping and doing it all in Python.

findElement vs findElements

First off, Selenium offers us two ways of locating web elements inside of pages: findElement and findElements

findElement

  • Finds and returns the first element by the provided locator.

  • Throws an exception if it cannot find an element.

  • Is used when trying to locate a single specific element within a page.

For example:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
search_box=driver.find_element(By.XPATH, "//input[1]")

Here, we would get the first web element within the web page that would match the provided XPath descriptor or receive a selenium.common.exceptions. NoSuchElementException exception if there are none.

findElements

  • Finds and returns multiple elements that match the provided locator.

  • Returns an empty array if it cannot locate elements.

  • Used when you need to locate and interact with multiple objects within a web page.

For example:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
search_boxes = driver.find_elements(By.XPATH, "//input")

The code above retrieves multiple elements that match the provided descriptor and stores them as a list in the variable search_boxes. If there are none, the list will be empty.

Strategies for locating elements

Now that this is cleared up, let’s go over the ways you can try and locate elements by utilizing the methods Selenium provides you with. We will be using https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products as an example.

Locating elements by ID attribute

ID is a unique identifier for a web element, meaning that it should always uniquely identify a single element within a page.

Let’s look at an example of a web element that can be located by ID attribute:

The code for fetching this element by ID would look like this:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
element = driver.find_element(By.ID, "__next-route-announcer__")

Locating elements by Name

Name, unlike ID, is not required to be unique and can return duplicates. Otherwise, everything remains the same.

To locate elements by Name, a code like this should be used:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
element = driver.find_element(By.NAME, "next-head-count")

Locating elements by Class Name

Next, let's explore class names. This attribute can assign one or more classes to an element and is typically used by JavaScript and CSS to select and manipulate specific elements within a web page.

Let’s write a code that would return all these product-card class elements by utilizing the findElements method:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_elements(By.CLASS_NAME, "product-card")

Finding web elements by link text is useful for identifying hyperlinks by the text they display. Keep in mind that this method is case-sensitive.

Locating links by text

Locating links by text

So, to find this a element that has a href attribute, we will need to specify the text Super Mario Odyssey:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_element(By.LINK_TEXT, "Super Mario Odyssey")

Locating elements by Partial Link Text

Sometimes, finding all the linked web elements that mention a specific keyword can be helpful. Conveniently, there's a method for getting partial link text matches. As before, they still have to be case-sensitive.

Using the same Super Mario Odyssey example, we can omit the Super part and still find our element like this:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_element(By.PARTIAL_LINK_TEXT, "Mario Odyssey")

Locating elements by Tag Name

While using Tag Names usually results in a very vague object selection, this can be useful when you want to get all HTML elements of a certain type.

Locating elements by Tag

For example, the code below will find all the span elements within a page:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_elements(By.TAG_NAME, "span")

Locating elements by XPath

XPath is a powerful query language used to select nodes in an XML document that can be utilized for selecting elements in an HTML document.

Let’s look at an example XPath query, which selects the same span elements as before:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_elements(By.XPATH, "//span")

Now, let’s imagine that we only want span elements that have the text Action Adventure in them. That's how you'd do it:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_elements(By.XPATH, "//span[text()='Action Adventure']")

Locating elements by CSS Selector

While CSS is primarily a language that defines how our HTML pages are presented to users, it provides us with a very useful tool to locate elements within a page – CSS selectors.

CSS selectors are quite powerful and can get very complex, but for the sake of our tutorial, let’s take a look at a simple example from before:

CSS selectors
driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_elements(By.CSS_SELECTOR, "span")

Advanced techniques

When using Selenium, XPath and CSS selectors are essential tools for locating elements in more advanced scenarios. Let's take a look at some of them.

Dynamic element IDs

Since most pages are built using modern JavaScript frameworks and new development practices, elements often have dynamic IDs, complex attribute structures, or dynamic class name systems, and sometimes lack IDs altogether.

Let’s say we want to target this h4 element specifically.

We can see that it has no ID, but we can still pin it down using a parent–child relation by specifying CSS selector:

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://sandbox.oxylabs.io/products")
elements = driver.find_element(By.CSS_SELECTOR, "a[href='/products/5'] > h4.title")

Here, we specify the element with a parent by an attribute and get the element we specifically need.

Hidden/invisible elements

Handling hidden/invisible elements can be different from case to case, but general guidelines would be:

  1. Locating the elements via their hidden attribute with the help of CSS selectors

  2. Consider leveraging Selenium with JavaScript to simulate user input and access initially hidden elements on the page.

Iframes

Another thing to worry about could be Iframes. To access elements within them using CSS selectors or XPath queries with Selenium, you must first switch to the iframe element using the Selenium driver. This step ensures your element locating methods function correctly. That's how you can do it:

iframe = driver.find_element(By.CSS_SELECTOR, "#modal > iframe")
driver.switch_to.frame(iframe)

Best practices

When scraping with Selenium in Python, use tools like XPath Finder or Selenium IDE for accurate element location and explicit waits for dynamic content. Avoid common mistakes such as neglecting resource management and not using headless mode in production.

Conclusion 

In this blog post, we discussed various techniques for locating HTML elements using Selenium in Python, which is crucial for tasks like web scraping and automation. By leveraging methods such as findElement and findElements and utilizing diverse strategies, including IDs, class names, link texts, and XPath queries, users can efficiently target elements within web pages.

We also explored advanced techniques for handling dynamic IDs, hidden elements, and iframes, highlighting the versatility and power of Selenium. Whether you're automating workflows or scraping data, understanding these element locating methods will enhance your ability to interact with web pages effectively and robustly.

Read similar blog posts like bypassing CAPTCHA with Selenium or Selenium comparisons with Puppeteer and Scrapy.

Frequently asked questions

Can Selenium be used with proxies?

Yes, proxies can be integrated. Read our blog post to learn more about using proxies in Selenium.

About the author

Enrika Pavlovskytė

Copywriter

Enrika Pavlovskytė is a Copywriter at Oxylabs. With a background in digital heritage research, she became increasingly fascinated with innovative technologies and started transitioning into the tech world. On her days off, you might find her camping in the wilderness and, perhaps, trying to befriend a fox! Even so, she would never pass up a chance to binge-watch old horror movies on the couch.

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.

Related articles

Get the latest news from data gathering world

I’m interested