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Don’t Be Scared: Use A Sandbox To Help Jump Start Your Automation Skills

Working as a test automation engineer for over a decade, I find myself with a dilemma when meeting a new client: I want to show off my automation skills with a live demo, but a Non-Disclosure Agreement often blocks me from showing anything with a former client’s website.

And if I did show something from another client, it can give my new client the frightening impression I will not adhere to the provisions of the NDA that they will have me sign next.

What can one do?

Well you could prep for the meeting by keeping a live session of your automation tool open on your laptop and run a demo against a public website.

Except anyone can automate Google and a simple search, but it’s rather limited with one field, a search button and results that might not be consistent.

My solution was to purchase the CandyMapper.com domain below and publish an “Automation Sandbox” website.  

A public Automation Sandbox does not require an NDA to access. It is open to the public to play with as needed. And it is a great place to see how an automation tool like TestProject.io works in a near real world website.

In this example we have navigated to the main site (CandyMapper.com) using the TestProject recording studio, and we are clicking on the Get In Touch button.

The CandyMapper site is generated by GoDaddy and gives a tool like TestProject a chance to show how it can identify object properties as well as fully customize each step.

In this case, if the step fails to click the button, it will take a screen capture by default. But this setting can be changed if a screen capture would not be useful, for example if a SQL query returned a Null set.

Alternately users can add an action from any object with an easy Click and Drop Down interface as seen in the image above. This shows off the easy Click and List Selection functionality of the tool to get automation projects off to a quick start and show ROI almost from day one.

In this case, we can build a simple negative test case by clicking the Send button before populating the required Email field.

In the example below, we add a validation to our CandyMapper test be sure the expected test “Please enter a valid email address” is visible on screen.

While you can build a simple “happy path” test to navigate through the site, this also makes it easy to verify when messages should not appear. This could be done by copying the validation step to just prior to the Send button click step, and changing the validation to “Is Invisible”.

Now at this point, you might be thinking “This is just Record and Playback and that’s not a good approach.” And I would agree with you. So it is good to know that TestProject.io also offers code development through IntelliJ and Eclipse IDE with version control in GitHub for advanced users with Java in Selenium.

Additionally to a “happy path” test, the CandyMapper sandbox site also features many common automation problems that will be sure to challenge you in the real world.

The site displays text in English by default and can switch to Spanish and Punjabi to simulate localization testing. It also has a few intentional flaws. For example, switching back to English can prove to be difficult.

In addition, Sprinkled throughout the CandyMapper website are many of the objects you might encounter in websites: WebButtons, Dropdown Lists, Fields, Checkboxes, Radio buttons and textual web elements. A very simple test is to click the “Get Me Mapped” button on the main page. This will scroll a required email field and a “Submit” button into view. Click the button and an error message appears indicating the email is a required field. Populate the field and click the button again and a success message appears. You now have two simple negative and positive test scenarios.

But in reality, websites tend to change over time with new releases. CandyMapper is no exception. While the “Production” site will remain as designed, the “Staging” site, or R2, at CandyMapperR2.com has also been published. It has much of the same navigation flow of the “production” site. But it has a few more intentional problems. The primary issue is that it has two buttons on the main page both named “Get Me Mapped”. Will your test script from the production site still work? Will it report an error or blowup? Will it take a screen capture? That’s up to you to show off.

Ready for more? CandyMapperR2 also has an appointment scheduler, as well as links to CandyMapper Social Media sites on Facebook and Pinterest. There is a link back to the CandyMapper production site… or so it claims. It just might take you to the “Dev” site, or R3: CandyMapperR3.com.


These websites will remain in existence at least until 2022. And they may even live on far beyond that, since all three appear in the Wayback Machine web crawler search at Archive.org. They are open to all testers to practice their skills. It does not collect any information, sell lists or send ghastly spam.

With these sandbox websites, starting your career as a Software Developer Engineer in Test can be fun, and no longer has to be a scary endeavor!

Happy Halloween!  😆 

About the author

Paul Grossman

Paul Grossman has 10+ years designing test automation frameworks in Selenium, UFT, QTP and even Winrunner. His focus is in demonstrating the ROI of automation beginning with a two million dollar justification on his initial project.

Paul has been a conference speaker at HP Discover in Las Vegas, HP Universe in Florida, Micro Focus AMD in Dallas, QAAM in Maryland, Joe Colantonio’s Automation Guild and spoken at the Chicago Quality Assurance Association lunch and learn meetings.

He is an instructor at the International Institute for Software Testing teaching courses on automation techniques and Regular Expressions. He has participated in beta test releases for most of his career and often posts demos to his YouTube channel.

His experience includes HP ALM administration, implementation, customization and adapting the Page Object Model to Micro Focus Business Process Testing. He is known for creative solutions for AJAX synchronization, on the fly object identification, and using AutoIT to extend test functionality.

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