Rainforest QA vs. no- and low-code test automation tools

If you’re ready to automate your manual tests but don’t have the budget for hiring or outsourcing, no- and low-code tools like Katalon, Testim, and Mabl can seem pretty appealing.

The promise of no- and low-code test automation tools is that anyone on your team can create and automate tests without any technical expertise, at a low cost. You don’t need to hire an expensive QA test engineer to automate your tests or have your developers get bogged down in a complex, open-source framework.

But no- and low-code tools come with a couple of big drawbacks. Notably:

  1. Your team will spend more time than you’re expecting on test maintenance — and less time on shipping product.
  2. Most of these tools test a proxy for the user experience, instead of the actual user experience, giving you less confidence in test results.

Rainforest QA is a no-code test automation platform powered by AI. It optionally includes managed services to take automated test creation and management completely off your team’s plate.

Rainforest has been designed to deliver on the promise of no-code tooling, without any of the big drawbacks.

No- and low-code tools

Costs

Budget-friendly

*️

*

Includes tooling & infrastructure

*

Velocity

Easy to use — no training required

?

AI-accelerated test creation & maintenance

?

Fast test execution

*

Frees up your team

x

*

Confidence in testing

Tests the actual user experience

x

No black boxes

*

Test automation for native mobile apps

?

x

Strategic benefits

Establishes QA processes & best practices

x

Costs

Budget-friendly

No-/low-code tools: ✅* Yes, with caveats

The subscription costs of no-/low-code tools — some of which even offer free, basic plans — are almost always a lot less expensive than hiring or outsourcing.

But there’s a catch.

When software teams adopt these tools, they tend to underestimate the costs of test maintenance: it’s time-consuming, often mindless, and requires context switching.

These teams think adopting a no-/low-code tool will allow them to avoid hiring an expensive QA engineer and save money. But once their developers and other expensive personnel get caught up in managing the test suite instead of focusing on shipping, they end up hiring QA headcount anyway.

Rainforest: ✅* Yes, with caveats

Rainforest is also much less expensive than hiring, even when your plan includes a dedicated Test Manager who handles 100 percent of test writing and maintenance for your team.

Some no-code tools are less expensive than Rainforest, but we’re not trying to be the solution for teams who simply want the cheapest option. Instead, we invest in technology, design, and services to be the best option for startup teams who value velocity, want to have confidence in their QA processes, and want to free up their developers to focus on shipping code.  

Includes tooling & infrastructure

No-/low-code tools: ✅* Yes, with caveats

Once you start automating your tests, you’ll want:

  • Software to manage and organize your test suite.
  • Physical or virtual machines on which to run your tests.
  • Tooling to give you detailed insights on test failures to make debugging easier.

Many, if not most, low- and no-code platforms include some or all of these features, but you tend to have to pay more to get more.

For example, you might be able to run your tests sequentially for free if you use your own local machine, but if you want to run tests in parallel on the provider’s cloud-based infrastructure, you’ll have to pay more. And, often, the more tests you want to run in parallel at the same time, the more you’ll have to pay.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Every Rainforest plan includes all the tooling you need for the entire testing workflow, including the ability to run your tests massively in parallel on our cloud infrastructure.

Within the Rainforest platform, you can:

  • Create, edit, and organize your automated tests.
  • Run hundreds of tests in parallel on our cloud of Windows and macOS virtual machines. (No configuration required.)
  • Get detailed test results, including debugging steps, video recordings, and http and browser logs.

Velocity

Easy to use — no training required

No-/low-code tools: ? It depends

Any test automation framework or product requires some amount of test maintenance. For teams whose apps are consistently evolving, test maintenance becomes a time-consuming burden.

Relative to working in an open-source framework, test writing and maintenance tend to be easier and faster with no-/low-code tools — assuming the tool in question has been designed to be intuitive and easy to use, which isn’t always the case.

Because “no-code” isn’t the same as “intuitive.” Many no- and low-code tools are complex enough that they require training and familiarity to use efficiently. (TestComplete and Katalon are among the worst offenders, and Testim is one of the easier ones to use.)

Some no- and low-code tools like TestComplete are quite complex, making them difficult to learn and use.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Rainforest was built from the ground-up to be both intuitive and no-code, so anyone can jump in and quickly create and maintain automated tests without any training, keeping your release pipeline moving. (You can check out some screenshots below.).

Plus, Rainforest’s AI can automatically update — or “heal” — test steps when you make intended changes to your app, which makes the maintenance burden even lighter.

You don’t have to take our word for it — just ask our customers.

“Love how easy it is to create Rainforest tests. Saves a ton of time and gives us a lot more confidence that what we are shipping is not causing any regressions.”

Dathan Wong, Software Engineer at Supermove
“I am a developer and setting a test up was fast and easy (much faster than writing an E2E test in code). I already added two other devs to our account. I mostly see this as a dev-empowering tool.”

Indrek Stern, Technical Lead at Edumus
“It’s easy to write tests, extremely easy to review test failures and very low maintenance.”

Nikolaos Kallikakis, Engineering Manager at RenoFi

AI-accelerated test creation & maintenance

No-/low-code tools: ? It depends

An increasing number of no- and low-code tools use generative AI (genAI) to make creating and maintaining tests even easier than it is in other tools and frameworks.

But some AI-powered tools remove more of the authoring and maintenance burden than others due to how deeply and thoughtfully they’ve integrated the benefits of generative AI.

Write automated tests with simple, plain-English prompts

For example, some AI-powered QA tools (e.g., Rainforest, Katalon, and Reflect) simplify test creation by automatically transforming simple, plain-English prompts into test scripts. While most of these tools require you to describe test flows step-by-step using detailed prompts, Rainforest allows you to create a series of steps based on a single prompt.

To test your app’s sign-up flow, instead of having to create step-by-step instructions with prompts like these:

  1. Click on the Sign Up for Free link
  2. Fill the email field with test@test.com
  3. Fill the password field with 12345
  4. Click the Sign Up button

…in Rainforest you can simply provide a prompt of, “Sign up for an account with dummy data,” and our AI will intelligently create all the necessary steps.

Test steps automatically generated in Rainforest QA based on a single prompt.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Tests that automatically self-heal

To our knowledge, Rainforest is the only AI test automation platform where a series of test steps created with a genAI prompt can automatically update themselves — or “self-heal” — to reflect intended changes to your app. (In a tool like Mabl, only individual test steps can self-heal.)

Revisiting the “sign up” example above: if your signup flow ever changes, the AI will update the steps based on your original prompt, adding, removing, or changing steps as necessary.

You can watch Rainforest self-healing in action in this video.

A test in Rainforest automatically healed itself using genAI in response to a change in the tested app.
Avoid false-positive test failures and time-consuming maintenance

When you create tests, Rainforest uses genAI to automatically generate descriptions of the app elements your tests interact with, like buttons or form fields.

When your tests run, if the system can’t locate an element based on its default identifier (e.g., a screenshot or DOM selector) the system will look for the element based on its auto-generated AI description (e.g., “Pricing” roughly in the top middle of the screen).

Rainforest uses up to three different methods to identify elements in your app, including an AI-generated description.

This helps your team avoid annoying false-positive test failures and maintenance steps whenever you make minor, intentional changes to your app.

Fast test execution

No-/low-code tools: ✅* Yes, with caveats

Many no-/low-code solutions offer parallel testing, but charge extra for it and still strictly limit the number of tests you can run at the same time.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

With Rainforest, you can run hundreds of tests in parallel on our cloud-based infrastructure without having to do any configuration. And we don’t charge extra to run tests massively in parallel — it’s included in every plan.

Our customers get automated test suite results in about four minutes, on average.

Frees up your team

No-/low-code tools: ❌ No

If you’ve never used no- or low-code test automation tools before, you’ll almost certainly underestimate the amount of test maintenance your team will need to do to keep your automated test suite up-to-date.

This means your developers, product managers, or other expensive personnel will have to spend some meaningful chunk of their time writing tests, investigating test failures, and updating tests to reflect changes in your app. No one likes doing these interruptive, unstimulating tasks, and they take your resources away from the work where they add the most value. (Which is why some adopters of no- and low-code tools end up hiring QA headcount to take over these tasks.)

Rainforest: ✅* Yes, with caveats

Our long-term vision is to use genAI and other technology to reduce test maintenance to zero. In the meantime, for scenarios that genAI currently can’t handle, you can optionally have a Rainforest Test Manager assigned to your account. They’ll handle 100 percent of test creation, test failure investigation, and maintenance so your team can focus on higher-value work.

These QA professionals have each worked with us and our platform since at least 2017, work in or near your time zone, speak fluent English, and embed in your workflows and comms tools (like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Jira) to deeply learn your app and your priorities. You just tell them what you want tested, and they take care of the rest.

They also keep an eye on the AI’s work to correct any hallucinations, giving you one less thing to worry about.

“The fact that [our Test Manager] is very specialized, very efficient, knows Rainforest incredibly well, and knows our product incredibly well means she can just focus on this one area and do an incredibly good job of it.”

Robert Guillaume, QA Manager at YNAB

Confidence in testing

Tests the actual user experience

No-/low-code tools: ❌ No

Most no- and low-code tools  — just like all open-source frameworks — interact with and evaluate selectors in the DOM, the code behind the user interface of a web app.

The DOM approach is a problem because it ignores the visual appearance of what happens in the UI of your app. That is, the approach of these tools ignores what your end users will experience in your app. Instead, they test a proxy for the user experience (i.e., the behind-the-scenes code), which often fails to accurately represent what users will see.  ​​

Some tools offer visual validation through a 3rd-party plugin like Applitools, but in other cases you’re stuck with DOM-based software testing.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Rainforest takes a visual-first approach to interacting with and evaluating your app, so it tests exactly what your users will experience. We use machine learning to simulate how a human tester would evaluate your app — if a visual change is so small that a human tester wouldn’t notice or care, Rainforest will pass it, avoiding annoying false-positive test failures (and requiring less debugging work).

Plus, our visual-first approach means you can test anything that appears on the screen of a Windows or Mac virtual machine, not just what appears in the browser.

No black boxes

No-/low-code tools: ✅* Yes, with caveats

Some tools claim to be “codeless” but still require you to code or translate code.

  • For any test step requiring even a bit of complexity, you’ll need to use custom JavaScript.
  • Test scripts use DOM code to represent elements (like buttons, form fields, and text) from the app under test, and that code isn’t always helpful without digging around in the app’s front-end source code.

This excludes non-technical users from creating and maintaining anything but simple tests, and from evaluating the effectiveness of tests.

A test script in Katalon, which uses DOM code to represent elements in the app.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Because all Rainforest tests are no-code and readable in plain English, anyone on the team can quickly validate test functionality and coverage.

Test automation for native mobile apps

No-/low-code tools: ? It depends

Some low- and no-code tools — like Katalon, Testim, and Mabl — allow you to test native mobile apps in addition to web apps. Other apps like Testsigma and Waldo by Tricentis exclusively automate tests for mobile.

Rainforest: ❌ No

Rainforest has been optimized to test web applications — it doesn’t automate tests for native mobile apps. (But we do offer on-demand crowd testing services for native mobile apps that return scripted test results in under 30 minutes, on average.)

Strategic benefits

Establishes QA processes & best practices

LNo-/low-code tools: ❌ No

QA tools help you execute your testing plan, but won’t help you design a QA strategy. Unless you also hire a QA consultant or another experienced QA headcount, you’re left to figure out processes and best practices on your own.

Rainforest: ✅ Yes

Every Rainforest customer gets a Customer Service Manager (CSM) dedicated to their account. These CSMs aren’t just experts in our services and platform; they’re also QA experts who have helped hundreds of startups develop their QA strategies.

As a consultative partner, your CSM will work with you to design processes and practices for your team that cultivate a culture of quality.

Other considerations

  • AI reliability: Most genAI implementations use LLMs from a 3rd-party vendor like OpenAI. Rainforest also uses OpenAI, but we’re different in that we have over a decade’s worth of behavioral human QA testing data to make our AI agent more effective in the QA context. We also use a novel, patent-pending approach to make our AI agents more reliable.
  • Browser support: The Rainforest platform supports multiple versions of all major browsers.
  • Integrations: In addition to integrations with JIRA, Slack, and Microsoft teams, Rainforest has an API and a CLI so you can integrate your automated tests into any CI/CD pipeline.
  • Security: Rainforest is SOC 2 Type II certified, HIPAA compliant, and ISO 27002 compliant. We’ve implemented a number of measures and systems to make sure your data is safe both on our platform and with our personnel. You can learn more on our Security page.
  • Exploratory testing: Rainforest offers exploratory testing services to find the bugs and issues off the “happy paths” covered by ‌your automated tests, giving you even more confidence in the quality of your app.