How I test JavaScript-heavy Rails applications

by Jason Swett,

A common question I get is how to test JavaScript in Rails applications. My approach is almost radically simple and unsophisticated.

My Rails + JavaScript testing approach

I think of the fact that the application uses JavaScript like an inconsequential and irrelevant implementation detail. I test JavaScript-heavy applications using just RSpec + Capybara integration tests, the same exact way I’d test an application that has very little JavaScript or no JavaScript at all.

I don’t really have anything more to say about it since I literally don’t do anything different from my regular RSpec + Capybara tests.

Single-page applications

What about single-page applications? I still use the same approach. When I used to build Angular + Rails SPAs, I would add a before(:all) RSpec hook that would kick off a build of my Angular application before the test suite ran. After that point my RSpec + Capybara tests could interact with my SPA just as easily as if the application were a “traditional” Rails application.

Side note: traditional Rails applications are fine. Using Rails with React/Vue/Angular/etc. isn’t “modern” and using Rails without any of those isn’t “outdated”. For most regular old boring business applications, Rails by itself without a front-end framework is not only a sufficient approach but a superior approach to an SPA because the complexity of development with plain Rails and only “JavaScript sprinkles” tends to be far lower than Rails with a JavaScript framework.

Testing JavaScript directly

Despite my typical approach of treating JavaScript as a detail, there are times when I want to have a little tighter control and test my JavaScript directly. In those cases I use Jasmine to test my JavaScript.

But it’s my goal to use such little JavaScript that I never get above that threshold of complexity where I feel the need to test my JavaScript directly with Jasmine. I’ve found that if I really try, I can get away with very little JavaScript in most applications without sacrificing any UI richness.

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