How To Visually Verify Your Locators

This is a pseudo guest post from Brian Goad. I've adapted a blog post of his with permission. You can see the original here. Brian is a Test Engineer at Digitalsmiths. You can follow him on Twitter at @bbbco and check out his testing blog here.

The Problem

It's likely that you'll run into odd test behavior that makes you question the locators you're using in a test. But how do you interrogate your locators to make sure they are doing what you expect?

A Solution

By leveraging some simple JavaScript and CSS styling, we can highlight the element on the page that we're targeting. This way we can visually inspect it to make sure it is the one that we want.

Let's take a look at an example.

An Example

For our initial setup let's pull in the selenium-webdriver gem and wire up some simple setup, teardown, and run methods.

# filename: highlight.rb

require 'selenium-webdriver'

def setup
  @driver = Selenium::WebDriver.for :firefox

def teardown

def run

Now let's create a highlight helper method that will accept a Selenium WebDriver element and a time to wait (e.g., duration) as arguments.

By setting a duration, we can control how long to highlight an element on the page before reverting the styling back. And we can make this an optional argument by setting a default (e.g., 3 seconds).

def highlight(element, duration = 3)

  # store original style so it can be reset later
  original_style = element.attribute("style")

  # style element with yellow border
    "arguments[0].setAttribute(arguments[1], arguments[2])",
    "border: 2px solid red; border-style: dashed;")

  # keep element highlighted for a spell and then revert
  if duration > 0
    sleep duration
      "arguments[0].setAttribute(arguments[1], arguments[2])",


There are three things going on here.

  1. We store the style of the element so we can revert it back when we're done
  2. We change the style of the element so it visually stands out (e.g., a red dashed border)
  3. We revert the style of the element back after 3 seconds

We're accomplishing the style change through JavaScript's setAttribute function. And we're executing it with Selenium's execute_script command.

Now to use this in our test is simple, we just prepend a find_element action with the highlight command.

run do
  @driver.get 'http://the-internet.herokuapp.com/large'
  highlight @driver.find_element(id: 'sibling-2.3')

Expected Behavior

If you were to save this file and run it (e.g., ruby highlight.rb from the command-line), here is what you would see.

  1. Load the page
  2. Find the element
  3. Change the styling of the element so it has a red dashed-line border
  4. Wait 3 seconds
  5. Revert the styling to remove the border


If you wanted to take this a step further, you could leverage this approach along with an interactive debugger. You can read more about how to do that here in Brian's other guest post.

Alternatively, you could verify your locators by using a browser plugin like FireFinder. You can read more about how to do that here in this previous tip.

Happy Testing!

Back to the archives