Finally decided to start series (i hope) of blog posts describing tricks that could help developers to write more robust Selenium / WebDriver tests. Here are two of them. This information is all covered by Selenium JavaDocs. But if you’re good programmer - will you ever read JavaDocs ? :)


  • Q: How to find element by XPath expression under certain node of HTML tree and not from HTML tree root ?

  • A: You should prefix your XPath expression with .// (dot in the beginning)

Having HTML

    <div id="panel1">
          <span class="myClass">ITEM1</span>
    <div id="panel2">
         <span class="myClass">ITEM2</span>

Java test below illustrates the difference

WebElement panel2 = webDriver.findElement("panel2"));

WebElement el1 = panel2.findElement(By.xpath("//span[@class = 'myClass']"));
WebElement el2 = panel2.findElement(By.xpath(".//span[@class = 'myClass']"));

assert el1.getText().equals("ITEM1");
assert el2.getText().equals("ITEM2");

XPath expression //span[@class = 'myClass'] makes WebDriver to look for element using HTML root as starting point even if we call findElement() not at webDriver variable. From other hand using XPath starting from dot, i.e. .//span[@class = 'myClass'] instructs WebDriver to use panel2 as starting point.


  • Q: How to check that certain element doesn’t exist in HTML tree.

  • A: There’s common anti-pattern frequently used by developers.

WebElement notExist = null;
try {
    notExist = webDriver.findElement(By.xpath("//div[@id='iAmNotHere']"));
} catch (NoSuchElementException e) {
assert notExist == null;

This approach has enough disadvantages and best practices violations. We ain’t gonna cover them here ;) Instead we can use much simpler code to achieve the same result.

assert webDriver.findElements(By.xpath("//div[@id='iAmNotHere']")).size() == 0;

P.S.: Let’s start read JavaDocs before writing code :)