Automated Testing of Drupal 8 Modules

By Daniel Sipos

In this article we are going to look at automated testing in Drupal 8. More specifically, we are going to write a few integration tests for some of the business logic we wrote in the previous Sitepoint articles on Drupal 8 module development. You can find the latest version of that code in this repository along with the tests we write today.

Drupal 8 logo

But before doing that, we will talk a bit about what kinds of tests we can write in Drupal 8 and how they actually work.

Simpletest (Testing)

Simpletest is the Drupal specific testing framework. For Drupal 6 it was a contributed module but since Drupal 7 it has been part of the core package. Simpletest is now an integral part of Drupal core development, allowing for safe API modifications due to an extensive codebase test coverage.

Right off the bat I will mention the authoritative documentation page for Drupal testing with Simpletest. There you can find a hub of information related to how Simpletest works, how you can write tests for it, what API methods you can use, etc.

By default, the Simpletest module that comes with Drupal core is not enabled so we will have to do that ourselves if we want to run tests. It can be found on the Extend page named as Testing.

Once that is done, we can head to admin/config/development/testing and see all the tests currently available for the site. These include both core and contrib module tests. At the very bottom, there is also the Clean environment button that we can use if any of our tests quit unexpectedly and there are some remaining test tables in your database.

How does Simpletest work?

When we run a test written for Simpletest, the latter uses the existing codebase and instructions found in the test to create a separate Drupal environment in which the test can run. This means adding additional tables to the database (prefixed by simpletest_) and test data that are used to replicate the site instance.

Depending on the type of test we are running and what it contains, the nature of this replication can differ. In other words, the environment can have different data and core functionality depending on the test itself.

What kinds of tests are there in Drupal 8?

There are two main types of tests that we can write for Drupal 8: unit tests using PHPUnit (which is in core now) and functional tests (using Simpletest). However, the latter can also be split into two different kinds: web tests (which require web output) and kernel tests (which do not require web output). In this article we will practically cover only web tests because most of the functionality we wrote in the previous articles is manifested through output so that’s how we need to test it as well.

Writing any type of test starts by implementing a specific class and placing it inside the src/Tests folder of the module it tests. I also encourage you to read this documentation page that contains some more information on this topic as I do not want to duplicate it here.

Our tests

As I mentioned, in this article we will focus on providing test coverage for some of the business logic we created in the series on Drupal 8 module development. Although there is nothing complicated happening there, the demo module we built offers a good example for starting out our testing process as well. So let’s get started by first determining what we will test.

By looking at the demo module, we can delineate the following aspects we can test:

That’s pretty much it. The custom menu link we defined inside the could also be tested but that should already work out of the box so I prefer not to.

For the sake of brevity and the fact that we don’t have too much we need to test, I will include all of our testing methods into one single class. However, you should probably group yours into multiple classes depending on what they are actually responsible for.

Inside a file called DemoTest.php located in the src/Tests/ folder, we can start by adding the following:


namespace Drupal\demo\Tests;

use Drupal\simpletest\WebTestBase;

 * Tests the Drupal 8 demo module functionality
 * @group demo
class DemoTest extends WebTestBase {

   * Modules to install.
   * @var array
  public static $modules = array('demo', 'node', 'block');

   * A simple user with 'access content' permission
  private $user;

   * Perform any initial set up tasks that run before every test method
  public function setUp() {
    $this->user = $this->drupalCreateUser(array('access content'));

Here we have a simple test class which for every test it runs, will enable the modules in the $modules property and create a new user stored inside the $user property (by virtue of running the setUp() method).

For our purposes, we need to enable the demo module because that is what we are testing, the block module because we have a custom block plugin we need to test and the node module because our logic uses the access content permission defined by this module. Additionally, the user is created just so we can make sure this permission is respected.

For the three bullet points we identified above, we will now create three test methods. Keep in mind that each needs to start with the prefix test in order for Simpletest to run them automatically.

Testing the page

We can start by testing the custom page callback:

 * Tests that the 'demo/' path returns the right content
public function testCustomPageExists() {


  $demo_service = \Drupal::service('demo.demo_service');
  $this->assertText(sprintf('Hello %s!', $demo_service->getDemoValue()), 'Correct message is shown.');

And here is the code that does it.

First, we log in with the user we created in the setUp() method and then navigate to the demo path. Simpletest handles this navigation using its own internal browser. Next, we assert that the response of the last accessed page is 200. This validates that the page exists. However, this is not enough because we need to make sure the text rendered on the page is the one loaded from our service.

For this, we statically access the \Drupal class and load our service. Then we assert that the page outputs the hello message composed of the hardcoded string and the return value of the service’s getDemoValue() method. It’s probably a good idea to write a unit test for whatever logic happens inside the service but for our case this would be quite redundant.

And that’s it with the page related logic. We can go to the testing page on our site, find the newly created DemoTest and run it. If all is well, we should have all green and no fails.

drupal 8 automatated tests

Testing the form

For the form we have another method, albeit more meaty, that tests all the necessary logic:

 * Tests the custom form
public function testCustomFormWorks() {

  $config = $this->config('demo.settings');
  $this->assertFieldByName('email', $config->get('demo.email_address'), 'The field was found with the correct value.');

  $this->drupalPostForm(NULL, array(
    'email' => ''
  ), t('Save configuration'));
  $this->assertText('The configuration options have been saved.', 'The form was saved correctly.');

  $this->assertFieldByName('email', '', 'The field was found with the correct value.');

  $this->drupalPostForm('demo/form', array(
    'email' => ''
  ), t('Save configuration'));
  $this->assertText('This is not a .com email address.', 'The form validation correctly failed.');

  $this->assertNoFieldByName('email', '', 'The field was found with the correct value.');

The first step is like before. We go to the form page and assert a successful response. Next, we want to test that the email form element exists and that its default value is the value found inside the default module configuration. For this we use the assertFieldByName() assertion.

Another aspect we need to test is that saving the form with a correct email address does what it is supposed to: save the email to configuration. So we use the drupalPostForm() method on the parent class to submit the form with a correct email and assert that a successful status message is printed on the page as a result. This proves that the form saved successfully but not necessarily that the new email was saved. So we redo the step we did earlier but this time assert that the default value of the email field is the new email address.

Finally, we need to also test that the form doesn’t submit with an incorrect email address. We do so again in two steps: test a form validation failure when submitting the form and that loading the form again will not have the incorrect email as the default value of the email field.

Testing the block

 * Tests the functionality of the Demo block
public function testDemoBlock() {
  $user = $this->drupalCreateUser(array('access content', 'administer blocks'));

  $block = array();
  $block['id'] = 'demo_block';
  $block['settings[label]'] = $this->randomMachineName(8);
  $block['theme'] = $this->config('system.theme')->get('default');
  $block['region'] = 'header';
  $edit = array(
    'settings[label]' => $block['settings[label]'],
    'id' => $block['id'],
    'region' => $block['region']
  $this->drupalPostForm('admin/structure/block/add/' . $block['id'] . '/' . $block['theme'], $edit, t('Save block'));
  $this->assertText(t('The block configuration has been saved.'), 'Demo block created.');

  $this->assertText('Hello to no one', 'Default text is printed by the block.');

  $edit = array('settings[demo_block_settings]' => 'Test name');
  $this->drupalPostForm('admin/structure/block/manage/' . $block['id'], $edit, t('Save block'));
  $this->assertText(t('The block configuration has been saved.'), 'Demo block saved.');

  $this->assertText('Hello Test name!', 'Configured text is printed by the block.');

For this test we need another user that also has the permission to administer blocks. Then we create a new instance of our custom demo_block with no value inside the Who field and assert that a successful confirmation message is printed as a result. Next, we navigate to the front page and assert that our block shows up and displays the correct text: Hello to no one.

Lastly, we edit the block and specify a Test name inside the Who field and assert that saving the block configuration resulted in the presence of a successful confirmation message. And we close off by navigating back to the home page to assert that the block renders the correct text.


In this article, we’ve seen how simple it is to write some basic integration tests for our Drupal 8 business logic. It involves creating one or multiple class files which simply make use of a large collection of API methods and assertions to test the correct behavior of our code. I strongly recommend you give this a try and start testing your custom code early as possible in order to make it more stable and less prone to being broken later on when changes are made.

Additionally, don’t let yourself get discouraged by the slow process of writing tests. This is mostly only in the beginning until you are used to the APIs and you become as fluent as you are with the actual logic you are testing. I feel it’s important to also mention that this article presented a very high level overview of the testing ecosystem in Drupal 8 as well as kept the tests quite simple. I recommend a more in depth look into the topic going forward.


One major oversight in this article

Avoid using Simpletest when possible

The plan is to phase out Simpletest by Drupal 9 in favor of PHPUnit. Whenever possible build functionality such that it can be tested from PHPUnit, not simpletest. The only thing Simpletest is used for these days are full system tests, but ideally a module should not be so interlaced with the rest of the system as to require a full system test on it.


Interesting. Reference?

The testing framework PHPUnit was added to Drupal 8 in June of 2013. Simpletest is still supported but should only be used for web tests and DrupalUnitTest's that require a complete or partial Drupal environment.

The plans for Drupal 9 were mentioned to me in IRC. It will be several years before that point is reached and certain types of tests cannot be done in PHPUnit yet so knowing how to use Simpletest isn't invalid. Also, Drupal itself needs to be transitioned to a more component based model to be able to completely phase out Simpletest.


Well.. you can join my Behat initiative for Drupal 8 -


I honestly would rather see just 1 unit test framework in place. Less code to maintain that way. In any event, my main focus at this time is introducing assert to the code base.


Hey there,

Thanks for the feedback. Indeed, whenever possible, it's best to use unit testing. Though as you pointed out as well, there are many aspects in D8 that cannot yet be tested like that and require Simpletest.



Because We Like You
Free Ebooks!

Grab SitePoint's top 10 web dev and design ebooks, completely free!

Get the latest in PHP, once a week, for free.