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Learn TDD in Ember


This tutorial is a bit older and may require some changes for newer versions and tooling. But the overall approach to testing still applies, so we've left it here in the hopes that it's helpful in your testing journey.

Test-Driven Development (TDD) is an approach to automated software testing that involves writing a failing test before writing the production code to make it pass. TDD helps you develop a robust test suite to catch bugs, as well as guiding you to more modular, flexible code.

To see how TDD works in Ember, let's walk through a simple real-world example of building a feature. We'll be using Ember 3.27 and its built-in testing tools, along with ember-sinon-qunit for mocking functions and Mirage for mocking web service requests. This tutorial assumes you have some familiarity with Ember and with automated testing concepts.

The feature we'll build is a simple list of messages.

Creating the Project

Create a new Ember app:

$ ember new ember-tdd --no-welcome

Next, install Mirage and ember-sinon-qunit:

$ ember install ember-cli-mirage
$ ember install ember-sinon-qunit

To hook up ember-sinon-qunit, we need to call a setup function in our tests/test-helper.js file:

 import { start } from 'ember-qunit';
+import setupSinon from 'ember-sinon-qunit';




The Feature Test

When performing outside-in TDD, our first step is to create an acceptance test describing the feature we want users to be able to do. For our simple messaging app, the first feature we want is to be able to enter a message, send it, and see it in the list.

Generate an acceptance test:

$ ember g acceptance-test sending-a-message

This will create a file tests/acceptance/sending-a-message-test.js. Open it and you should see the following scaffold:

import { module, test } from 'qunit';
import { visit, currentURL } from '@ember/test-helpers';
import { setupApplicationTest } from 'ember-qunit';

module('Acceptance | sending a message', function (hooks) {

test('visiting /sending-a-message', async function (assert) {
await visit('/sending-a-message');

assert.equal(currentURL(), '/sending-a-message');

Set up Mirage to mock out the back end:

 import { setupApplicationTest } from 'ember-qunit';
+import { setupMirage } from 'ember-cli-mirage/test-support';

module('Acceptance | sending a message', function (hooks) {
+ setupMirage(hooks);

test('visiting /sending-a-message', async function (assert) {

Now, replace the test with the following test:

test('it shows the message in the list', async function (assert) {
const message = 'Hello World';
await visit('/');

await fillIn('[data-test-message-text]', message);
await click('[data-test-send-message-button]');


The code describes the steps a user would take interacting with our app:

  • Visiting the web site
  • Entering the text "Hello World" into a message text field
  • Clicking a send button
  • Confirming that the message text field is cleared out
  • Confirming that the "Hello World" message we entered appears in the message list

You'll need to change the following imports:

-import { visit, currentURL } from '@ember/test-helpers';
+import { visit, fillIn, click } from '@ember/test-helpers';

After we've created our test, the next step in TDD is to run the test and watch it fail. This test will fail (be "red") at first because we haven't yet implemented the functionality.

Start the Ember test runner:

$ ember test -s

A Chrome window should open, you should see the test run, then in Chrome and in the terminal the first error you should see is:

Acceptance | sending a message: it shows the message in the list
✘ Promise rejected during "it shows the message in the list":
Element not found when calling `fillIn('[data-test-message-text]')`.
Error: Element not found when calling

There are a few other errors as well, but let's take one at a time.

Keep the tests running for the duration of this tutorial. They'll automatically rerun each time you change a test or production code.

Write The Code You Wish You Had

The next step of TDD is to write only enough production code to fix the current error or test failure. In our case, all we need to do is add a message text field.

A common principle in TDD is to write the code you wish you had. We could just add an <input type="text"> element to our application's template directly, but there are two things we would usually do differently in an Ember app:

  • Typically we would wrap everything related to the new message input in a custom component.
  • Assuming we will want multiple routes, we should put this component in a route template, instead of the application template.

We wish we had these things, so let's go ahead and create them. Generate an index route:

$ ember g route index

One of the files this creates is the template for this route at app/templates/index.hbs. Replace the outlet in this file with an invocation of the new message component that we wish we had:

 {{page-title "Index"}}
+<NewMessageForm />

Next, generate the NewMessageForm component:

$ ember g component NewMessageForm

This will create the following files:

  • app/components/new-message-form.hbs
  • tests/integration/components/new-message-form-test.js

Delete tests/integration/components/new-message-form-test.js for now--we won't be using it yet, and its test failures will clutter up our output.

Now enter the following contents in app/components/new-message-form.hbs.


It's tempting to fully build out this component. But we want to wait until the test guides us in what to build. Let's just add the input tag. We give it a data-test-message-text attribute: that's the attribute that our test uses to find the component.

If we check our tests, the error has changed! The tests are now able to find the [data-test-message-text] element. The new error is:

Acceptance | sending a message: it shows the message in the list
✘ Promise rejected during "it shows the message in the list":
Element not found when calling
Error: Element not found when calling

Now there's a different element we can't find: the element with attribute data-test-send-message-button.

We want the send button to be part of our NewMessageForm, so fixing this error is easy. We just add a <button> to our component:

+ data-test-send-message-button
+ Send

Implementing Component Behavior

Rerun the tests. Now we get a new kind of test failure:

✘ Element [data-test-message-text] has value ""
at DOMAssertions.hasValue (http://localhost:7357/assets/test-support.js:41409:20)
at Object.<anonymous> (http://localhost:7357/assets/tests.js:14:46)
actual Hello World

We've made it to our first assertion, which is that the message text box should be empty -- but it isn't. We haven't yet added the behavior to our app to clear out the message text box.

Instead of adding the behavior directly, let's step down from the "outside" level of acceptance tests to an "inside" component test. This allows us to more precisely specify the behavior of each piece. Also, since acceptance tests are slow, component tests prevent us from having to write an acceptance test for every rare edge case.

To implement this behavior, we'll create a component test. Create the file tests/integration/components/new-message-form-test.js and add the following contents:

import { module, test } from 'qunit';
import { setupRenderingTest } from 'ember-qunit';
import { render, fillIn, click } from '@ember/test-helpers';
import { hbs } from 'ember-cli-htmlbars';

module('Integration | Component | new-message-form', function (hooks) {

test('it clears the message', async function (assert) {
const message = 'Hello World';

await render(hbs`<NewMessageForm />`);

await fillIn('[data-test-message-text]', message);
await click('[data-test-send-message-button]');


A lot of the test seems the same as the acceptance test: we still enter a new message and click the send button. But this is testing something very different. Instead of testing the whole app running together, we're testing just the NewMessageForm by itself.

Note that since both Ember's acceptance and component tests use the same rendering functionality, we use the same fillIn and click helpers and the same assertions. Nice!

When you save the file, the test runs, and we get the same error as we did with the acceptance test:

Integration | Component | new-message-form: it clears the message
✘ Element [data-test-message-text] has value ""
at DOMAssertions.hasValue (http://localhost:7357/assets/test-support.js:41409:20)
at Object.<anonymous> (http://localhost:7357/assets/tests.js:37:46)
actual Hello World

Now, we can add the behavior to the component to get this test to pass.

Change the <input> tag to an <Input> component (note the capital letter "I") and have it bind its value to a message property of the component:

+ @value={{this.message}}

Then wrap the input and button in a <form> tag that calls a handleSend action, and change the button into a submit button:

+<form onSubmit={{this.handleSend}}>
+ type="submit"

Now, to provide this message property and handleSend action, we'll need a class for the NewMessageForm component. Generate one:

$ ember g component-class NewMessageForm

Add the following to app/components/new-message-form.js:

 import Component from '@glimmer/component';
+import { tracked } from '@glimmer/tracking';
+import { action } from '@ember/object';

export default class NewMessageFormComponent extends Component {
+ @tracked message = '';
+ @action
+ handleSend(e) {
+ e.preventDefault();
+ this.message = '';
+ }

This provides a message property that the Input will read its value from and write its value back to. It also provides a handleSend action that will prevent the browser from reloading the page on form submission, and clear out the message property.

With this, our component test passes. Once a component test passes, step back up to the outer acceptance test to see what the next error is. Now, our final assertion fails:

Acceptance | sending a message: it shows the message in the list
✘ Element [data-test-message-list] should exist

Now, finally, the test will drive us to implement the real meat of our feature: storing the message entered and displaying it.

The NewMessageForm won't be responsible for displaying this message, though: we'll create a separate MessageList component that also exists in the route.

Following the principle of writing the code we wish we had, we wish we had a MessageList component to display the messages, so let's write that code in app/templates/index.hbs:

 <NewMessageForm />
+<MessageList />

Now let's generate that component:

$ ember g component MessageList

Delete tests/integration/components/message-list-test.js--we won't be using it, and our changes will break it.

Open app/components/message-list.hbs and add the following:

<ul data-test-message-list>

Now our acceptance test can find the message list. Now we get the error:

Acceptance | sending a message: it shows the message in the list
✘ Element [data-test-message-list] has text "Hello World"

The test expected to find the text of our message, "Hello World", somewhere in the message list, but it didn't.

How will we send our message between the NewMessageForm and MessageList? Well, messages are the core data item of our application. We want to use Ember Data to store our data. So, when we submit the form, we want to create a new message record in Ember Data. And we want our index route to load all messages from Ember Data and pass them to MessageList to display.

What part does NewMessageForm play in all this? For the sake of creating nice decoupled components, let's say that we don't want our form to know about Ember Data directly. Instead, we just want it to call a passed-in function with the results of the form.

To add this event handler behavior to NewMessageForm, we want to step back down to the component test. In this case, the component test won't be asserting exactly the same thing as the acceptance test. The acceptance test is looking for the 'New message' content on the screen, but the component test will only be asserting the behavior that the NewMessageForm component is responsible for: that it calls the event handler.

Add another test case to new-message-form-test.js:

 import { hbs } from 'ember-cli-htmlbars';
+import sinon from 'sinon';

module('Integration | Component | new-message-form', function (hooks) {
+ test('it calls the onSend argument with the message', async function (assert) {
+ const message = 'Hello World';
+ const handleSend = sinon.spy();
+ this.set('handleSend', handleSend);
+ await render(hbs`<NewMessageForm @onSend={{this.handleSend}} />`);
+ await fillIn('[data-test-message-text]', message);
+ await click('[data-test-send-message-button]');
+ assert.ok(handleSend.calledWith(message));
+ });

Notice that we make one assertion per test in component tests. Having separate test cases for each behavior of the component makes it easy to understand what it does, and easy to see what went wrong if one of the assertions fails.

You may recall that this isn't what we did in the acceptance test, though. Generally you make multiple assertions per test in acceptance tests. Why? acceptance tests are slower, so the overhead of the repeating the steps would significantly slow down our suite as it grows. In fact, larger acceptance tests tend to turn into "feature tours:" you perform some actions, do some assertions, perform some more actions, do more assertions, etc.

Our tests run, and our new test fails with the error:

Integration | Component | new-message-form: it calls the onSend argument
with the message
✘ failed, expected argument to be truthy, was: false

So the onSend argument isn't being called. Let's fix that:

handleSend(e) {
+ if(this.args.onSend) {
+ this.args.onSend(this.message);
+ }
this.message = '';

Now the component test passes. That's great! But we're still getting the same acceptance test error:

Acceptance | sending a message: it shows the message in the list
✘ Element [data-test-message-list] has text "Hello World"

We're still not displaying the message. But we're a step closer!

Ember Data

To get the message to display, we need to wire up saving and loading our messages in Ember Data.

First, let's create an Ember Data model for our messages:

$ ember g model message

This creates the file app/models/messages.js. Open it and add an attribute for the message text:

-import Model from '@ember-data/model';
+import Model, { attr } from '@ember-data/model';

export default class MessageModel extends Model {
+ @attr text;

Since our NewMessageForm is embedded directly into a route, the place we can make an action to pass to it is a controller for that route. Generate an index controller:

$ ember g controller index

Then add a handleSend action to it:

 import Controller from '@ember/controller';
+import { action } from '@ember/object';

export default class IndexController extends Controller {
+ @action
+ handleSend(text) {
+ const message ='message', { text });
+ }

We access the Ember Data store that's made available to controllers automatically and use it to create a new message record, passing it the provided text. Then we save that record.

Next, let's pass that action to the NewMessageForm:

-<NewMessageForm />
+<NewMessageForm @onSend={{this.handleSend}} />
<MessageList />

Now that we should have message records created, let's update our route to load them. Add the following to app/routes/index.js:

 import Route from '@ember/routing/route';

export default class IndexRoute extends Route {
+ model() {
+ return'message');
+ }

Next, pass the loaded model into the MessageList:

{%raw %} <NewMessageForm @onSend={{this.handleSend}} />
-<MessageList />
+<MessageList @messages={{@model}} />

Finally, let's update the MessageList template to display these messages:

 <ul data-test-message-list>
+ {{#each @messages as |message|}}
+ <li>{{message.text}}</li>
+ {{/each}}

Now when our acceptance test runs, Mirage gives us an error:

Error while processing route: index Mirage: Your app tried to GET
'/messages', but there was no route defined to handle this request.
Define a route for this endpoint in your routes() config.

Our route is attempting to load the messages from a backend server, which we've mocked out with Mirage, but we haven't told Mirage that GET /messages is a valid endpoint. Let's add that to mirage/config.js:

 export default function() {
+ this.get('/messages');
// These comments are here to help you get started. Feel free to delete them.

After this, when our tests run again, we get a similar error:

Mirage: Error: Your app tried to POST '/messages', but there was no
route defined to handle this request.

This occurs when our controller attempts to save a record to the server. Let's add this as a valid route as well:

 export default function() {

// These comments are here to help you get started. Feel free to delete them.

Rerun the tests and they pass. We've let the tests drive our first feature!

Let's load up the app in a regular browser: go to http://localhost:4200. Well, it works, but it's not the prettiest thing in the world. But now we can add styling.

Why TDD?

What have we gained by using outside-in Test-Driven Development?

  • Confidence it works. Unit or component tests are great to specify the functionality of functions or classes, but the app can still crash or do the wrong thing when they’re connected together. An acceptance test confirms that all the pieces connect in the right way.
  • Input on our design. Our component test confirms that the way we interact with NewMessageForm is simple. If it was complex, our component test would have been harder to write.
  • 100% test coverage. By only writing the minimal code necessary to pass each error, this ensures we don’t have any code that isn’t covered by a test. This avoids the situation where a change we make breaks untested code.
  • Minimal code. We’ve built the minimal features that pass our test. This has helped us avoid to speculate on features the code might need in the future, that increase our maintenance cost without adding any benefit.
  • Ability to refactor. Because we have 100% test coverage, we can make changes to our code to improve its design to handle future requirements. Our code doesn't develop cruft that makes it complex to work within.
  • Ability to ship quickly. We aren't spending time building code our users don't need. When some old code is slowing us down, we can refactor it to make it quicker to work with. And our tests reduce the amount of manual testing we need to do before a release.

Acceptance testing has had major payoffs for server-rendered apps, and with Ember's built-in acceptance testing you can see the same benefits in your client-side apps.

More Resources

To learn more about TDD, I recommend: