XPath For Beginners: Mastering The Art Of Precise Web Element Identification

In this ever-evolving world, the use of applications keeps increasing. It becomes crucial for the testing teams to test applications across various browsers and platforms. However, implementing a framework with another platform requires locating a web element.  Choosing the right web element locator for an effective test automation strategy becomes crucial. 

XPath is a language that dynamically searches a web element. It finds the location of any element on the web page by utilizing HTML DOM structure. XPath finds an element on the web page if general locators like ID, class, name, etc., cannot identify them.

This article comprehends XPath, its features, syntax, and pros and cons. It also mentions the art of precise web element identification.   

Understanding XPath

XPath stands for XML Path language. It is an expression language that is used to locate elements in automation. XPath is designed to support the query of XML documents. It works as a syntax to define and navigate nodes of an XML document. It is a W3C recommendation. XPath is an utmost element in XLST and XQuery. However, it can also be used as a more powerful way of steering through the DOM of any XML. 

Now, XPath has been embraced by various XML processing libraries and platforms. It transfers XML documents and extracts information from any part of an XML document.  

Features of Xpath

Some features of XPath that make it a popular expression language are listed below:

  • Xpath defines the parts of an XML document like elements, text, namespace, document nodes, etc.
  • It provides powerful path expressions and also selects nodes in an XML document.
  • It is a major part of the XSLT document and must be followed to work with the XSLT document.
  • It provides a rich standard function library to maintain numeric values, date and time comparisons, sequence manipulation, etc. 
  • The expression of XPath is case-sensitive
  • XPath utilises expressions to navigate in XML documents. 

Pros of XPath

Mentioned below are some of the advantages of XPath:

  • Xpath supports XML and HTML documents. 
  • In XPath traversal can be both bidirectional ways. 
  • The XPath expression works at any document level. It is not restricted to work at a specific level.
  • It supports all programming languages and important test automation libraries. 
  • XPath selector is even compatible with old-time browsers. 
  • XPath locator provides methods and Axes. These can be used to solve complex locator problems in the XPath locator.
  • Queries are compact and easily parsed.
  • Query strings are easily implanted in XML, scripts, and programs.

Cons of XPath

Mentioned below are some of the disadvantages of XPath:

  • XPath is not capable of solving the modern world shadow DOM problem.
  • The usage of indexes within the XPath causes high maintenance.
  • The performance of XPath is unstable. It varies from application to application.
  • XPath locators are comparatively slow and affect the overall performance of the test suite. 
  • XPath is connected with many elements in the DOM tree. This tends to break as new element-level changes are introduced. 
  • XPath becomes untidy and readability decreases when it gets complicated.

Syntax of XPath

Mentioned below are the XPath syntax and their terminology:

tag name- tag name is the name of the tag of a particular node.

Attribute- It is the name of the node’s attribute.

@- @ is used to select attributes.

//: Double slash- Double slash selects the current mode.

/: Single slash- It looks for an HTML element at the beginning of the document.

Value- It is the value of attributes’ value

Dot”.”- It gives the currently selected node.

Double dot”..”- It selects the parent of the current mode.

Asterisk”*”- It singles out any element in the node.

Address and Asterisk”@*”- It selects any attribute of the current node.

Pipe- It selects a different path. XPath uses this to choose both expressions. 

Mastering the art of precise web element identification in Selenium using XPath

Selenium is an open-source and automated testing tool. It is an admired testing tool and very useful for web application developers. Selenium provides various tools. Each of the tools varies to different Selenium automation testing needs.

Locators in Selenium serve as a fundamental concept. A locator is a way to recognize elements on a page. Locators allow the user to precisely locate and interact with several components on the web page. The locators enable Selenium to interact with web elements. The significance of the locators cannot be overlooked. 

The locator strategy lies at the heart of these interactions. This approach identifies and targets specific elements within the HTML DOM. The ability to detect these elements is crucial. Gradually, the Selenium locator’s effectiveness depends on the user’s locator strategy. 

This is where XPath comes into play. It is a language that dynamically searches for a web element. In Selenium if the locators like ID, class, name, etc. fail to search the elements.

Types of XPath in Selenium

Two types of XPath are used in Selenium:

Absolute XPath- The absolute XPath starts with the root element and a single slash(/). There is a high chance of breaking the XPath when there is any change in the application DOM tree, so it is not recommended.

Relative Xpath- The relative XPath begins with a double slash(//). It starts in the middle of the HTML DOM tree. It is the most recommended approach. 

Different types of locators in Selenium

Mentioned below are the different types of locators in Selenium:

ID Locator- One of the most straightforward methods in Selenium is the ID locator. It utilises the ID attribute to locate an HTML document. It remains the most effective and simple strategy when locating elements.

Name locator- The name locator is used when the ID of an element is unavailable or when locating multiple elements sharing the same name attribute is necessary. An ideal case of this method is when the user needs to operate on several elements that share the same name.

Tag name locator- The tag name locator identifies the elements with the help of their HTML code.

Link text locator- The link text locator is used when some operations require locating hyperlinks. It enables actions such as verification and navigation. This is the most efficient when dealing with pages that contain multiple links.

Class name locator- A class name locator is used when locating an element or multiple elements that share the same class attribute. These locators are mostly used when unearthing and performing operations like validations on groups of elements.

Partial link text locator- Partial link text is used when links contain lengthy or dynamic text.

XPath locator- Xpath locators influence XML expression syntax to steer through the HTML DOM. They start from the root node and traverse down to the interest element. 

Chained XPath in Selenium

Chained XPath in Selenium utilises multiple XPath in conjunction to locate an element not uniquely recognized by a single path expression. With chained XPath in Selenium, the user can write multiple relative XPath instead of one absolute XPath.

When dealing with complex web structures where elements are not easily accessible through single unique identifiers, chained Xpath in Selenium is extremely helpful. This provides more vitality and robustness in locating elements. Chained XPath in Selenium furnishes stability to the automation script.

Locating elements by XPath

Locating elements using XPath remains a versatile and powerful approach. The user with the help of developer tools can craft specific XPath expressions. These specific XPath expressions target elements that may be challenging to select with other locators.

XPath: Navigating the Document tree

XPath is more loquacious but offers exceptional flexibility in traversing the HTML document tree. 

The never-failing classics: ID, Name, Class

XPath provides many advanced capabilities. However, the simplicity and effectiveness of classic locators cannot be underestimated. ID, Name,  and Class remain staunch in the automation toolkit.  

Strategies for choosing the right locator

It is crucial to select the appropriate locator strategy. Using partial attribute matching in XPath ensures that the script remains robust. Using partial attributes helps in a dynamic page where IDs change. 

How LambdaTest helps in utilizing Selenium’s XPath 

Effective test automation depends on selecting the right element locator and balancing functionality and accuracy. XPath is the most used element locator for test automation. LambdaTest supports automated testing with Selenium, a popular browser automation suite of tools.

LambdaTest offers a robust AI-driven test orchestration and execution platform with easy integration with multiple automation frameworks to improve testing efficiency and ship faster to the market. It allows to run both manual as well as automated testing at scale. It lets testers perform real-time and automation testing across 3000+ environments and real mobile devices.

Supporter for Selenium Webdriver: LambdaTest supports Selenium Webdriver. Testers can write Selenium scripts and execute them on real devices as LambdaTest offers automated testing across various devices and operating system combinations. 

Integration with CI/CD pipelines: To ensure a bug-free application, LambdaTest can seamlessly integrate with existing CI/CD pipelines.

Real device testing: As compared to emulators or simulators LambdaTest assures more accurate results by allowing Selenium tests on real devices.


The testing teams need to test applications across various browsers and platforms. However, implementing a framework with another platform requires locating a web element.  

XPath stands for XML Path language. It utilises path expression to select nodes in an XML document on the web page. If the locators in Selenium cannot locate the elements, XPath is used to find the element on the web page. It works as a syntax to define and navigate nodes of an XML document. 

Hope the article provides you with the knowledge of mastering the art of precise web element identification using XPath.