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This tutorial uses a deprecated micro-framework called Silex. The fundamentals of REST are still valid, but the code we use can't be used in a real application.

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Behat for Testing

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Behat for Testing

The great thing about using PHPUnit is that it’s dead-simple: make an HTTP request and assert some things about its response. If you want to test your APIs using Guzzle and PHPUnit, you’ll be very successful and your office will smell of rich mahogany.

But in our app, we’re going to make our tests much more interesting by using a tool called Behat. If you’re new to Behat, you’re in for a treat! But also don’t worry: we’re going to use Behat, but not dive into it too deeply. And when you want to know more, watch our Behat Screencast and then use the code that comes with this project to jumpstart testing your API.

Creating Scenarios

With Behat, we write human-readable statements, called scenarios, and run these as tests. To see what I mean, find the features/api/programmer.feature file:

# api/features/programmer.feature
Feature: Programmer
  In order to battle projects
  As an API client
  I need to be able to create programmers and power them up

    # Given the user "weaverryan" exists

  Scenario: Create a programmer

As you’ll see, each feature file will contain many scenarios. I’ll fill you in with more details as we go. For now, let’s add our first scenario: Create a Programmer:

# api/features/programmer.feature
# ...

Scenario: Create a programmer
  Given I have the payload:
      "nickname": "ObjectOrienter",
      "avatarNumber" : "2",
      "tagLine": "I'm from a test!"
  When I request "POST /api/programmers"
  Then the response status code should be 201
  And the "Location" header should be "/api/programmers/ObjectOrienter"
  And the "nickname" property should equal "ObjectOrienter"

I’m basically writing a user story, where our user is an API client. This describes a client that makes a POST request with a JSON body. It then checks to make sure the status code is 201, that we have a Location header and that the response has a nickname property.

Running Behat

I may sound crazy, but let’s execute these english sentences as a real test. To do that, just run the behat executable, which is in the vendor/bin directory:

$ php vendor/bin/behat

Green colors! It says that 1 scenario passed. In the background, a real HTTP request was made to the server and a real response was sent back and then checked. In our browser, we can actually see the new ObjectOrienter programmer.

Configuring Behat

Oh, and it knows what our hostname is because of a config file: behat.yml.dist. We just say POST /api/programmers and it knows to make the HTTP request to http://localhost:8000/api/programmers.


If you’re running your site somewhere other than localhost:8000, copy behat.yml.dist to behat.yml and modify the base_url in both places.

How Behat Works

Behat looks like magic, but it’s actually really simple. Open up the ApiFeatureContext file that lives in the features/api directory. If we scroll down, you’ll immediately see functions with regular expressions above them:

// features/api/ApiFeatureContext.php
// ...

 * @When /^I request "(GET|PUT|POST|DELETE|PATCH) ([^"]*)"$/
public function iRequest($httpMethod, $resource)
    // ...

Behat reads each line under a scenario and then looks for a function here whose regular expression matches it. So when we say I request "POST /api/programmers", it calls the iRequest function and passes POST and /api/programmers as arguments. In there, our old friend Guzzle is used to make HTTP requests, just like we’re doing in our testing.php script.


Hat-tip to Phil Sturgeon and Ben Corlett who originally created this file for Phil’s Build APIs you Won’t Hate book.

Also, a KnpU (Johan de Jager) user has ported the ApiFeatureContext to work with Guzzle 6 and Behat 3. You can find it here:

To sum it up: we write human readable sentences, Behat executes a function for each line and those functions use Guzzle to make real HTTP requests. Behat is totally kicking butt for us!

Seeing our Library of Behat Sentences

I created this file and filled in all of the logic in these functions. This gives us a big library of language we can use immediately. To see it, run the same command with a -dl option:

$ php vendor/bin/behat -dl

Anywhere you see the quote-parentheses mess that’s a wildcard that matches anything. So as long as we write scenarios using this language, we can test without writing any PHP code in ApiFeatureContext. That’s powerful.

If you type a line that doesn’t match, Behat will print out a new function with a new regular expression. It’s Behat’s way of saying “hey, I don’t have that language. So if you want it, paste this function into ApiFeatureContext and fill in the guts yourself”. I’ve already prepped everything we need. So if you see this, you messed up - check your spelling!

And if using Behat is too much for you right now, just keep using the PHPUnit tests with Guzzle, or even use a mixture!