Mock factories make better tests

February 20, 2023
The inside of an old factory

Developers need a good way to produce mock data. Here’s how we implemented a mock factory for an e-commerce site that’s simple, flexible, and fun.

As developers, we use many different tools to test our software. Development servers, component playgrounds (like Storybook), and automated tests (like unit, integration, end-to-end, visual, performance). And there's one thing that all these tools have in common: they need data. Which means, as the developer, you need data.

However, real data can be difficult to work with. It might not be available, it might be slow, it might not cover edge-cases, and it might not yet have new features.

Having a good way to produce mock data makes all aspects of development easier! A mock factory makes it easy to generate mock data, which results in a project that's easier to develop and test.

In this article, I will share how we created this mock factory for an e-commerce site. The end result is simple, powerful, flexible, and fun to use!

Where do we need mock data?

Everywhere. Seriously.

Automated tests is probably the first scenario most people think of. Unit tests, integration tests, visual tests, performance tests, and end-to-end tests all need data. A reusable mock factory will help every aspect of automated testing.

Component playgrounds, like Storybook, also benefit greatly from having realistic mock data to display, so that components can be shown in their full glory.

Development servers can use mock data too. I’ve been on projects where the frontend is working far ahead of the backend, so we used a mock server for development. Having a semi-realistic mock factory helped us maintain a high velocity without getting blocked!

You might even need to seed a test database. A mock factory is perfect for generating a ton of data.

The beauty is: a single mock factory implementation can be used for ALL these use-cases!

What makes a good Mock Factory?

First I’m going to share our end result, and later I'll share our implementation details.

Getting data is incredibly easy

Need a mock Product or a mock Category? Easier done than said!

const product = mock.product({}); // Returns an object like { id, name, image, price, etc... } const category = mock.category({}) // Returns an object like { id, name, image, products, etc... }

These methods return fully hydrated, realistic data objects, without any effort. All fields have reasonable default values.

We provide our own values when needed

We override the default values by providing our own:

const product = mock.product({ price: 5.99 }); render(<ProductCard product={product} />); expect(screen.findByText("$5.99")).toBeInTheDocument();

This way, our tests do not rely on default mock values. Instead, we use overrides to specify what matters for each scenario. Clearly the price matters for this test.

This results in tests that are easier to understand, and resilient to change.

We use randomized data

Real-world data is hard to predict. Fields can be missing, arrays can be extremely large, strings can be long or short. If you hard-code your mock values, you probably won’t encounter many edge-case scenarios.

For our mocks, we randomize the default values, which helps us find more edge-cases during development and testing. Here’s an example, using some of the excellent randomization helpers from Faker:

// Price is random: const msrp = faker.datatype.number({ min: 2, max: 99 }); // 20% of items are on sale: const price = faker.helpers.maybe(() => faker.datatype.number({ min: 2, max: msrp }), { probability: 0.2 }) || msrp; // Choose a random size: const size = faker.helpers.arrayElement([ 'x-small', 'small', 'medium', 'large', 'x-large' ]); // Could be null: const description = faker.helpers.maybe(() => faker.lorem.paragraph(), { probability: 0.8 }) || null;

Our randomization has a constant seed

Using randomized data has a fundamental flaw: the tests need to be CONSISTENT too!

What if we write a test that accidentally depends on randomized data? We might get lucky, and it passes a few times, so we merge. But CI randomly starts failing, and we can't figure out why, and can't reproduce locally (within a few tries) ... what a nightmare.

Fortunately, this can all be fixed with 1 line of code! Since we use Faker for all our randomization, we simply need:


By setting the random seed, faker will always generate the same randomized data each run! So, if our "accidentally-depends-on-randomized-data" test fails, it should consistently fail, both locally and in CI. This helps us identify and fix the problem, and ultimately end up with a higher-quality test.

Our Mock Factory implementation

Fortunately, creating a mock factory, with all the above features, is really easy, and kinda fun!

For our small application, we created a single MockFactory class in vanilla JS (TS), with methods for creating each of our various data types. An example:

class MockFactory { product(data: Partial<Product>): Product { return { id: faker.datatype.uuid(), name: faker.commerce.productName(), price: faker.datatype.number({ min: 5, max: 99, precision: 2 }), images: [this.productImage({})],, }; } productImage(data: Partial<ProductImage>): ProductImage { return { id: faker.datatype.uuid(), url:,, }; } // ... more factory methods ... // } // Export this as a singleton: export const mock = new MockFactory();

For larger applications, we'd probably scale by splitting the factory into multiple classes, but the idea would remain the same.

Uses Faker to generate interesting data

This is the fun part!

Faker provides tons of categories of fake data. It gives our mocks personality and flair, and makes it really easy to create semi-realistic (albeit silly) mockups!

import { faker } from '@faker-js/faker'; faker.commerce.productName() // Returns silly names like "Awesome Rubber Fish", "Practical Granite Gloves", and "Ergonomic Cotton Salad" faker.hacker.phrase() // "If we override the card, we can get to the HDD feed through the back-end HDD sensor!"

💡 Be sure to use the correct Faker package: @faker-js/faker … the original project ended in controversy.

Leaning on Strong Types

All of our methods have a similar signature, that accepts a Partial<TData> and returns a complete TData.

To ensure that we don’t forget to mock any optional fields:, we also use a Complete<T> helper:

product(data: Partial<Product>): Product { const result: Complete<Product> = { // All fields are required: description: faker.helpers.maybe(() => faker.lorem.paragraph(), { probability: 0.8 }),, }; return result; }

In this project, most of our types are generated from our GraphQL queries, so it’s wonderfully easy to update a query and get “notified” (by TypeScript) that our mocks need an update too.

Nested data is composable

The productImage method could have easily been inlined, especially since it feels very specific to the product data.

However, by exposing it as a separate method, it becomes easier to build overrides:

const productWithTwoImages = mock.product({ images: [ mock.productImage({}), mock.productImage({}) ] });

We expose the factory methods for most nested types, so that it's really easy to compose new mocks with overrides.

Much More

Our full implementation can be found in our nextjs-sanity-fe repository.

Take a look to see how we solved:

Alternative Approaches

Our approach was pretty simple, and relies on vanilla JavaScript with a sprinkle of Faker.

An honorable mention goes to @mswjs/data, which shares most of features that we've built. Its main addition, however, is that it provides a way to query and mutate the data too. This obviously pairs very well with msw, and lets you build a mock GraphQL or mock REST server very easily. But that’s a topic for another article!

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