Writing Feature Files in Gherkin - Cucumber Tutorial

Feature files written in Gherkin syntax are a fundamental part of Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) using Cucumber. These files serve as the bridge between non-technical stakeholders and the automated tests, helping to define and communicate the expected behavior of the application. In this tutorial, you will learn how to write feature files in Gherkin, including the syntax, examples, and best practices to create clear and effective scenarios.

Gherkin Syntax

Gherkin is a simple and human-readable language designed to be easily understandable by all stakeholders involved in the development process. It uses a structured format with specific keywords to describe application behavior. The basic Gherkin syntax includes three main keywords:

  • Feature: Describes the high-level functionality or feature being tested.
  • Scenario: Represents an individual test scenario or test case.
  • Given, When, Then: Steps that outline the preconditions, actions, and expected outcomes of the scenario.

Here is an example of a basic Gherkin feature file:

Feature: Login Functionality
Scenario: Successful Login
Given the user is on the login page
When the user enters valid credentials
Then the user should be logged in successfully

Writing Feature Files - Best Practices

Follow these best practices to write clear and effective feature files in Gherkin:

  • Use Descriptive Feature Names: Choose feature names that clearly convey the functionality being tested, making it easier for stakeholders to understand the context of the scenarios.
  • Keep Scenarios Atomic: Each scenario should test a specific piece of functionality in isolation to maintain readability and reusability.
  • Use Background: When multiple scenarios share common preconditions, consider using the "Background" keyword to define those preconditions at the feature level.
  • Use Examples: For data-driven testing, use the "Examples" keyword to specify different sets of test data that exercise the same scenario with varying inputs.
  • Focus on Behavior, Not Implementation: Write scenarios that focus on what the application should do, not how it should do it. This ensures that scenarios remain independent of the implementation details.

Common Mistakes with Feature Files in Gherkin

  • Writing overly technical scenarios that are difficult for non-technical stakeholders to understand.
  • Creating scenarios that lack clarity and precision, leading to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
  • Overusing the "Scenario Outline" and "Examples" keywords, leading to redundant and hard-to-maintain feature files.
  • Writing scenarios that span multiple features, resulting in confusion and reduced maintainability.
  • Not updating feature files when requirements change, leading to outdated and inaccurate tests.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Q: Can Gherkin scenarios be used for manual testing?
    A: Yes, Gherkin scenarios can serve as documentation for manual testing and can be used by testers to execute test cases manually.
  2. Q: Are Gherkin feature files executable?
    A: Gherkin feature files are not directly executable; they need step definitions (automation code) to execute the scenarios.
  3. Q: Can I use comments in Gherkin feature files?
    A: Yes, you can use comments in Gherkin by using the "#" symbol. Comments are ignored during scenario execution.
  4. Q: How do I handle long and complex scenarios in Gherkin?
    A: Break down long scenarios into smaller, more manageable scenarios with clear and focused steps.
  5. Q: Is there a limit to the number of scenarios in a feature file?
    A: There is no hard limit to the number of scenarios in a feature file, but it's best to keep them concise and focused.


Writing feature files in Gherkin is a critical step in implementing Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) using Cucumber. By following the Gherkin syntax and best practices, you can create feature files that are clear, concise, and easily understood by all stakeholders. Remember to focus on the behavior of the application, keep scenarios atomic, and use examples for data-driven testing. By avoiding common mistakes and applying these best practices, you can leverage the power of Gherkin to foster collaboration, enhance test automation, and drive the success of your software projects.