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Home Guide Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: How to optimize for testing & costs

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: How to optimize for testing & costs

By Akshay Pai, Community Contributor and Pradeep Krishnakumar, Manager -

Table of Contents

Automation testing has been a buzzword in the world of testing. It has helped companies take new features to market faster while ensuring a bug-free user experience. It has improved the productivity of developers and QA testers, while ensuring a massive increase in test coverage, to keep up with the proliferation of different devices, browsers, and operating systems. However, manual testing has retained its own special place.

Testing is a vast landscape that consists of several categories like black-box testing, white box testing, system testing, system integration testing, performance testing, and load testing. Some of these testing categories perform better with Automation, while others get desirable results with Manual Testing.

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: The Fundamental Difference

Manual TestingAutomation Testing
Testers manually scour through different features of a website or app in order to identify bugs, errors, anomalies, and the like. Testers set up frameworks and create test scripts that automate user actions required for testing a website or app.

Before diving into the article, let’s take a quick detour to mention the importance of real browsers and devices for both manual and automation testing.

Whether manual testing or automated Selenium testing, real devices are non-negotiable in the testing equation. The device pool for testing must include not just the latest devices, but also older devices still active in the market. Since you can’t know which device will be used to access a website or app in a highly fragmented landscape, the more devices one can run tests on, the better.

Remember that emulators and simulators cannot provide real-world conditions for comprehensive software tests. Without real devices, it is not possible to monitor how a website or app fares in line with geolocation testing, low battery life, incoming calls, and multiple other features.

Run manual and automated tests on real browsers and devices. Start running tests on 3000+ real browsers and devices on BrowserStack’s real device cloud. It provides desktop and mobile devices, installed with real operating systems (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS) and real browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, IE, and more).

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What is Manual Testing?

With traditional manual testing, the testers manually look out for the defects in the software by following a written test plan consisting of sets of various test cases. It requires the tester to step into the shoes of a user and analyze the behavior of the website or mobile app, whether it is functionally in sync or does it deliver a different and often erroneous behavior than expected.

Testers are required to point out discrepancies and inconsistencies from the expected behavior and report them as defects to developers. Developers need to replicate the same bug and then fix these bugs. All this had to be done when there was pressure from multiple teams to push the changes to production right away.

When should you use Manual Testing?

Manual Testing prevails when cognitive and behavioral abilities are required to test the software.

It mainly works well for testing:

  • Functionalities
  • User Interface (UI)
  • User Experience (UX)
  • Website & App Behavior
  • Features
  • User Acceptance

To get the best results in Manual Testing, one needs a QA tester who has an eye for detail and a proactive approach. Manual testing can deliver high performance when the tester (be it a developer, QA engineer, Product Manager, or Designer) exhibits a multidimensional approach and has a deeper understanding of technical and business use case aspects of the website & app.

It best suits the areas where it involves testing functionalities and business usability like

Developers use manual testing to replicate and fix bugs reported by QA testers. Similarly, product managers and designers use manual testing to test small changes made to websites and apps.

A couple of common scenarios requiring manual testing would be:

  • When flexibility is required: With manual tests, QAs can quickly test and immediately see results. Automation testing takes longer to set up, and therefore requires more investment of time and effort. Therefore, running manual tests allow more flexibility in the pipeline. If testers have a clear idea of a particular scenario to test right away, they can run a manual test. However, if tests need to be repeated with different inputs and values, then automation will be necessary for maximum efficacy.
  • Short-term projects: Since automation requires more investment and planning, it wouldn’t make sure to set them up for a short-term project that focuses on minor features or minimal code. The effort and money needed to create the test infra would be too high for such a narrow scope.
  • When end-user usability is being tested: Automation can work wonders, but it can judge if software looks or feels good enough to human users. No machine can decide if a website or app offers a satisfactory user journey without actual human test it, and use their sensibilities to draw necessary conclusions.

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Evolution of Testing: From Manual to Automation Testing

As the market’s dependency on technology grew, companies needed additional features to be shipped faster, to keep pace with different user needs and to stay ahead of the competition. Rapid development and adoption of Agile methodologies moved from being nice to have to must-have.

Faster development cycles were introduced as a part of Agile methodologies that aimed to implement new features within a sprint that lasted a few weeks. However, while keeping the development cycles shorter, the time dedicated to software testing was reduced. This resulted in more bugs and a bad experience for users on less popular devices, who formed a long tail.

Although Manual testing performs well in areas that require quick early results and analysis, it does not yield fruitful results for testing areas, that require repeated iterations and execution of the code. It also cannot match up when the scale is huge, as it consumes time, and could end up causing unnecessary delays in a fast-moving technology space.

This is where Automation Testing comes into the picture. The ability to run iterative, parallel tests on multiple devices, browser versions, and operating systems in one go, with error logs and reports automatically generated, can easily be the difference between a market leader and a weak competitor.

Keeping in mind the need for maximum device coverage, short timeframe of the sprints, and the need to keep costs low, automated Selenium testing on the cloud is the best option.

What is Automation Testing?

Automation testing uses frameworks to run tests. Each framework is scripted with the rules of automation pertaining to the software to be tested. This framework is integrated with the various components like

  • function libraries,
  • test data sources,
  • object details
  • other reusable modules

It is important to choose the right automation testing framework, as it could optimize the testing process by delivering high performance with low maintenance costs.

This framework could be linear, structured, data-driven, key-driven, hybrid, or agile in nature depending upon the business requirements. The automation framework provides the required infrastructure that the automation testing tool can use to perform testing.

When should you use Automation Testing?

The key advantages of Automation Testing over Manual Testing are

  • cost efficiency,
  • easily perform testing at a large scale,
  • faster turnaround time, and
  • better accuracy.

With these benefits of Automation Testing, it is mostly preferred when the scale of testing is large, where the development cycle is shorter and one needs to repeatedly execute codes that have a higher frequency of iterations.

A couple of common scenarios requiring automation testing would be:

  • When a large number of repetitive tests have to be run: Automation tests are the best option for running repetitive tests, especially if there is a large volume. For example, regression tests must periodically be run to ensure that all newly added code has not disrupted existing features. Automating such a test is the best option as it does not require much manual supervision each time.
  • When human resources are scarce: If a project has only a couple of dedicated testers, automation would be the best to get tests executed within deadlines. It would also allow the testes to focus on problems that actually require their attention, instead of being stuck doing basic, repetitive tests. Parallel testing, which also requires automation is another excellent way to run a large volume of tests in a short time without compromising the accuracy of results.

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Why Automation Testing alone is not enough

Although it exhibits a higher accuracy for algorithm-based test cases, Automation Testing does not stand up to expectations when it comes to testing usability, functionality, aesthetics, UX, or behavior.

It is because automation, no matter how smart it is, still lacks cognitive abilities and cannot depict human-like intelligence when it comes to decision-making.

This is where Manual Testing stands strong and beats Automation.

Manual vs Automation Testing: The Final Face-Off

CriteriaManual TestingAutomation Testing
AccuracyManual Testing shows lower accuracy due to the higher possibilities of human errors.Automation Testing depicts a higher accuracy due to computer-based testing eliminating the chances of errors
Testing at ScaleManual Testing needs time when testing is needed at a large scale.Automation Testing easily performs testing at a large scale with the utmost efficiency.
Turnaround timeManual Testing takes more time to complete a cycle of testing, and thus the turnaround time is higher.Automation Testing completes a cycle of testing within record time and thus the turnaround time is much lower.
Cost EfficiencyManual Testing needs more cost as it involves the hiring of expert professionals to perform testing.Automation Testing saves costs incurred as once the software infrastructure is integrated, it works for a long time.
User ExperienceManual Testing ensures a high-end User Experience to the end user of the software, as it requires human observation and cognitive abilities.Automation Testing cannot guarantee a good User Experience since the machine lacks human observation and cognitive abilities.
Areas of SpecializationManual Testing should be used to perform Exploratory Testing, Usability Testing, and Ad-hoc Testing to exhibit the best results.Automation Testing should be used to perform Regression Testing, Load Testing, Performance Testing and Repeated Execution for best results.
User SkillsUsers must have the ability to mimic user behavior and build test plans to cover all the scenarios.Users must be highly skilled at programming and scripting to build test cases and automate as many scenarios as possible.

To ensure the overall performance of the software in terms of functionality, load-bearing, UX, UI, usability, cross-platform acceptance, it is important to use the right testing product that addresses each of these areas effectively.

BrowserStack offers both manual and automated testing tools, for websites and apps. The manual cross browser testing tool has an easy-to-use interface to quickly start a test and find or replicate bugs. Our automated testing tool seamlessly integrates with multiple frameworks, provides the maximum device coverage and appropriate logs to find bugs at scale. You can run tests on a Cloud Selenium Grid of 3000+ browsers and devices, or opt for Cypress testing on 30+ real browser versions.

Striking the right balance

For a highly efficient engineering team building awesome websites and apps, striking the right balance between manual and automation testing is essential. This ensures fast deployment of bug-free websites and apps while controlling costs.

It is important to map out which types of tests will be run manually and which parts will be done via automation. Post that, capacity planning for manual Testing, i.e. the number of users and requirements of automation Testing, i.e. the number of users and parallels, should be chalked out. Accordingly, the right solution can be created that optimizes coverage, speed, and costs.

Tags
Automation Testing Cross browser testing Manual Testing

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