Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: How to optimize for testing & costs
By Akshay Pai, Community Contributor and Pradeep Krishnakumar, Manager - May 31, 2019
Automation testing has been the buzz word 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.
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 an 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 to use Manual Testing?
Manual Testing prevails when cognitive and behavioral abilities are required to test the software.
It mainly works well for testing –
- User Interface (UI)
- User Experience (UX)
- Website & App Behavior
- User Acceptance
To get the best results in Manual Testing, one needs a QA tester who has an eye for detail and having a proactive approach. Manual testing can deliver high performance when the tester (be it a developer or a QA engineer or Product Managers or Designers) exhibits a multidimensional approach and has a better sense of understanding for technical and business use case aspects of the website & app.
It best suits the areas where it involves testing functionalities and business usability like
- Exploratory Testing,
- Usability Testing, and
- Ad-hoc testing
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.
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.
In a 2015 study by Statista, developers worldwide stated that in 32% of all software project failures, the leading reason was the insufficient time allocated to testing.
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.
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 to use Automation Testing?
The key advantages of Automation Testing over Manual Testing are
- cost efficiency,
- easily perform testing at 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.
Why only Automation Testing is not enough and Manual is still required at places?
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 the cognitive abilities and cannot depict human-like intelligence when it comes to decision-making.
This is where the Manual Testing stands strong and beats Automation.
Manual vs Automation Testing: The Final Face-Off
|Criteria||Manual Testing||Automation Testing|
|Accuracy||Manual 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 Scale||Manual 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 time||Manual 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 Efficiency||Manual 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 Experience||Manual 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 Specialization||Manual 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 Skills||Users 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.|
The Bouquet of Testing Products for an Optimized Testing
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.
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 type of testing will be done via Manual Testing and which parts will be done via Automation Testing. 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 for coverage, speed and costs.