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Home Guide Manual Testing vs Automation Testing

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing

By Akshay Pai, Community Contributor -

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 guaranteeing 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 special place.

Testing is a vast landscape comprising 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: Which is the best?

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

When it comes to manual testing vs automation testing, there is no one factor that determines which is best. It ultimately defers on a case-by-case basis. One must consider many things while choosing how to test the feature/product.

Can Automation Testing replace Manual Testing?

Well, the answer is no. Although automation testing exhibits a higher accuracy for algorithm-based test cases, Automation Testing does not meet expectations when testing usability, functionality, aesthetics, UX, or behavior.

It is because automation, no matter how smart, still lack cognitive abilities and cannot depict human-like intelligence regarding decision-making.

This is where Manual Testing stands strong and beats Automation.

Manual Testing vs Automation 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. Below are a few scenarios showing that automation testing cannot replace manual testing.

  • When flexibility is required: With manual tests, QAs can quickly test and immediately see results. Automation testing takes longer to set up, requiring more 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, automation will be necessary for maximum efficacy if tests need to be repeated with different inputs and values.
  • Short-term projects: Since automation requires more investment and planning, it wouldn’t make sure to set them up for a short-term project focusing 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 the 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 humans testing it, and use their sensibilities to draw necessary conclusions.

What is Manual Testing?

With traditional manual testing, the testers manually look out for 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 it delivers a different and often erroneous behavior than expected.

Testers must identify 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 immediately.

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 with 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

Remember that emulators and simulators cannot provide real-world conditions for comprehensive software tests. Without real devices, monitoring how a website or app fares is impossible in line with geolocation testing, low battery life, incoming calls, and multiple other features. Whether manual testing or automated testing, real devices are non-negotiable in the testing equation.

To make your Manual Testing comprehensive, BrowserStack Live can help with access to 3000+ real devices and browsers.

Manual testing on real iOS Devices - BrowserStack Live

  • 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.
  • Run manual and automated tests on 3000+ browsers-device-OS combinations
  • Access desktop and mobile devices, installed with OS(Windows, macOS, Android, iOS) and browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, IE, and more).
  • Effortlessly identify basic and complex accessibility issues.

Manual Accessibility Testing on BrowserStack Real Device Cloud

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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 a must-have. The automation testing market size exceeded $15 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 16% from 2021 to 2027.

  • 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.

What is Automation Testing?

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

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

Choosing the right automation testing framework is essential, as it could optimize the testing process by delivering high performance with low maintenance costs.

Depending on the business requirements, this framework could be linear, structured, data-driven, key-driven, hybrid, or agile. The automation framework provides the required infrastructure that the automation testing tool can use to perform testing.

Why is Automation testing better than Manual 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 mainly preferred when the testing scale is large, where the development cycle is shorter, and one needs to execute codes with a higher frequency of iterations repeatedly.

How do you choose Automated Testing over Manual Testing?

Common scenarios where teams should choose automation testing over manual testing:

  • When many 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 require their attention instead of being stuck doing basic, repetitive tests. Parallel testing, which also involves automation, is another excellent way to run a large volume of tests quickly without compromising the accuracy of results.

Difference between Manual and Automation Testing

Both manual and automation testing approaches have their significant place in the SDLC. The choice between them depends on various factors, including project requirements, time constraints, budget, system complexity, and the testing team’s skills and expertise as listed below.

CriteriaManual TestingAutomation Testing
AccuracyManual Testing shows lower accuracy due to the higher possibility 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 testing cycle, and thus the turnaround time is higher.Automation Testing completes a testing cycle within record time; thus, the turnaround time is much lower.
Cost EfficiencyManual Testing requires more cost as it involves hiring expert professionals.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 software’s end user, 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 SpecializationTo exhibit the best results, manual Testing should be used to perform Exploratory, Usability, and Ad-hoc Testing.Automation Testing should be used to perform Regression Testing, Load Testing, Performance Testing, and Repeated Execution for best results.
User SkillsUsers must be able 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, and cross-platform compatibility, it is vital to use the right testing product that addresses each of these areas effectively.

How do you prioritize between Manual vs Automation Testing?

Tests where you must explore features and app behavior, such as Usability Testing, Exploratory Testing, and Manual Testing, should be prioritized. Whereas for Regression Testing and for those tests where scalability and test coverage is the priority, Automation Testing should be prioritized.

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing

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.

Automation Testing Manual Testing

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