Software development is a complex process that requires various tools and techniques to be successful. One of the essential processes in any software project is manual testing. Manual testing refers to manually testing the features and functions of a piece of software to find errors.
While automated testing is an integral part of the development process, it cannot replace manual testing altogether. Manual testing can be used to test features and functions that automated tests cannot accurately emulate, such as user experience and usability.
This blog post will explore the pros and cons of manual testing from both sides before drawing a conclusion on which method should be used for each type of task.
Table of Contents:
- What is manual testing, and what are its benefits?
- What is automated testing, and what are its benefits?
- How can manual testing complement automated testing?
- When to use manual or automated testing?
- The advantages of using manual testing over automated testing
- The disadvantages of using manual testing over automated testing
- In Conclusion: How to choose between manual and automated tests?
What is manual testing, and what are its benefits?
In a few words, dedicated manual testers have a more intuitive sense of how a piece of software feels to the user since they spend hundreds of hours using products. This command makes them better at testing a product's user experience. This affirmation is true, at least for the traditional automated testing frameworks that are widely used by QA testers and software developers. Indeed, some new test automation tools are now focusing on user behaviors and journeys as we will see later in this article.
Additionally, manual testers can sometimes find coding errors that automated tests cannot detect. As defects become more complex over time, it becomes increasingly necessary to use human intelligence to detect and resolve them.
What is automated testing, and what are its benefits?
Automated testing is the process of using a computer program that automatically tests the features and functions of a piece of software to find errors.
The main benefit of automation is that it saves time for software testers, who would otherwise have to test each feature and function manually.
Another advantage is that automated tests allow for regression testing after changes have been made to a software's code, saving time and money as the product cycles through its development stages.
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How can manual testing complement automated testing?
Automated tests are great at catching errors with basic features and functions of an application, but they cannot accurately emulate user experience. This situation is where manual testing excels.
Most of the test automation tools are also limited to the code, which means that if a critical error occurs outside of the product's code, it will go unnoticed by their computerized tests. For example, errors in server response time caused by hardware malfunctions could cause an application to crash suddenly without any prior warning signs. On the other hand, a manual tester can easily detect such errors by manually testing server response time.
An automation tool like UIlicious, which focuses on user journeys more than how a product is coded, might be the best middle-ground for you. Especially if you want your automated tests to support your QA team on user behavior-related test cases.
When to use manual or automated testing?
Manual and automated tests should be used in different circumstances.
Automated tests are ideal for regression testing and detecting code-based defects. Therefore, they should ideally run after every new release of a product or at regular intervals throughout its development stages.
Most automated test frameworks are also helpful in checking an application's basic features and functions without trying to emulate the user experience.
Again, UIlicious is an exception. This automation testing tool has been designed with the user journey in mind. With it, you will be able to schedule automated tests that will focus on checking how the features of your web application are working from a user perspective.
The advantages of using manual testing over automated testing
1. Uses human intelligence to find errors
Manual testing allows testers to use their higher cognitive abilities, such as deductive reasoning and common sense when detecting software defects. This helps them find errors that automated tests might miss.
That is also the main reason why you will always need a human to review the tests made by automated testing tools.
2. Lets testers focus on complex features and functions
Using automated tests to emulate every single scenario related to a feature can be time-consuming. Manual testing allows testers to spend less time concentrating on emulating each unique user path possible and more time thinking about edge cases for complex features and functions.
However, you can often use datasets to reuse the same automated test script to try different test cases without having to rewrite every single line of code.
3. Tester knowledge of the project
Manual testing allows testers to monitor the quality of a product throughout its development cycle by spending more time familiarizing themselves with its features and functions. This helps maintain their knowledge of the project, which will be useful if issues arise after changes have been made to the code.
This is one of the reasons why we always recommend testing a scenario manually before considering automating it.
4. Detects errors outside of the code
Manual testing means testers look for bugs that do not affect the code, such as server response time. However, most traditional automated test tools are limited to what they can detect within the product's code.
This is where UIlicious’ smart scripting language comes into play! Indeed, our testing tool uses a unique language that relies on labels and other elements as they are seen by the end-user. Again, to reiterate, you should be able to automate the testing of your user journeys, not only your code. Moreover, the UIlicious approach makes your automated tests easier to maintain, because they are less often impacted by the code changes that the developers could make.
5. Provides accurate emulation of user experience
Manual testing gives testers the freedom to use their expertise to emulate the user experience. On the other hand, automated tests run a risk of being unable to simulate different types of user experiences caused by numerous variables in real-world circumstances.
6. It helps maintain a testable system
Manual testing can help testers use their expertise in detecting bugs that could cause an application to become untestable because automated tests cannot test the system they are a part of.
The disadvantages of using manual testing over automated testing
1. It requires more time than automated testing
Manual testing requires testers to spend additional hours manually checking every feature and function of the application. This takes up more time than running automated tests, requiring only a fraction of that time. Automated tests are also able to run overnight without any supervision.
2. It is susceptible to human errors
Manual testing is susceptible to human errors, such as bugs caused by tiredness, lack of focus, and distraction. Such bugs might not be detected if they are overlooked during testing. On the other hand, automated tests are less likely to make mistakes compared with their manual counterparts because testers no longer need to spend time manually checking for errors after each release.
3. It is time-consuming to maintain test cases
It takes more time to document all the manual errors found in an application, making it harder to keep track of changes when they are later made. This can be done effectively by maintaining automated tests instead because they only require updating if new features or functions are added.
4. Testers need to know the product well
Manual testers must have a solid understanding of a product before using it effectively. This helps them discern any errors that automated tests might miss if their knowledge is insufficient. Automated tests do not require testers to be familiar with all its features and functions.
5. It is costly to maintain manual testers
Manual tests require not only time but also money since they need to be conducted by human beings (testers) instead of machines (automation tools). Automated tests are cheaper because the cost of running them does not depend on how many times they run - rather, it depends on how much time is spent coding and maintaining them.
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In Conclusion: How to choose between manual and automated tests?
The short answer: it depends on what is being tested.
Automated tests are best used for features and functions that require the same input every time (such as an API, for example) because they can easily be repeated without human error. On the other hand, manual testing is better suited to detecting bugs caused by different inputs (such as user experience).
Testers should consider how many changes are made to the product's code.
Manual testing is best used for applications whose code is stable and not likely to be changed frequently because it might become too time-consuming when there are frequent updates. On the other hand, automated tests work best in software with unstable source codes because they can run quickly without requiring any supervision, and they can easily be updated when changes are made.
Manual testing is best used when there is no time limit for the entire testing process, such as when a product is launched to the public (beta testing). On the other hand, automated tests are best used when the test time is limited because they can run quickly. This makes them an essential part of most modern software development life cycles.
Besides, team managers should consider how many testers are available. Automated tests with tools like UIlicious allow for more people to be involved in testing a product because all that needs to be done is to write the script as you would describe the user journey to a friend, press a button, and wait for your test run to finish. On the other hand, manual testing requires several people to ensure a thorough check of the entire application.
If you are interested in trying test automation, we invite you to sign up to UIlicious today. You will be able to test this flexible and intuitive tool for free during the trial period. You can also read our other articles on test automation and manual testing if you are curious about these topics.
Photo by Yassine Khalfalli