Industry Wisdom Test Planning & Management

Manual and Automation Testing | Which is the best?

As discussed in our previous article Manual vs. Automation Testing – on a high level there are basically two methods to complete the software verification & validation – Manual and Automation testing. Each testing method has its pros and cons but the truth is that regardless of which side of the fence you sit on (manual vs. automated), the argument is largely irrelevant; to achieve high quality software and reduced time to market both methodologies are essential. Let’s explore the remaining key considerations…

Manual and Automation Testing

Manual vs Automation Testing


Once run, you cannot reuse manual test 🙁 if any changes to application you have to write new test cases and then do a fresh manual test execution. With automated tests, if you add anything to the program, you can rerun all of the required tests with little tweaks – the basic tests are already set up.

Short-term cost

Buying software automation tools is expensive. With manual testing, you won’t have to put the same up-front costs into the software. In general, manual testing is ideal for short-term projects due to low upfront costs. And if you are testing for usability and other human-based functions, having an individual running the tests can be very beneficial. Short-term cost is lower. Also, if the test case only runs twice a coding milestone, it most likely should be a manual test. If you’re testing a simple application once, and don’t expect lots of updates, manual testing is preferable as it doesn’t require you to invest in expensive tools or software.

Short-term project

Automation requires a lot of investment and planning, both of which can be extraneous in short-term projects. The upfront price of automating a small project could be too high for the return on investment and value offered by the finished product.

Test Coverage

Say you are required to test an application on different browsers and OS combinations. Will you execute the same tests on every combination, manually? Nah! Automation testing can cover different browsers, machine with different OS platform combination, concurrently thereby increasing the Test coverage.

Testing fatigue | Interesting…

Manual Testing is Boring

Filling out the same forms time after time can be frustrating, and not to mention boring. There’s a better chance testing team will get fatigued and weary if they’re manually testing an application. As a result, many testers have a hard time staying engaged in this process, and errors are more likely to occur. Test automation solves this problem. The process of setting up test cases takes coding and thought, which keeps your best technical minds involved and committed to the process. Automating testing gives them a chance to focus more on the big picture.

Testing Limitations

While automated tests can certainly detect bugs in the system, there are limitations. For example, the automated tools can’t test for visual considerations like image color or font size. Changes in these can only be detected by manual testing, which means that not all testing can be done with automation tools. Automated testing does not entail human observation and cannot guarantee user-friendliness or positive customer experience.

Certain tasks are difficult to do manually. For example low level interface regression testing. This kind of testing is extremely difficult to perform manually, and, as a result, is prone to mistakes and oversight when done by hand. Automated testing, once set up, is much better equipped to find errors for this kind of testing. Another Testing type would be ‘performance testing’, which is almost impossible to perform manually.

Test maintenance

Automation is costly in case of playback methods. Even though a minor change occurs in the GUI, the test script has to be re-recorded or replaced by a new test script. Maintenance of test data files is difficult, if the test script tests more screens. The more tests you automate, the more source code you have to maintain, and that can become something of a rat’s nest. In turn, missed maintenance can lead to issues, such as false error reports, that you’re unaware of.

The Human touch

Manual and Automation TestingWith Manual testing you’re getting the exact kind of feedback an end-user would give you, and that can be invaluable. Being able to predict what your users will or won’t like – things a computer can’t give feedback on – ahead of time can influence your design and make it better from the bottom up. In general, automation removes the extremely important human element from testing and that human perspective is not something you can afford to sacrifice.

Time efficiency | Time-to-market

Get the speed and efficiency of computers. Once scripts are ready, automation runs test cases significantly faster than human resources. This saves the execution time. You can reuse tests, which is good news for those running regressions on constantly changing code. This time can be utilized to develop additional test cases, thereby improving the coverage.

Note: Tools still take time. While automated execution cuts down on the time, automation setup & design is still a time intensive process. A considerable amount of time goes into developing the automation framework and test scripts (and of course, proficiency is required to write the test scripts) before you can reap the actual benefits.

Uninterrupted Testing

Will you stay back overnight to complete Manual testing? Most probably No, right? 🙂 Manual testing requires the presence of test engineers but automated tests can be run round the clock, (24 x 7) environment. So, automated testing provides round the clock coverage.

Usability & User experience

Usability Testing

Computers do not have original thought – they run actions that are programmed and cannot provide the type of feedback that a human user would give when using an application. For example, automated tests can easily find errors in code, but it could not tell how users would interact with a certain feature or how well people will be able to navigate the program. Without that human touch, you won’t get insight into visual elements of your UI, like color choices, font size, contrast, or button sizes. Manual testing allows us to get visual feedback. Scripts can’t provide opinions and input about how a UI looks and feels like a person can.

Conclusion | which is the best among equals?

“Machines are great at faultless repetition, but less effective at exploring and following hunches.”

There’s no silver bullet for testing. Despite the wide variety of testing techniques and tools, we cannot rely on a single approach. Manual and Automation testing each have their strengths and weaknesses. Automated testing has numerous advantages, but manual testing can be more beneficial in certain instances. Depending on the specific project requirements, size, resources, budget and timelines, one type of testing may work better than the other. Automation testing complements manual testing by reducing work and bringing efficiency where the work is predictable (or repeatable) and manual testing is more useful for niche cases, where there is no predictability.

Since no testing method is perfect, it’s worthwhile to have a holistic approach to testing by using them together, one approach can identify errors that the other technique is prone to miss. By understanding the right mix which is best suited for the situation, QA teams can streamline operations, boost productivity and improve overall quality – giving the application more chances to succeed.

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