Industry Wisdom Test Planning & Management

Manual vs Automation Testing | Which is the best among equals?

Software testing, though complex, is an integral part of any successful software project. On a high level there are basically two methods to complete the software verification & validation – Manual and Automation testing. While both types of testing are beneficial to web application development, there has been a plethora of speculation on whether software testing should be done manually or be automated. Creation of excellent software demands effective and timely quality testing; and in these times of production on the go, the debate continues on the purpose and efficiency of manual vs 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 automation testing), the argument is largely irrelevant; to achieve high quality software and reduced time to market both methodologies are essential. Let’s explore the 19 key consideration…

Automation Testing

Automation Testing Framework

Automation testing is a software testing method which uses automation software, tools and scripts to run tests that repeat predefined actions, matches the developed program’s probable and real results. Automated testing is the preferred option for regression testing, load testing, repeated execution and performance testing. Automating the testing process is ideal when the cost of acquiring the tool and building and maintaining the tests is less than the efficiency gained from the effort.

Manual Testing

The process of manual software testing involves manually running the individual tests or tasks associated with a product without the aid of scripts or other tools, in order to identify bugs or other issues. During this process, the testing team will use the application from end-user perspective and go through different scenarios to make sure that the features and interface function as expected. Manual testing is best suited for exploratory testing, human-touch skills, usability and ad-hoc testing.

Manual vs Automation TestingManual vs Automation Testing

Cost effectiveness

While automation tools can be expensive in the short-term, they save you money in the long-term. Aids in testing a large test matrix (different languages on different OS platforms). Automated tests can be run at the same time on different machines, whereas the manual tests would have to be run sequentially. If you have to run a set of tests repeatedly, automation is a huge win for you.

Note: Automation too takes time, tools have to be selected, built, installed and integrated before testing can take place, and planning and implementing automated tests. This initial investment phase will reap benefits when a test has been reused multiple times, reducing investment in resources in long term. Therefore factor in the re-usability and time saved.


When one of those brilliant thoughts comes to you, something that could change the course of the project, you want to be able to work on it immediately. With automated testing this is difficult. You have to set up test cases, program it into the automated tool, and then run the tests. With manual testing, you can just quickly test and see the results – flexible, on-the-fly testing. If you really need to test one small change, you can manually test it right then and there. Manual testing is flexible.

Occasional Testing

What if certain functionality is changed only occasionally? Will it be worth to invest time & money for automation? No, right? Hence Manual testing should be preferred when executing tests for the first time OR when the test case only needs to be run once or twice. Manual testing will be quick in these cases and provide immediate results. Automated tests take more time to set up, which doesn’t allow you to test ideas quickly and easily.

Performance testing

Have you ever heard anyone doing performance testing manually? Or 100 testers trying to login & use an application concurrently? No, right? 🙂 That’s because performance testing is inherently tool-driven. There’s essentially no manual alternative for testing load and performance. Automated tests simulate hundreds and thousands of simultaneous users and other performance scenarios.

Performance Testing

Real User issues

Automated tests are robotic and don’t necessarily act as a real user would. Manual testing, on the other hand, allows the application to be used as it would be upon launch. Any bugs that may pop up when a user handles the program in a certain way are more likely to be caught with manual testing. It allows the tester to perform more random testing. The experience says more bugs are found via random testing than via automation. And, the more time a tester spends playing with the feature, the greater the odds of finding real user bugs. Manual testing allows for human observation, which may be more useful if the goal is user-friendliness or improved customer experience. This is why Manual testing is very helpful in UI testing.

Regression Testing

A type of testing carried out to make sure that any changes to the software product didn’t result in any additional defects (side-effects) in the existing functionality that was working perfectly fine earlier. In other words – to identify the defects in related functionalities that creep in after the code changes to an already tested functionality.

Soon after we get bored of manual regression testing. Same test cases being executed time and again. Wait a minute! Time & again? Bingo! Regression testing is the perfect candidate for Automation testing where the code changes frequently. Write once and execute as & when required thus building the confidence and saving the costs too.

Note: Even automation isn’t useful if other best practices are not followed. It just adds up to your wasted efforts.

Reliability to avoid Human error

Agree or not, manually running the tests may result in boredom and fatigue, i.e. more chances of human error. Even the more experienced software testers can and do make mistakes, herein lies the problem; mistakes in testing by humans are hard to detect.  With automated testing if a problem is detected it is recorded automatically or the test is stopped as long as the computer will execute the same testing process, every time. Since automated tests are powered by tools and scripts, the chance of missing a bug or a defect decreases. This makes the testing process more reliable and time-efficient.

Repeated tests

A rule of thumb for Automation testing >> use it when you have to run same tests frequently. If you’re constantly adding the same features or executing the same operations in a project, then the flexible nature of automated tests can be a great time saver. It doesn’t make sense to automate a one-off scenario, right?

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