Technology

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing – Comparison and Finding a Happy Medium

Aleksandra Rajczyk
Aleksandra Rajczyk
Manual Testing vs Automation Testings - comparison

If you want to win customers, there’s no way across – they will accept only the best. That is why testing is so important for the success of your app. Learn about the difference between manual and automation testing, is it true that one is better than the other, and how to strike a balance for great results. 

No matter what kind of business you run, your major goal should be to provide the best quality products possible. High quality has a higher chance of surviving on the competitive market – and the software market is one of the most demanding ones. Users are very quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t suit their needs. 

Quality management is a step in the software development process that analyzes the digital product in depth before deployment. Even though software quality is often hard to define, engineers make sure that the product is up to par with the standards, that it meets the initial requirements, and that both functional and non-functional aspects of the digital product work as they should. 

What is testing?

Quality management is typically divided into a set of practices: quality assurance, quality control, and testing. The first two are an integral part of the development process, focused on monitoring and providing the best solutions for the problem before and during the coding process, whereas testing is a practical approach to ensuring software quality. 

Testing is a way of evaluating the features of the software and finding defects that need to be fixed. It is typically divided into manual and automated categories – depending on the way the testing is performed. 

Automation vs Manual Comparison

The most basic manual and automation testing differences are easy to understand: one requires the presence of a human while the other is automated. In manual testing, the human tester performs the test step by step, often without a fixed scenario. In automation testing, the tool does it thanks to the automation framework, dotting the i’s and predictably crossing the t’s. 

What’s important is that there’s no right or wrong way of testing software. Both manual and automation testing have their place in the quality assurance process. Depending on the project, one can be used more often than the other. However, it’s worth noting that none of the techniques are inherently better than the other. They’re simply used in different scenarios and to a varied extent. Finding out why automation testing is better than manual doesn’t mean that manual testing should be forgotten. 

Below you will find a brief explanation of each type of testing and what are their pros and cons. You’ll also have a closer look into how testing benefits your business in the long run. This way you’ll be able to make decisions that are suited to your project. 

What is manual testing?

In manual testing, tests are executed manually by a QA Analyst, a QA Engineer, or a Software Tester who uses applicable software. It is performed to find any mistakes in software under development – these mistakes are called ‘bugs.’ The tester checks the features of the software to see if they work according to the precondition. During the testing process, the tester does not use automation tools to run test cases and generates the test reports.

Manual testing is a hands-on approach to bug detection. Testers have to be heavily involved in the development process from the start to get the best results. Manual testing basics include thinking of the most relevant test cases and inserting them into the testing process.

Advantages of manual testing

Everyone involved in the software development process can easily name the most positive aspect of manual testing: human attention. Manual testers can handle complex scenarios and execute tests even when there’s a nuance that hasn’t been taken into consideration beforehand. For now, we could say there’s no better software testing tool than the human brain.

Other advantages of manual testing include:

  • quick feedback based on human intuition and critical thinking
  • performing ad-hoc testing almost instantaneously – perfect for testing small changes in the code
  • experimenting with newly designed test cases
  • testing different kinds of software
  • flexible approach compliant with agile development
  • smaller cost since none of the automation tools and processes are involved 

Generally speaking, all software has to be tested manually before it is automated because humans are the end-users; if something occurs to the tester, there is a high chance that it will be noticeable to the customer. 

Disadvantages of manual testing

Despite all the advantages, testers are only humans, and it’s in human nature to make mistakes. 

Some disadvantages of manual testing to consider:

  • prone to errors
  • usually, more time consuming
  • some tasks may be difficult to perform manually
  • can become expensive in the long run

In short: the biggest advantage and disadvantage of manual testing is the human aspect. Testers aren’t immune to conditions like fatigue and boredom which can negatively affect the test results. 

When to use manual testing?

Manual testing is suitable for these 3 types of testing: 

  1. Exploratory Testing – exploring the functionalities of the software without knowing the requirements.
  2. Usability Testing – verifying if the software is user-friendly. Most of the software targeted at the general public should be easy to operate, almost self-explanatory. 
  3. Ad-hoc Testing – an informal type of testing where testers randomly test the software without any test cases nor documentation. 

Manual testing isn’t the best method when it comes to Volume Testing, especially for low volume regression with a large size of data targeted at the software. 

What is automation testing?

In Automated Software Testing or Automation Testing, testers use automation tools to conduct tests. As the name suggests, automation testing requires less human attention than manual testing. However, even though the tests are executed automatically, automation testing still needs some manual effort, especially in creating the testing scripts. 

Advantages of automation testing

Automation testing is favorable because of: 

  • higher detectability of bugs
  • faster speed
  • reusability of the test scripts as opposed to manual testing – automation testing can be recorded
  • increased test coverage 
  • lesser cost in the long run

In general, automation testing has all the advantages machines have over humans. That is why automation testing is better than manual according to some software engineers.

Disadvantages of automation testing

Even though automation testing often seems like the perfect option, it does come with some drawbacks:

  • the cost of automation tools can eat up most of the budget
  • automation testing tools are not foolproof and require maintenance by testers anyway
  • it doesn’t work for every digital product because it’s not as flexible as manual testing
  • automation testing does not take into account the visual aspects of digital products

Automation testing is the most suitable for stable products. It’s not as effective in projects where the requirements are prone to change. 

When to use automation testing?

Automation testing is suited for 3 types of testing: 

  1. Regression Testing – testing of an already tested software that went through some changes to check if the changes have affected the end product.
  2. Load/Volume Testing  – this type of test checks if the software can handle the expected number of interactions, the size of data that comes with it, and how it performs under data overload by imitating real-time scenarios. 
  3. Performance Testing – tests the response times, stability, and overall performance of the software. 

Automation testing works best when the tasks are repetitive and are not connected directly to the User Experience/User Interface aspect of the software undergoing testing. 

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing – Comparison

Every type of testing comes with its own pros and cons. That is why it’s important for QAs to determine what type of testing is the best to move the production forward while maintaining the budget. 

Here’s a list of major differences between manual and automated testing: 

MANUALAUTOMATION
performed manually by a human – tester/QA


time-consuming

not efficient with a large volume of repetitive tasks


possible human errors

allows random testing

limited test coverage

performed automatically with automation tools and scripts initiated by a tester/QA

quick 

not efficient when an insight into usability and visuals of the software is needed

based on pre-designed scripts

doesn’t allow random testing

sufficient test coverage can be easily ensured

The size and the production stage of the project are the most important factors in determining what kind of testing is necessary to create a high-quality product. Not every software needs to be tested both manually and automatically. Still, the best idea is to consider every option before the project goes into the development phase. 

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing from the business point of view

Perhaps the most important difference between manual and automation testing is how it affects the business. At first, it’s about the budget, later – about the ROI (Return of Investment). 

Let’s see how automation vs manual pans out in terms of business benefits: 

MANUALAUTOMATION
takes up human resources – testers/QAs work at an hourly rate and manual testing is usually more time-consuming than automated testing

the budget goes into experts

suitable for prototypes and MVPs because the initial investment is low

ROI is lower in the long run

faster than manual testing but still requires supervision from a tester/QA

the budget goes into experts and automation tools

more suitable for the well-established products and final stages of the development process because the initial investment is quite high

ROI is higher in the long run

To make sure the money doesn’t go down the drain, set up realistic goals for your project and weigh in all the options. Talk to your development team about implementing the aspects of QA into the software development process and decide whether every iteration needs testing and what type of testing is the best at the current stage of product creation. 

So, is automation testing better than manual? Summary

The Quality Assurance phase is a complex process in software development. Testing is just one side of it. Despite the wide variety of testing types, it is not advisable to rely on just one of them. The automation vs manual dispute makes sense only in terms of a specific product that is going into the development process. Without this context, it is impossible to determine which approach is the best. Both automated and manual testing has strengths and weaknesses. While automation testing is fast and efficient, not everything can be automated. The digital product benefits the most when automation and manual testing are performed side by side in the relevant stages of the development. Therefore, combining both brings the best results. However, before any decision is made, you need to take into account the timeframe, budget, and skill set of your team. Always keep your eyes on the prize and remember about your business objectives – you can achieve that only by setting up goals even before the QA phase begins. 

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