Manual vs. Automation Testing: Which Approach Works Best?

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09 Oct 2019
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8 min
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Maria D.
Copywriter

Bugs and performance issues cost software owners’ reputation, users, and profit. So to test or not to test isn't a question at all. It's rather 'how to choose the right approach to testing'?

In this article, we’re comparing two approaches – manual vs. automation testing. Uncovering their benefits, drawbacks, and figuring out when to go for automation testing and when manual checks are just enough.

And, finally, deciding on how cost-effective this is – to write code to check code.

Manual Testing: What Is It About?

Manual tests are done by hand: quality assurance team checks how the software works by following conditions written in test cases.

If you’re picking this type of QA testing services, you’re paying for the time engineers spend on running checks. This works great on a short-time perspective: if the team needs to make a few simple checks, manual testing is a fast, accurate, and cost-effective solution.

Besides, even if there’s a need of automation testing, full automation is simply impossible. You can't skip the manual testing stage. What’s more, QA engineers have to test the software manually to make automated testing is possible.

What is manual testing applicable for?

  • Adhoc testing
  • Exploratory testing
  • Usability testing

Here’s an example of a usability check. QA engineer clearly sees that, for instance, the contrast between a button and the background in an app is too light. So it will be hard for users to see the button and figure out what it’s used for.

One of the drawbacks of automation testing is that it wouldn't find any issues here at all.

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Finally, the QA team’s feedback is closer to what you’ll hear from customers. Which is really helpful if you’re aiming at user-friendliness and better customer experience.

Now, let’s briefly check the benefits of manual testing.

Visual feedback

Scripts won’t provide visual feedback about how UI looks or feels like and whether it affects user experience. But a qualified QA engineer can, and their comments will be the closest to actual opinion of users.

Human feedback

Another advantage of manual testing over automation is that you’re getting the exact kind of feedback you'll hear from real users. And if you can predict what they will or won't like in UI design (like a computer cannot), you'll have plenty of time to make it better.

Flexible approach

Manual testing requires to write and review test cases for the software. And when you need to check one small change, it's much faster and cheaper to test it manually, on the fly. Without any expenses on automation tools and processes.

And the drawbacks of manual testing:

Number of errors

Manual testing fully depends on the engineers that perform it. So there's a higher chance of errors: testing results can only be as good as the testers are. With manual inspection, there's always a possibility QA specialist missed out some bugs.

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Time-consuming process

Engineers can't reuse manual tests. That means with every new update in the product, the QA team needs to start all over again. And make sure new changes won’t break the build (regression testing), even in case of minor changes.

Testing limitations

Manual testing won't work for load and performance checks. To check the performance manually, the QA team needs to use a large number of devices and have lots of specialists in the company.

How Does Automated Testing Work?

This far, we know that manual testing can’t be fully skipped. But if not, why we should consider QA automation at all?

Some checks are impossible or too complex to make manually. They mostly include load testing, but there also are processes like image comparison, simultaneous testing of several parts of the product from different devices, and so on. All these tasks become much easier with automated scripts.

When to go for automation testing?

  • checking the UI, especially if lots of platforms or devices are supported
  • for the main testing flows
  • rarely changing cases

There's little use of creating autotest for features that constantly change. Or functionality that may be potentially updated (like business logic) as with the change of the functionality, there’s a need to change the tests.

Thus, we can name what test automation works for:

  • GUI, API tests
  • Unit tests
  • Integration tests
  • Smoke tests
  • Regression testing
  • Acceptance testing
  • Load and performance testing

What are the limitations of automated testing? Only stable functionality, which was tested manually and approved by the product owner, is worth automating. Simply put, if you know that this part of the software won't be changed soon, go for QA automation.

As our experience shows, manual regression testing takes about 10h hours per platform, if we're talking about small-size products with simple functionality. But when it comes to large-scale ones, testing may take up to a week per one platform.

To reduce the time spent on regression testing, we apply autotests.

Benefits of Automation Testing

Now, I suggest taking a look at the main advantages of automation testing. Here’s a short list of them:

  1. Decreased cost
  2. Better coverage and accuracy
  3. Faster delivery
  4. Easier reporting

Let’s review them one by one.

1. Test automation means cost savings

First, it's about finding bugs quickly. Here's a thing: the sooner you find the issue, the faster you fix it.

Among the main benefits of test automation over manual testing is that the latter allows developers to start checking code as soon as it's compiled. This way, engineers find and fix issues faster, cathing most of the issues at the Unit/API layers, long before the project moves into production.

Second, it's reducing the average cost of testing hours.

A QA engineer does manual checks for up to 8 hours per day. But a test automation specialists will spend twice less time on writing scripts. And then they leave the scripts running for the rest of the day, switching to other tasks.

Sure, it’s all individual and should be calculated according to project requirements, complexity, and so on. Besides, we should take into account the time needed for re-writing scripts and maintaining them.

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2. Better coverage, accuracy, and resource allocation

With the product expansion, developers add new features on top of the existing functionality. That means more code and more work for the quality assurance team. Now they need to make sure that are no bugs in the new features that can break the software – this is the regression testing I’ve mentioned.

For large-scale projects, there are two ways out: leave some parts untested (and bear all the risks) or automate the process.

The importance of automation testing is that the QA team can launch many scripts and leave them running during off-work hours. Or while QA engineer is checking the part of the software not covered by autotests. These scripts go through the same steps as many times as needed; they don't get bored or tired.

In turn, the quality assurance team has enough time for in-depth manual testing, more challenging, and rewarding tasks.

3. Faster delivery

As the project grows, so does time needed for its testing.

As mentioned, in some cases, manual regression testing and eliminating bugs take up to 5 days per platform. Benefits of automation testing are obvious here: autotests reduce the number of days to a few.

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This is crucial for any startup: the latter they launch a product, the more marking opportunities will slip through fingers. So while a company spends weeks on testing the software, their competitors might have already released a similar product.

4. Easier reporting

With moving to automated testing tools, you move to a fully new level of reporting.

Tools like Allure, UFT, Tricentis Tosca make full reports that show the results from all the tests processes in a single run. Any member of the QA team can check and identify the cause of an issue. There won't be any need to contact the test's creator. Which gives the quality assurance team a real-time picture of the app's stability.

For example, if testers wrote scripts to check software on Google Chrome, they might be able to adapt them to other browsers. With very little time and effort.

Test Automation ROI

It’s obvious that test automation provides a return on investment. And how big the ROI will be, fully depends on how test automation is adopted and executed.

Аutomated tests can be run over and over again with no additional expenses. Plus, they complete checking faster than any QA specialist.

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Automated software testing can reduce the time to run repetitive tests from weeks to hours. This is a significant business benefit of test automation.

Test automation provides value in two ways.

Business value:

  • Better software quality
  • Avoiding operational problems
  • Decrease cost of fixing bugs

Tech value:

  • Simplifies routine tasks
  • Run more tests simultaneously
  • Increase the scope of coverage

The coverage allows monitor bugs automatically and eliminates human factor.

Sure, among the disadvantages of automation testing over manual testing is that autotests take more time to create. Plus, you'll need a more qualified and highly paid expert for writing them.

On the other hand, if an autotest does not need revitalizing and constant updates, it works almost for free.

Therefore, it’s very important to calculate automation ROI to figure out when to use automation testing and where to go for manual checks.

Experienced companies that provide software development services begin testing automation with calculating test automation ROI and choosing the most cost-effective testing strategy.

Besides, automation itself should be based on the company’s experience and ready-made framework libraries. That helps to save time and money of customers.

Automation Testing at Cleveroad

At Cleveroad, we use automated tests to boost the speed of product testing and enhance its overall quality. Our QA engineers run autotest to check the back-end part of the product and its user interface.

1. Backend

Automated API testing helps us to check a large amount of backend logic with which all the product's platforms interact.

2. User Interface

These tests are intended to imitate the behavior of product users to test and validate various UI layouts.

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