Manual vs Automation Testing: Do You Need Both?
When you release a digital product to the market, you must be 100% sure it's going to work smoothly and flawlessly. And, of course, it should meet the expectations of your users too! Otherwise, your project may fail, which isn't the desired outcome, right? So you need to pay due attention to software QA testing.
But what is the right approach to testing your platform? Which techniques to select? Is it worth checking product performance manually or using automation? Or maybe choose both options at once?
These are tricky questions, but don't worry: we're ready to answer them in proper order.
What is automated and manual testing?
Ensuring high-quality software is a complex process, which takes a lot of time and costs some money. However, such expenses cannot be avoided (provided you want to succeed in the long run). It is important to draw up a competent testing strategy that would allow you to get the maximum effect with minimal effort and understand whether the site or application meets the requirements set.
And first of all, you should answer the question: are you going to test software manually or using process automation?
How do the automated and manual testing differ?
- With a manual approach, testing is being carried out without using software;
- With automated software testing, the process is based on special scripts.
Both types of testing have pros and cons, which we're going to discuss on a case-by-case basis. For now, let's just say that the successful implementation of the project largely depends on the time, cost, and quality of work. The challenge for the business owner is to reduce the cost and development time while maintaining its quality. And testing also plays a role in this regard.
As you must have figured out, this type of testing doesn't involve the use of automation tools. The testing engineer interacts with the digital product directly and works with it as the end-user.
Although manual testing is quite low-level, it cannot be neglected. The fact is that total automation is just impossible… however, let's discuss the problem in more detail.
The main task of manual testing
A key goal is to make sure the software works as intended. And believe us, it's not about mindlessly clicking on website links and tapping app screen elements. You should draw up a competent strategy and act according to the plan.
So while a manual QA expert isn’t required to have specific knowledge, he must be smart and discerning.
Manual Software Testing Myths:
anyone can test a product manually. Alas, this is far from the truth. A QA engineer must have experience and be trained enough;
automation is the only key to efficiency. Actually, both types of testing are important and effective in their own way;
manual testing is very easy. It seems simple, but just at first glance. An analytical approach is needed anyway so that you don’t have to do unnecessary work and delay the development process.
Pros and cons of manual testing
Let's start with the benefits, do you mind?
- No programming knowledge required. Many testing tasks of this sort can be performed without access to the code. So finding the right specialist is much easier.
- Timely user feedback. A manual tester acts as an end-user who is as critical as possible to your product and tries to find a lot of flaws in it. So you get immediate user feedback and have a chance to improve your platform before a real customer interacts with it.
- Cheapness. You don’t need to buy or create automation tools, which means you save at the start (only in the short term).
- The cost of manual testing is pretty low, but not in the long run! Keep this in mind.
- Real-time results. The QA engineer doesn't write test cases so he doesn't need to wait for their completion. He's able to provide some results here and now, without delay.
- High-quality UI feedback. User interface testing can only be done manually (at least, for now). Automating the process would neither give perfect results nor allow you to adjust your design according to the expectations of users.
- Effective exploratory testing. In addition to the testing of software interfaces, there is a chance to analyze the operation of an application or site from the point of view of a researcher and evaluate its functionality. And in this case, the crucial thing is spontaneity, which couldn't be achieved if you run automated testing.
- Improvisation. Well, the last example of the benefits of manual testing is improvisation. Essentially, this is the same spontaneity we've mentioned above. Automation is always based on planned scenarios, while a manual approach opens up room for imagination and spontaneous decisions.
- Human errors. We, the people, sometimes make mistakes merely by virtue of our human nature. This is quite normal.
- Longer process duration. As we've mentioned earlier, some results may be provided immediately, but these are mostly preliminary data. In general, the whole procedure takes much longer (compared to the automated process).
- No conditions for carrying out performance or stress testing. Manual techniques don't allow simulating a large number of users, so you're unable to find out how the system would behave when the load increases.
- Impossibility of reuse. Each next series of tests will have to be performed anew, and it’ll take the same amount of time.
- More costs in the long run. As the time of the QA expert's work grows, the cost of the project does the same. At first, though, no special investments are expected.
Where should you use manual testing scenarios?
- The need for physical impact. If the testing process requires some kind of physical impact from a QA expert (switching connectors, turning a device on and off, etc.), it's easier and cheaper to resort to a manual approach.
- Security. Security testing should also include manual techniques. The point is, there are scenarios where the user is shown a special modal window to interact with. And no other application sees it (which is being done so that no program could interfere with the security system). As you can imagine, computerization is unlikely to help you here, you need a human tester!
- UI/UX. If user experience or user interface testing are needed, you'll have to dismiss automating the process too. Only a manual testing engineer would spot errors in business logic or design.
- In fact, there are special frameworks able to simulate user behavior (keystrokes, mouse movement, clicking on links, etc.). However, they aren't effective enough to rely entirely on the results they provide us with.
- Immediate testing. You can write a testing script only if you understand what the final result should look like. If the feature is new, it's difficult to predict the outcome, and it's better to start with manual scenarios.
We constantly strive to automate and thereby simplify some actions and operations, and the work of a QA expert is no exception. Moreover, manual scripts are hardly enough to create a project’s testing strategy capable of ensuring the smooth operation of modern multi-component software systems.
Still further, less and less time is devoted to the development of digital products, which means testing must be carried out quickly and efficiently. And its automation is a great answer to this kind of challenge of our time.
What is Automation Testing?
Automation of the QA engineer's actions involves the use of special software (in addition to the tested one) and writing various tests. The entire process relies on a pre-scripted scenario, so there is no room for spontaneity... but it has other benefits that we have yet to discuss.
Why is automated testing so demanded?
Accelerated software development process. As we've already said, the software is developed faster today, so a QA expert has to be more dexterous in checking the quality of its work.
The popularity of DevOps technology, the essence of which lies in the tight integration of all development stages. Therefore, testing of a digital product should be performed simultaneously with its creation. And automation is indispensable in this respect.
The complication of software. Currently, innovative technologies such as big data, IoT, and the like are being used more and more actively. In addition, microservices architecture has become popular, which allows different features to be developed independently of each other. Checking the operation of every microservice is too difficult a task, and a manual tester won't be able to cope with it.
To write automated tests, a QA specialist must have programming skills. The work is rather interesting because the expert has to come up with effective and original ways to use automated testing tools.
Pros and cons of automated testing
Now it’s time to discuss the main advantages and disadvantages of automated testing.
- Possibility of performance and stress testing. Unlike manual scenarios, automatic processes are ideally suited to simulate the loading impact of a large number of users;
- No risk of human errors. Automated testing techniques aren't prone to the mistakes that a person unwittingly makes;
- Saving time. Automation is designed to simplify and speed up a particular process (in this case, checking the operation of a digital product);
- Reuse. Once you've written a test script, you’re welcome to use it over and over again as many times as you need;
- No routine. The benefits of automated testing also offer a great chance to avoid boredom and routine so experts get tired and annoyed less;
- Better devices support. If the script is written correctly, it’ll be usable on different platforms and devices;
- Greater coverage. Finally, there is an opportunity to increase testing coverage by checking even the smallest element of the software.
- Programming skills are a must. Writing scripts requires certain skills; therefore it’s not always easy to find an expert, and his services would cost more;
- No user feedback. The written test fulfills the set scenario and is unable to tell you about its impressions, to give high-quality feedback;
- Higher cost. Automated testing tools also cost some money, which slightly increases the project price;
- The difficulty of UI/UX testing. As we’ve already explained, it is difficult to automate the process of testing of software interfaces, including their design, usability, and so on.
- Imperfect reliability. Although human errors won't occur due to automation, other problems might happen, say, caused by the load on the test machine;
- No human view of things. There're errors in the work of systems that only humans would be able to recognize;
- Usage restrictions. Autotests are aimed at checking predetermined system features and won't reveal anything outside the plan.
Where should you use automated testing tools?
- Performance and stress testing. If you need to check the system performance and the effect of increased loads or some kind of “stress” on it, be sure to use special scripts;
- Regression testing. It involves testing already analyzed areas of the software to find previously missed defects. And surely, it's smarter to run automated testing in order to avoid doing all the work from scratch again and again;
- Localization testing. If you're planning to conquer the global market, you need to check how your program meets the needs of each country and its consumers. To be precise, you should localize your interface elements such as correct date display, translation of UI details, currency adaptation, etc. It is hardly possible to test all of the above manually;
- Other operations. And lastly, automation is perfect for various sorts of routine repetitive operations, code coverage checking, long end-to-end testing scenarios, as well as complex mathematical calculations.
Software QA Testing: Key Conclusions
- Testing is targeted at checking certain aspects of the software: its performance, security, intuitive use, etc.
- Digital product testing can be performed according to pre-prepared scenarios (using automation tools) or intuitively (namely, manually).
- Automation saves time and effort because once a test is written, you may run it as many times as you like.
- You can manually test almost any site or application, while only stable systems are subject to automation.
- Manual testing is sometimes pretty monotonous and boring. Automation avoids boredom as the QA engineer is being assisted by special computerized algorithms.
We'd like to add that the most successful and promising option is to combine manual and automated testing approaches.
To select the right testing techniques, you need to analyze your project according to the following parameters:
- your budget;
- planned fixes;
- the need to update the software in the future;
- ideal product launch date.
Based on these factors, you have a chance to create a project’s testing strategy, which works perfectly for your project.
Important qualities of a successful QA expert:
- self-confidence as a business user who is able to thoroughly check all the features of an application or site;
- understanding the structure of the digital product under study and the principle of its operation;
- ability to read release notes correctly and follow instructions;
- imagination and readiness to improvise (especially when it comes to a manual tester);
- knowledge of programming (if the expert works with process automation).