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  • July 25 2023

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: A Comprehensive Guide With Examples And Best Practices

Dive into an in-depth tutorial highlighting the difference between manual testing vs automation testing.

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OVERVIEW

Manual testing and automation testing are the two primary approaches of software testing to ensure the quality and reliability of software applications. While both methods aim to achieve quality assurance, their approaches, advantages, and considerations differ.

Manual testing involves the manual execution of test cases by human testers without automation testing tools. This approach allows for exploratory testing, where testers can employ their domain knowledge and intuition to uncover defects and evaluate the user experience. Manual testing is suitable for scenarios that require subjective judgment and ad-hoc testing.

However, it can be time-consuming, prone to human error, and challenging to scale for large projects or repetitive tasks. On the other hand, automation testing utilizes automation testing frameworks or tools to automate test case execution, data input, and result comparison.

It offers benefits such as increased efficiency, faster test execution, wider test coverage, and improved accuracy. Automation testing is particularly advantageous for regression testing, repetitive tests, and complex scenarios. However, it requires initial setup time, technical expertise, and ongoing maintenance.

Manual testing and automation testing each have strengths and weaknesses, necessitating careful evaluation in different scenarios. To achieve optimal testing results, it's essential to strike the right balance between manual and automation testing.

In this tutorial on manual testing vs automation testing, we will understand manual testing vs automation testing in great detail with examples and best practices.

What is Manual Testing?

Manual testing is a fundamental software testing approach involving human intervention to evaluate a software application's functionality, usability, and quality. It is a process where testers manually execute test cases without the assistance of automated tools or scripts.

It is essential throughout the Software Development Life Cycle ,(SDLC) and plays a crucial role in ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of the software.

Despite the growing popularity of automated testing, manual testing remains a crucial component of a comprehensive testing strategy. It complements automated testing efforts and ensures software applications' quality and reliability.

Why use Manual Testing over Automated?

Automated testing has come a long way in its ability to handle complex testing tasks. However, there are still situations where manual testing is more appropriate. One of the advantages of manual testing is a low risk of false negatives. False negatives can be problematic as they require extra work for DevOps teams to verify whether an error reported during testing is genuinely a problem or not.

Certain tests are well-suited for automation, especially those that are repetitive and performed frequently. However, not all tests should be automated. Tests that occur infrequently have a high risk of failure or are subject to frequent changes are better suited for manual testing. Here are some specific instances where manual testing is preferable over automated testing:

  • UX and exploratory testing: This type of testing requires a human intervention to assess the user experience and explore the system for potential issues that automated scripts might miss.
  • Complex test scenarios: Some test scenarios are intricate and not easily manageable through automation. Manual testers can adapt and respond to unforeseen complexities more effectively.
  • Infrequent validations: If certain test scenarios only need to be validated occasionally, the overhead of maintaining automated scripts might outweigh the benefits.

By using manual testing when appropriate and automated testing for repetitive and high-frequency tests, testing teams can ensure comprehensive coverage and efficient validation of their software systems.

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Pros and Cons of Manual Testing

Manual testing provides several benefits, including

  • Human insights: Testers can apply their domain knowledge and expertise to identify subtle issues that may be missed by automated testing.
  • Flexibility: Manual testing allows adaptability to changing requirements and allows testers to explore different test scenarios based on their intuition and experience.
  • Usability assessment: Manual testers assess the user experience, usability, and accessibility of the software, which can significantly impact user satisfaction.

While manual testing is important in software testing, it also has certain disadvantages. Here are some common disadvantages of manual testing:

  • Time-consuming: Manual testing can be time-consuming, especially for large or complex software applications. Testers need to manually execute test cases, record results, and analyze the outcome, which can slow down the overall test process.
  • Resource-intensive: Manual testing requires skilled human resources to perform the testing activities. It may involve a team of testers, which can increase the cost and effort associated with testing, particularly for long-term projects or extensive test coverage.
  • Prone to human error: Manual testing heavily relies on human intervention, making it susceptible to human errors. Testers may unintentionally skip or misinterpret test steps, leading to incomplete or inaccurate test results. Human error can introduce false positives or negatives, compromising the reliability of the testing process.

Example of Manual Testing

In this section on manual testing vs automation testing tutorial, we will look at the test scenario of user registration to verify that a user can successfully register on the eCommerce website.

  • Test Steps:
    • Launch the web browser and navigate to the eCommerce website.
    • Click the "Sign Up" or "Register" button on the homepage.
    • Fill in the registration form with valid user details, including name, email address, password, and contact information.
    • Submit the registration form by clicking the "Register" button.
    • Verify that the user is successfully registered by checking for a confirmation message or redirecting to the user's account page.
    • Log out from the registered user account.
    • Attempt to log in using the registered email address and password.
    • Verify that the login is successful and the user is redirected to their account page.
  • Expected Results:
    • The registration form should accept valid input and display appropriate error messages for invalid or missing fields.
    • A confirmation message or a redirect to the user's account page should be displayed after a successful registration.
    • The login should be successful using the registered email address and password, redirecting the user to their account page.
  • Defect Reporting:
  • If any discrepancies or issues are found during the test execution, such as the registration form not accepting valid input or the login failing with correct credentials, a defect should be reported with detailed information about the problem, steps to reproduce, and any relevant attachments.

    In a real testing scenario, multiple test cases would be created to cover various functionalities, including product search, adding items to the cart, placing orders, payment processing, and more. Testers would follow similar steps to execute the test cases and report any defects encountered.

The next section of this manual testing vs automation testing tutorial focuses on the methods to perform manual testing.

Methods to Perform Manual Testing

Manual testing is performed by testers who manually execute test cases and validate the software application against specified requirements. Here are some commonly used methods for performing manual testing:

  • Functional testing: Functional testing involves verifying the application's functionality against the specified requirements. Testers manually execute test cases and validate if the application behaves as expected and produces the correct outputs.
  • UI testing: UI testing focuses on evaluating the application's user interface elements, such as screens, menus, buttons, forms, and overall layout. Testers perform manual interactions with the UI to ensure it is visually appealing, consistent, and user-friendly.
  • Usability testing: Usability testing aims to evaluate the ease of use and user-friendliness of the application. Testers simulate real user scenarios and assess the application's intuitiveness, navigation, responsiveness, and overall user experience.
  • Exploratory testing: Exploratory testing involves unscripted testing where testers explore the application freely and try different scenarios to identify defects. Testers rely on domain knowledge, experience, and intuition to uncover hidden issues and unexpected behaviors.
  • Ad hoc testing: Ad hoc testing refers to unplanned and unstructured testing where testers perform tests without predefined test cases. It allows testers to quickly identify defects or validate specific functionalities without following a formal test plan.
  • Regression testing: Regression testing is conducted to ensure that changes or bug fixes do not introduce new defects or impact existing functionalities. Testers manually execute a predefined set of test cases to validate the unchanged parts of the application after modifications.
  • Smoke testing: Smoke testing involves executing a quick set of test cases to ensure that the critical functionalities of the application are working fine after each build or deployment. It helps identify severe defects early in the testing cycle.
  • Cross browser testing: Testers manually execute test cases on different browsers (such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari) and platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux) to ensure that the application functions correctly across multiple environments.

In the next section on manual testing vs automation testing tutorial, let’s go a bit further to understand the evolution of manual to automated testing.

Evolution from Manual to Automation Testing

As technology became increasingly crucial in the market, organizations face the challenge of delivering new features quickly to meet diverse user demands and outpace their competitors. To achieve this, Agile methodologies gained popularity, emphasizing rapid development and adoption.

According to a report, by 2022, the automation testing market had surpassed $15 billion, and it was projected to grow even further at a rate of over 15% from 2023 to 2032. The Agile development approach introduced faster development cycles, aiming to implement new features within short sprints that lasted a few weeks.

However, as development time was reduced, the time allocated for software testing also diminished. Consequently, more bugs surfaced, leading to a subpar user experience, particularly for users with less popular devices. While manual testing is effective in areas where quick results and analysis are needed; it falls short in testing scenarios that require repetitive iterations and execution of code.

Additionally, it struggles to cope with large-scale projects, as it consumes time and may lead to unnecessary delays in a rapidly moving technology landscape. This is where automation testing comes into play. It enables running iterative, parallel tests on multiple environments simultaneously, generating error logs and reports automatically.

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What is Automation Testing?

Automation testing is a software testing approach that involves using specialized tools and scripts to automate the execution of test cases and compare actual results with expected outcomes. It aims to improve testing efficiency, accuracy, and coverage by reducing manual effort and human error.

It's important to note that while automation testing offers many advantages, it is not a replacement for manual testing. Manual testing still plays a vital role in exploratory testing, usability assessment, and scenarios that require human intuition and judgment. Combining manual and automation testing helps achieve a comprehensive and efficient testing approach.

Why use Automation Testing over Manual?

The primary advantage of automation testing compared to manual testing is that it allows you to conduct more tests in a shorter amount of time. This boosts productivity and broadens the scope of testing that can be performed.

The preference for automated testing is primarily due to its time-saving benefits, as manual testing can be quite time-consuming. To address the growing demands and the need to meet market deadlines, automated testing has become essential. One of the main benefits of automated testing is its ability to reduce repetitive manual tasks during the testing phase.

However, it does require some manual work during the implementation stage, where testers need to create the initial testing scripts. These test scripts are usually written in programming languages such as Java, JavaScript, Python, or C#. While writing these scripts may be challenging, specialized test execution tools are available to assist testers in developing the code and test scripts, making the process more manageable.

The advantage of this approach is that test scripts can be reused, making testing even more efficient as software projects progress. Another major benefit of automated testing over manual testing is its increased test coverage. Automated testing can deliver better results because it can cover a wider range of device and operating system combinations.

In contrast, manual testing is limited in its ability to cover only a certain number of these permutations. The broader coverage provided by automated testing leads to improved error detection, resulting in a more reliable and robust final software product.

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Pros and Cons of Automation Testing

In this section on manual testing vs automation testing tutorial, let’s explore the benefits of automation testing:

  • Increased efficiency: Automation testing reduces the time and effort required to execute repetitive test cases, allowing testers to focus on more complex and critical areas.
  • Improved accuracy: Automation tools perform tests precisely as scripted, eliminating human error and providing consistent and reliable results.
  • Enhanced test coverage: With automation, a large number of test cases can be executed across different environments and configurations, leading to broader test coverage.
  • Faster feedback: Automation testing provides faster feedback on the quality of software builds, enabling faster bug identification and resolution.
  • Cost and time savings: Although automation testing requires upfront investment in tools and script development, it ultimately leads to cost and time savings in the long run, especially for long-term projects or frequent software updates.

Here are some common disadvantages of automation testing:

  • High initial investment: Implementing automation testing requires a significant initial investment in terms of specialized tools, licenses, infrastructure, and skilled resources. The costs associated with automation can be a barrier for smaller projects or organizations with limited budgets.
  • Time-consuming test script development: Creating robust and maintainable test scripts can be time-consuming. Testers need to spend time designing, developing, and debugging test scripts, which can slow the initial setup and impact overall project timelines.
  • Maintenance: Automated test scripts need regular maintenance to keep them up to date with changes in the application under test. When the software application expands or undergoes updates, the test scripts may require modifications or enhancements. Maintenance efforts can be time-consuming and may require skilled resources.
  • Limited human intervention: Automation testing lacks human intuition and judgment. While automation tools can follow predefined instructions accurately, they may not be able to identify specific subtle issues or make complex decisions that human testers can. Some scenarios, such as usability testing or exploratory testing, still require human intervention.
  • Inability to detect usability issues: Automation testing focuses primarily on functional aspects of the software. It may not be effective in detecting usability issues, user experience flaws, or interface design problems. These aspects are better evaluated through manual testing or user feedback.

Example of Automation Testing

During software testing, whether on the web or desktop, conventional methods involve using a mouse and keyboard to execute the necessary steps. However, automation tools replicate these actions by employing scripting or programming languages to mimic the user interactions.

In this section on manual testing vs automation testing tutorial, let’s understand how automation testing takes place.

  • Test objective: The objective of test automation for the web application is to ensure that it functions correctly and consistently across different browsers and devices. Automation will help save time, improve test coverage, and provide rapid feedback to the development team.
  • Test tool selection: To achieve automation, choose a suitable test automation tool, such as Selenium WebDriver. This tool allows you to automate browser interactions and supports multiple programming languages, making it flexible for your team's preferences.
  • Test scenario identification: Identify key test scenarios that represent critical functionalities of the web application. Examples of test scenarios include user login, form submissions, navigation across pages, and data validation.
  • Test script creation: Develop automated test scripts using the selected test automation tool and the chosen programming language. These scripts will simulate user actions like clicking buttons, entering text, and verifying elements on the page.
  • Test execution and reporting: Integrate the automated tests into the continuous integration process, triggering test runs with each code update. The test automation tool will generate detailed test reports, highlighting any failures and providing logs for easy debugging.
  • Test maintenance: Keep the automated test suite up-to-date with the application changes. As the application evolves, adjust the test scripts accordingly to maintain their accuracy and reliability.

The next section of this automation testing vs manual testing tutorial focuses on the methods to perform automation testing.

Methods to Perform Automation Testing

There are various methods and approaches to perform automation testing, depending on the project's specific requirements and the tools/frameworks being used. In this section on test automation vs manual testing tutorial, we discuss some commonly used methods for automation testing:

  • Scripting-based automation: Automation scripts are manually written using programming languages such as Java, Python, C#, or JavaScript. Testers use automation frameworks like Selenium or Appium to interact with the software application's UI elements and validate the expected behavior.
  • Record and playback: This method involves using a tool to record user interactions with the application and generate automation scripts automatically. The recorded scripts can be played back to repeat the same actions during subsequent test runs.
  • Keyword-driven testing: It is an approach that separates test case design and test script implementation. Test cases are written using a set of predefined keywords that represent specific test actions or operations. The automation tool interprets these keywords and executes the corresponding test scripts.
  • Data-driven testing: It involves separating test data from test scripts. Test scripts are designed to accept input data from external sources like spreadsheets, databases, or CSV files. Multiple test data sets are fed into the automation scripts to execute the same test logic with different inputs and validate different scenarios.
  • Behavior Driven Development (BDD): BDD is an approach that emphasizes collaboration among developers, testers, and business stakeholders. Automation tests are written using a BDD framework like Cucumber or SpecFlow, using a structured format (Gherkin) to define behavior and expected outcomes. The tests are written in a human-readable format and can be understood by technical and non-technical team members.
  • Test Driven Development (TDD): TDD is a development practice involving automated tests before writing the corresponding code. This approach uses tests to define the desired functionality and expected behavior. The development process involves making the tests pass by implementing the necessary code.
  • Hybrid Automation: Hybrid automation combines multiple techniques and approaches to leverage its strengths. It may involve using a combination of record and playback, scripting, and data-driven or keyword-driven approaches, depending on the test requirements.
  • Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) automation: Automation tests are integrated into CI/CD pipelines to enable continuous testing and faster feedback. Automation scripts are triggered automatically whenever a code commit or a new build is generated. Results are reported, and further actions such as deployment or rollback are performed based on the test outcomes.

When it comes to automation testing, it's important to note that local grids lack scalability and reliability. Therefore, AI-powered test orchestration and execution platforms like LambdaTest offer a cloud Selenium Grid that lets you run parallel tests on an online browser farm of 3000+ browsers and operating systems. Instead of using the local Selenium WebDriver, you need to instantiate the remote Selenium WebDriver.

This offers scalability, reliability, and security provided by a cloud Selenium Grid are indispensable and challenging to match using a local Selenium Grid. With LambdaTest, you do not have to worry about downloading and configuring hundreds of browsers on your machine since they are readily available over the online Selenium Grid.

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Understanding the key differences between manual testing vs automation testing can help teams make informed decisions on the best testing approach for their software projects. Let’s look at the differences between test automation vs manual testing in the next section.

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: Key Differences

When it comes to software testing, both automation testing and manual testing are widely used approaches. While each approach has advantages and limitations, understanding the key differences between manual testing vs automation testing can help make informed decisions about which method to employ. Here is a comparison between automation testing vs manual testing:

ParameterManual TestingAutomation Testing
ExecutionManual testing requires human intervention to execute test cases, perform test steps, and validate results.Automation testing uses specialized tools and scripts to automate the execution of test cases, reducing human intervention.
EffortManual testing involves more effort and time due to the manual execution of test cases and the need for human intervention.Automation testing requires upfront effort in script creation and maintenance but saves time and effort in the long run by executing tests automatically.
Skill SetManual testing requires testers with sound domain knowledge, analytical skills, and attention to detail.Automation testing (or script-based testing) requires testers with programming skills, knowledge of automation tools, and the ability to design robust and maintainable test scripts
SpecializationManual testing suits exploratory testing and scenarios requiring human intuition. It is more effective in assessing usability, user experience, and edge cases.Automation testing is well-suited for repetitive tasks, regression testing, and scenarios that require a large number of test cases. It focuses more on functional aspects and may have limitations in assessing usability or complex scenarios.
CostManual testing requires fewer upfront investments in tools and infrastructure, but it can be more resource-intensive and costly in the long run due to the need for professional testers.Automation testing requires upfront investments in tools, licenses, and skilled resources. Still, it can save costs in the long run by reducing manual effort and enabling faster testing cycles.
AccuracyManual testing exhibits lower accuracy levels due to the increased likelihood of human errors.Automation testing shows higher accuracy as it relies on desktop-based testing, effectively eliminating the chances of human errors.
FrameworkManual testing doesn’t employ any frameworks. Instead, it may use checklists, guidelines, etc.Automation testing leverages different frameworks to expedite the testing process.

In the next section of this guide on manual testing vs automation testing, we will explore whether automation testing can replace manual testing.

Can Automation Testing Replace Manual Testing?

Many successful organizations have found significant benefits by incorporating both manual and automation testing into their quality assurance processes and closely monitoring key QA metrics.

However, it's important to understand that automation testing doesn't always replace manual testing entirely. The difference between these two approaches can be likened to driving versus walking. Driving a car can be faster and more efficient in many situations, but there are also instances where it may not be appropriate, cost-effective, or efficient to do so.

In essence, the advantages of automation testing vs manual testing are most pronounced when it comes to specific test cases where automation can provide greater accuracy, efficiency, and cost savings. Nevertheless, relying solely on automation testing for everything can potentially harm the overall quality and user experience of your product. A thoughtful and balanced approach that leverages both methods where they are most suitable is key to ensuring the best results.

Teams often face the challenge of deciding between manual testing vs automation testing based on their project's unique requirements. We will explore this in more detail in the next section.

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: Which To Choose?

Now you've grasped all the advantages, disadvantages, and differences between manual testing vs automation testing, it's time to figure out which approach suits your business best. You might wonder, "How do I make the right choice?" Well, let's break it down.

On one hand, manual testing is great for spotting those minor issues effortlessly. It allows you to thoroughly explore functional features, conduct usability assessments, and perform exploratory and ad hoc testing. Now, on the flip side, automation testing comes to the rescue when it comes to handling repetitive tasks. It lets you write and run test cases with ease, saving valuable time and effort.

So, you might be wondering, "Which path should I take then?" Here's the key – consider a few prerequisites before making your decision. In most cases, a combination of both manual and automation testing yields the best results. No organization can solely rely on manual testing or go all-in with automation for all their testing needs. Instead, a smart approach is to leverage manual testing for functions that require thorough exploration and human interventions. This includes usability checks and other ad hoc assessments.

When it comes to regression testing and covering a wide range of test areas, test automation takes the lead. It simplifies the process and ensures efficiency. So, the bottom line is to strike a balance and find the right blend of manual and automation testing tailored to your specific testing requirements. This way, you can optimize your testing efforts and deliver top-notch software applications to your customers.

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Conclusion

Both manual testing and automation testing play crucial roles in the Software Development Life Cycle. Manual testing provides the human perspective, domain expertise, and flexibility needed to explore software applications thoroughly. It excels in areas such as exploratory testing, usability evaluation, and user experience assessment.

On the other hand, automation testing brings efficiency, repeatability, and scalability to the testing process, enabling rapid execution of test cases, regression testing, and performance testing. While automation testing continues to grow and increase adoption, manual testing retains its importance, particularly in critical thinking, ad hoc scenarios, and areas where human judgment and creativity are vital. It complements automation by uncovering unexpected issues, providing intuitive insights, and ensuring the software application meets user expectations.

As technology advances, the landscape of automation testing vs manual testing continues to evolve, prompting the need for adaptive testing approaches.

Frequently asked questions

  • General ...
Can automation testing replace all manual testing efforts?
No, automation testing cannot replace all manual testing efforts, as some scenarios require human judgment, exploratory testing, and usability testing.
Does automation testing require coding skills?
Yes, automation testing techniques like script-based testing require coding skills to develop and maintain test scripts and frameworks.
Can manual testing uncover defects related to user experience?
Yes, manual testing allows testers to evaluate the user experience firsthand and identify any issues or improvements needed.
Is manual testing more flexible in adapting to changes in software requirements?
Yes, manual testing provides greater flexibility in adapting to changes since it doesn't rely on pre-written scripts that may need updates.

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