Manual vs Automated Testing: How QA Differs?

November 10, 2022 • 178 Views • 14 min read

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Tetiana Stoyko

CTO & Co-Founder

Frankly speaking, the first and most important conclusion, which is possible to make even at the very beginning - these two options can’t replace each other. In fact, both of them propose unique solutions and advantages. So let’s find them out!

What is Software Quality Assurance?

Software quality assurance is the process, performed during the testing stage, and is aimed to check the final result, the overall grade of the software product, as well as its various aspects like how great the user experience is, whether all user interface elements work as supposed to or not, if there are any bugs or errors, does the product meets its requirements, etc. To make it simple, this process helps to polish your application and fix any possible issues, before or during pushing it on live.

QA is also commonly called testing. Yet, it is a more complex phenomenon, which is an important part of the development cycle and includes numerous additional activities.

Types of Testing

As the article says, there are two main QA testing types distinguished: Manual vs Automated testing. The major difference is also obvious from the names. However, it is worth admitting that it is not the final list. For instance, apart from the foregoing types, it is possible to underline more specific ones like unit testing, regression testing, etc.

Manual Testing

Manual testing is performed manually, i.e. by a QA specialist. The main feature of this approach is that manual testing can be started at the very beginning. In fact, there is no need for any preparations or setups. The QA team can start their testing anytime they need.

The second main benefit of such a testing approach is that it is much better for bug hunting. Bugs are commonly confused with issues. Actually, a bug is something, that works not as it was supposed to. Anyway, it can both work differently or don’t work at all. Clearly, there is a gap between these options. Thus, manual testing is a better and, maybe, more preferable choice for such a dilemma: a person can not only spot the bug but can also generate a unique idea of how it can be used for good. At the same time, specified testing software is capable of only finding and reporting bugs.

Automated Testing

Contrary to manual testing, automated is mainly performed by a third-party program or specified software. Clearly, it has better capabilities when we are talking about being precise and operating or analyzing numerous processes.

Frankly speaking, automated testing is a preferred choice in cases with very scalable projects. This will not only help you to speed up the testing process but will also help to save some money. In fact, one correctly adjusted testing software can replace a whole quality assurance team. Nonetheless, getting rid of all your testers in exchange for the testing machine is not the best idea. Actually, the best way to perform software quality assurance and testing are by combining both approaches.

Also, automation testing saves the log of found issues. In other words, under any circumstances, the QA team and developers will always have a detailed step-by-step tutorial for each occurred bug. It is a great and very important feature, that helps to repeat the steps and ensure that the bug was defined correctly. Conversely, the manual approach requires testers to write down instructions on their own. As a result, the human factor occurs and it may become difficult to correctly understand it.

Finally, automated testing is a must-have option in most cases. Apart from useful features like increased QA testing pace, it offers some software tools and advantages, which are impossible to replace in manual mode. For example, most aspects, related to performance testing, like load and stress testing, Spike testing, and so on, can not be handled manually in practice.

Manual vs Automated Testing Comparison

As we mentioned before, we recommend combining both types of testing within the project if it is possible. Nonetheless, we also understand that sometimes it is not required or needed. Moreover, despite the fact, that such a combination is the ultimate solution, that is the best possible choice, it is as expensive as useful. In other words, it will require much more resources than any of these types on its own. Thus, as an alternative, we would like to compare them and shape some use cases for each of the patterns.

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Cost

Honestly, there is no clear winner. Of course, automated testing seems as a more preferable choice, because mostly it is a one-time investment - all you need to do is to once set up software or script. They are created by the development team. As a result, it requires more resources and is more expensive because engages more qualified specialists.

Thus, it is a better solution but from a long-term perspective. Obviously, if you are developing a small and simple flashlight application for mobile devices, buying such complicated technologies is absurd. On the other hand, if you are developing a complex and large marketplace for the cryptocurrency industry - you will definitely need Auto testing software.

Alternatively, manual testing is ideal for small products. Usually, they are easier to test, therefore even a single tester can effortlessly check all the needed aspects of the app manually, which saves money and effort. Furthermore, it can be even faster than automated testing, due to the fact, that quality assurance specialists can start from the very beginning, without any preparations. For instance, testing automation requires additional adjustments and settings for the correct working process. Yet, the bigger the project is - the more human resource required. Indeed, even a single person can try to test a big and complex project. Regardless, it will take months or even years and still won’t guarantee great final results.

Reliability

Comparing these two it is impossible to avoid such characteristics as reliability. Evidently, automated testing is more reliable due to the machine's nature. However, it depends on the quality of the scripts and the settings of the testing software. Undoubtedly, even computers can make mistakes. Nonetheless, their percentage is nothing, compared to humans. There is even a special term “human factor”, which means that any person is subjective, with unique background experience and knowledge, that is able to misjudge or be wrong sometimes.

As a result, when we talk about the reliability of these approaches, we can’t ignore the fact, that specified testing software is an obvious winner in this field. Unless, it is completely ruined and badly configured, which, in any case, is a human fault.

User Experience and Out-Of-Box Solutions

To be fair, human subjectivity is not always a negative aspect. For instance, it helps to make extraordinary decisions, which can turn a bug into a feature, which is actually a very common situation. Moreover, in some aspect machine is helpless, especially, when we are considering User Experience. Only a person can define whether the website or app is user-friendly, or not. Therefore, it is important to have at least one QA specialist in any software development team. It is exactly the person, who will make a final judge and tell the developers what must be changed to improve the UX/UI aspect of the product, which is one of the most crucial parts of the software development process itself.

To make it simple, humans may make mistakes when it comes to checking purely technical parts of the project, but when we switch the context and consider the product from the perspective of the targeted audience - there is no robot or app, that can help to improve it better, than a human.

Working Routine

There is no winner as well. Each competitor has its own advantages. For example, automatic tests can be performed simultaneously. To make it simple, developers can perform multiple unrelated tests like unit testing, stress tests, or others at the same moment. In consequence, it is possible to decrease the testing time, needed for the testing cycle. Besides, it is possible to automate repetitive tasks. In other words, tests can be regularly performed in the same circumstances and order to make sure, that changes were made correctly and the issue was fixed.

The automated testing routine can be scheduled:

  1. Developers create specified scripts and implement specified instruments.
  2. The scripts, as well as software tools, are being adjusted to the design requirements.
  3. These add-ons are being tested to ensure they are correctly working.
  4. They are being implemented into the software testing cycle and monitored.
  5. The results are analyzed and changes are made.
  6. Repeat.

At the same time, manual testing can offer the same features only theoretically. In reality, due to the human factor and constant changes, it is almost impossible to create similar experiences and perform identical steps, unless it is crucial and there is a tutorial. Talking about the advantages of manual testing, we can list a few of them.

The approximate working scheme for manual tests is:

  1. Start testing.
  2. Write a report on spotted bugs.
  3. Follow the tutorial.
  4. Make changes.
  5. Repeat.

As we mentioned before, there is no need for any preparations, so testers can start right away. Still, it is not the biggest benefit. Truly, it is unpredictable and chaotic or exploratory testing. While testing automation is always being done due to the specific templates and requirements, which are set up by developers, manual tests are performed by a specialist. As a result, the QA team can cover some aspects, that are not included in the ruleset by random testing of various scenarios and elements. Finally, using the quality assurance team results in dialog and discussions about some unclear cases.

Best Use Purposes

Summing up all the above, we can define a few best use cases for each of the testing approaches.

Automated Testing is great for scalable and complex projects when it is difficult to test each aspect individually, or when routine testing is needed. Also, performance testing is too complex to maintain without using specified automation tools and software. Eventually, it is very precise and is capable to find more bugs or issues than a full-fledged team of specialists.

The Manual Testing process is the best solution for a small and simple project. Furthermore, it is the only possible way to check and implore the UI/UX aspect of any product, no matter how big or complicated it is. The use of chaotic testing also allows for finding unpredicted bugs. Finally, this type makes it possible to distinguish the advantages of some bugs thanks to human observation.

A combination of different types of testing is the ultimate choice, which will help to cover all the drawbacks and highly increase the final testing result. Partly, it is present in most projects, at least at the end of the development cycle. However, it is not always needed and is much more expensive. It is reasonable to use it in gigantic or very fragile projects, which require the best quality possible.

Summary

Frankly speaking, there is no actual winner. Each approach is suited for specific tasks and must be used according to the project requirements. Both types of testing are very different and are able to secure software development processes, showing great results only if performed correctly.

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