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Manual Testing vs Automated Testing: Understanding the Differences

Manual Testing vs Automated Testing: Understanding the Differences

A successful software project includes software testing in its development cycle. Manual testing and automated testing are conducted to detect errors and issues in the software or application. Manual testing involves an engineer or a QA analyst manually executing each step of the test without relying on scripts. Automated testing utilizes tools, scripts, and an automation framework that prepare the data and execute tests without human assistance.


How Do Manual and Automated Testing Work


While both manual and automated testing are aimed towards the same goal of ensuring that the software and app meet the company standards, they operate differently. Understanding the differences between the two can help testers select the better option depending on their project. Most companies these days utilize a blend of both manual and automated testing to leverage the strengths of both testing frameworks to deliver business objectives. Test management tools allow engineers and QA analysts to monitor testing with the blended approach more efficiently.


Manual testing 


The tester manually evaluates the features of the app or software, whether these are working properly according to the conditions stated in the test cases. Without the use of any automation, tools, or scripts, the testing engineer executes the test cases. The data set and scenario are both prepared manually. The engineer or developer tests the features of the app or the software as an end-user. The manual testing process generally follows this process:

  • SRS Analysis and Review


In this stage, the testing team reviews and analyzes the software requirements specification (SRS), which documents in detail how the app functions are supposed to perform. The SRS includes both functional and non-functional requirements.

  • Test Plan Creation


After the SRS review, the test manager produces a comprehensive document that helps the team understand the test objectives and the strategy they’re going to use to ensure that the software is working as expected. Included in the test plan are other details such as product description, scope, procedures, and schedules. A good test plan highlights the resources needed, such as the different environments applicable and the different tools needed for the app.


This test plan needs to also show the workflow and will include test templates with the following relevant information:


  • Project scope 
  • Testing strategy/approach 
  • Hardware requirements 
  • Environment requirements
  • Testing schedule
  • Functions or features to be tested
  • Control measures
  • Resources and responsibilities
  • Suspension/ exit criteria
  • Resumption criteria
  • Dependencies
  • Risks or assumptions
  • Tools
  • Documentation
  • Approvals

  • Actual Testing


Manual testing is done in this phase where bugs and errors are identified and reported. The testing process itself has 4 stages: 

  • Unit Testing   


        This is where units of source code are tested to see if they are fit for use. This 

evaluates the functionality of a small unit of code within the app, such as 

checking whether the button on the app functions as it should. This helps 

testers detect bugs at the earliest stages.

  • Integration Testing


After testing each unit, these software modules are tested to see if they function correctly when connected. An example of this is testing the interoperability of site pages.

  • System Testing


At this stage, the team tests the fully integrated system to check if it complies with the specified requirements. 

  • Acceptance Testing


This addresses the question of whether or not the whole system can be used in the real world. Testers include the members of the organization as well as a few actual end-users via beta testing.


Automated Testing


Automated testing requires less time for exploratory testing because of the tools and scripts that automate data preparation, testing, and result comparisons. Instead, more time is invested in maintaining the scripts. Automated testing allows for repetitive testing. Real user simulations can be automated as well. Automated testing allows the team to move testing to as close to the app development stage as possible. This kind of software testing has 6 stages:

  • Determining the Scope


In this stage, the team determines which units and tests can be automated. AUT Automation Feasibility and Test Case Automation Feasibility studies are conducted. 


  • Tool Selection

Selecting the best automation tool is critical because automation testing depends largely on the tool selected. Among the factors that help in the deliberation process are the price, the team’s familiarity with the tool, compatibility with existing tools and platforms, tool features and flexibility, intuitiveness, and budget.

  • Test Plan Creation


This helps the team understand the objectives and define their approach. They decide the standards and guidelines of their test methodologies and test data requirements. They also select hardware, software, and test environments. They come up with the test schedules and error tracking procedures. 

  • Test Environment


The team then installs the selected test environment. The machines or remote machines that will be used for testing are set up in this stage. A good environment helps maximize test coverage and tests the software on many different possible scenarios. These tasks are also completed in this phase:


  • Securing tool licenses
  • Installation of utilities relevant to the project
  • Implementing the framework for automation
  • Securing access and credentials

  • Development and Execution of Test Scripts


The team proceeds to execute the test scripts in the test environment. An effective script has the following key features:


  • Scripts that are based on actual requirements
  • Have all the functionality relevant to the test case
  • Includes a common function or method that is applicable throughout the whole testing process
  • A script that can be reused

  • Analysis of Generated Test Reports 


These reports show test trends, test case results, failed tests, and the performance of the tests across the different environments.


Ideal Scenarios for Manual Testing

Some scenarios can’t be automated and there are also scenarios where manual testing is the better option:

  • Usability Testing


End-users are asked to perform a task while researchers observe if the participants can use the app with ease. It enables the QA team to assess the intuitiveness of the application and exposes areas where users have difficulty. An example is when testers get feedback from end-users on the design of the app.

  • Exploratory Testing


Commonly used in Agile testing, exploratory testing focuses on learning and adaptability. The goal of exploratory testing is to enhance the test design. The tester is given more control, spontaneity, and freedom compared to scripted testing where the script is in control and the testing focuses on predictability. The approach of exploratory testing is cognitive, not procedural, thus the need for manual testing.

  • Ad-hoc Testing


        Ad-hoc testing is random and more informal. There is no formal planning before 

test execution nor any expected results.


Ideal Scenarios for Automated Testing

There are scenarios and goals where automated testing yields more optimal results:

  • Regression Testing 

Regression testing assures testers that revisions on the code do not impact the scenarios that were previously created; this results in shorter release cycles. There is no need to revisit old codes because automated testing takes care of automatically reviewing this. Engineers can instead focus on developing more complex test scenarios. This is particularly important when testers need to conduct repeated tests to expose any errors in the app by changing some design or functionality elements. 

  • Load Testing

Automated testing allows testers to evaluate how the app performs under normal and peak conditions to check if it can handle the desired load. Automated testing makes testing the application under a load of 150,000 users, for example, more efficient.

  • Cross-Browser Testing

Automating cross-browser testing helps the company save time and resources that would have otherwise been spent in evaluating website behavior across various browser environments and different operating systems.

  • Performance Testing

Performance testing allows testers to identify and resolve performance issues. It evaluates the app’s behavior during peak activity and also checks if the app can perform at the optimal level during intense and sustained activities. 

Pros and Cons of Manual and Automated Testing

For an even better understanding of the differences between the two, here are some of the pros and cons of each testing approach:

Pros of Manual Testing

  • Manual testing incurs lower short-term costs and is more practical for apps whose GUIs frequently change.
  • Manual testing allows for more visual feedback because of the human interaction involved.
  • Ad-hoc testing is possible.
  • This allows for inductive reasoning, human intuition, and inference.

Cons of Manual Testing

  • Human error is possible.
  • Manual testing may take more time. 
  • This may not be feasible for tasks that are too complex.
  • This may end up being more costly in the long run.

Pros of Automated Testing

  • This allows for faster and more efficient testing.
  • This can detect more bugs and errors than human testers.
  • Automated testing is more versatile and accurate.
  • It offers increased test coverage.
  • More cost-efficient for projects with longer life cycles.
  • Tools can handle more complex tasks.

Cons of Automated Testing

  • Minimal visual GUI aspects due to the reduced human interaction
  • Some tools can be expensive
  • Needs to be maintained continually
  • Debugging of test scripts is a complicated process in automated testing

Proper planning and implementation are key to effective software testing. As businesses strive towards optimization of the entire software development life cycle, we can expect more improvements in both testing processes in the future.


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