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QA dilemma: Manual Test vs Automated Test

A woman working on a smartphone and a laptop

    There have been long-standing debates among Quality Assurance (QA) specialists about the pros and cons of manual and automated testing, the difference between these two approaches, and the reason for that is quite logical: software testing is an important stage while developing an IT product. In Innowise we fully understand why testing really matters that’s why we provide on-demand QA web and mobile app testing services. We hope after reading this article, you’ll be able to decide which will do better for you in the confrontation “Manual vs Automatic testing”. Let’s have a talk about these two notions first of all.

    What is the Difference between Automation and Manual Testing?

    During manual testing (MT) a QA engineer or a tester carries out each and every test case by hand, no scripts are used. While in automated testing (AT) everything is on the contrary and a tester uses scripts, tools and software run all the test cases. So as now we understand both the concepts, let’s delve into details.

    Automated Testing

    Test-Driven Development (TDD) can’t exist without automatic tests. In TDD first, you write Unit Tests and then the real code appears. Once the developer finishes the code, the time for execution of Unit Tests comes (usually Unit Tests are performed by the developers). Then either this code is refactored or other tests are added and run, here the coherence depends on the outcome.

    Here’s the list of types of testing when automatization is better than the manual approach:

    Regression Testing

    Automated tests are perfect for regression testing because the developers change the code from time to time and the regressions can be executed promptly.

    Functional testing

    The effective capacity of an app’s functional specifications is identified during software testing. It generally takes into account compliance, compatibility, accuracy, safety and relevance.

    Graphical user interface (GUI) testing

    It includes UI testing to see that the GUI satisfies all requirements needed.

    Repeated Execution

    When a task has to be performed repeatedly, this type of testing is a great choice.

    Performance Testing

    Quite alike to the previous case: when a huge number of users needs to be simulated at the same time then automated testing is the option.

    When do I go for automated testing?

    1. When the tasks that you have, take up much time.
    After you reach a stage when all the necessary alterations and modifications have already taken place, you need to check that they all function well. Of course, you wouldn’t like to go through the whole app functionality over and over again, as it’s not only much better but also reduces effort just to do regression testing. Thus you’ll find recent bugs plus you can save time and effort.

    2. When you are to deal with repetitive tasks.
    There are cases when you keep on adding features which are very similar or even identical or you continuously carry out identical operations on your project. Leave all the trouble to automated testing, and lavish the saved time.

    3. When no human mistake should occur.
    All automated tests are executed by means of special tools and scripts. Therefore, the risk that a bug will be overlooked is minimal. For this reason, it saves time and it’s something to rely on.

    4. When complex GUI testing is expected.
    AT not only identifies but also records the ways in which platforms act in a different manner. Graphical User Interface testing also suits the cases when you need to search for regression errors.

    5. When load and performance need testing.
    Frankly speaking, there’s no way to test the load and performance manually. During AT, thousands of concurrent users are simulated.

    Bear in mind the following: when you are sure that no functionality should change much within project development, then automated testing is a nice choice. However, if you expect the functionality to change a lot of times – it’s easier to do the testing manually.

    Manual Testing

    Now you are probably thinking why MT exists. Don’t underestimate it, as actually MT must be executed anyway before you go on to AT. It’s true that it takes a great deal of effort, however, there’s no other way to make sure that automated testing is not impossible at all.

    We prepared a list of tests impossible or hard to automate:

    Usability Testing

    A QA Engineer analyzes how easy-to-use, convenient and handy the software or a product is for the end-user. In usability testing, an examination by a human is the essential component, so that’s why this type of testing should be executed manually.

    Exploratory Testing

    In this case, analytical plus logical skills, knowledge, creativity, experience, and intuition of a tester are a must-have. Usually such kind of tests includes poor specification documentation plus you can’t afford to spend a lot of time on running. This scenario requires human skills and knowledge to conduct the tests.

    Ad-hoc Testing

    There isn’t any “right” or “correct” way in this kind of testing. A tester doesn’t prepare any kind of plan and the system functionality is tested haphazardly, so the challenge for this case is to be as inventive and creative as possible, and do one’s best to “bring down” the system to find faults.

    When is manual testing a better choice?

    1. When the project is a short-term one.
    On the one hand, the point of AT is not to spend much effort and time, on the other hand, creating automated tests and supporting them is both energy- and time-consuming. If you are to create a small-scale website for promotion, then there’s little need for AT.

    2. When you need UI Acceptance testing.
    That’s the common case when MT is the one in favour, because the UI plus its visual elements need to be tested. The reason for this is quite simple: automated tests are unable to identify gestures, image colours, highlighting, font sizes and links. Imagine that you created an app and there’s a bug: a link is very extremely small, so the user is unable to see it. A human will notice such a bug within seconds, while an automated test won’t even see that there’s some problem here.

    3. When your project is on the initial development stage.
    At this very stage, manual testers can help to find the bottlenecks on the project and this leads to reducing time and effort needed for the bugfixing later. Some believe automated testing to be too expensive and resource-intensive for this volatile stage of developing a product. Others say that automated testing should be present at any development stage.

    4. When the testing is not possible to be automated.
    There are cases when automation is impossible. Usually, these are some kind of tests concerning hardware. It’s hardly possible to create scripts to test touchpads, screens and sensors. Another point is that there’s data which you can test only by hand. Of course, it’s possible to execute an automated test to see that a printer actually prints, however, probably the manual approach will be better if you care about the quality of an image printed.


    After all the discussions the main point is that there’s no answer to the question if test automation is better than manual testing or vice versa. The choice has to be made based on the project you have, and the best approach is to combine both manual and automated testing as we do in Innowise.

    In case of some specific request, or technology not listed here, you can discuss it with an expert at or Skype Innowise

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