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Manual Testing vs Automated Testing: Choosing the Right Method for Your Project

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The difference between manual testing vs automated testing and the benefits of each

The testing of a software product is an absolute must. It helps identify whether the product functions as intended and whether it performs in accordance with the requirements and user needs.

Because software testing itself is a vast area, it is usually divided into two principal categories: manual and automated testing. Each has its pros and cons and most suitable use cases so it is important to differentiate between these methods in order to apply the needed one to your project.

Manual testing

As the name implies, this testing method is conducted manually by human testers with no use of automated scripts and tools. Though manual testing consumes quite a big amount of time, it is essential in certain use cases and demands a very good knowledge and experience from a tester.

Manual testing use cases

Manual testing is perfect for the projects at an initial stage of the development when the system is yet to be explored, understood and configured. In this way, a tester can manually test the product and point out the specific areas that call for improvement. This is part of the exploratory testing which is all about product discovery and learning about its features and functionality.

As well, manual testing is the only method to test and assess a product’s usability. Because manual testing is performed by a person, this person can assess the product from the user’s point of view and not only analyze its functioning but also evaluate its user-friendliness, ease of use, and similar aspects. This is usability testing, aimed at understanding if the product is intuitive and clear for the user.

Lastly, there is also ad-hoc testing which happens absolutely simultaneously with no preparation at all. This testing use case does not follow any guidelines or rules and sometimes allows to identify rather curious bugs that otherwise would have been left unnoticed.

Another case when manual testing is the method of choice is the lack of time and/or resources to write automated testing scripts. In this way, manual testing is a more time-saving method.

Manual testing types

Below are the testing types that are usually performed by a tester in a manual way:

  • Black box testing: a testing method when testers do not look at the internal code structure and test the functionality in a somewhat “blind” way.

  • White box testing: because in this method the testers interact with the code, they are required to have programming skills in order to create test cases.

  • Unit testing: testing a single unit (component) of a system. 

  • System testing: testing a complete system to evaluate whether it functions in accordance with the requirements.

  • Acceptance testing: this testing is performed at the pre-production stage and is aimed to validate the functioning of a product.

Automated testing

Automated testing means testing the product by special tools that run test scripts and generate results. This testing method does not need any testing done by a person as everything is performed by automated tools.

Due to automation of the process, automated testing requires significantly less time than manual testing and also tends to be more accurate as there is no chance of a human error in case of automated testing.

Automated testing vs testing automation

An important thing to remember is the difference between automated testing and testing automation. Many people mistakenly use the term “automation testing” when talking about the testing method but it’s not correct.

  • Automated testing is a process of testing software with automated tools.

  • Testing automation is a process of automating the tools for the further testing process.

Thus, if you want to compare manual testing with automated, do not use the term “automation testing” and use “automated testing” instead.

Automated testing use cases

Automated testing is great for the systems that are already established and require regular testing by the same patterns. One of the most popular use cases for automated testing is regression testing. 

Regression testing is performed after the system (and hence, the code) is slightly modified so testing is aimed at ensuring the system functions well after modification and there are no issues and bugs. Due to the high frequency of the code changes, manual testing is impossible for regression testing and automated testing allows to perform all the needed tests in a timely and regular manner.

Load testing is one more use case for automated testing. Load testing is aimed at analyzing the system’s performance during the normal and peak loads and is best executed by automated tools. 

As well, the automated testing method is perfect for performance testing. In this case, automated tools analyze the system’s speed, responsiveness, and stability. Because performance testing implies the simulation of hundreds (or even more) of concurrent users using the system, it will be impossible to test it without automation.

Automated testing types

Automated testing is suitable for the following testing types:

  • System testing,

  • Unit testing,

  • Acceptance testing.

As you can see, these testing types are the same as the ones for manual testing. So the choice of the right testing method will depend on the system’s complexity, timeframe, required frequency of testing, and budget.

Manual vs automated testing: the biggest differences

In order to capture the essence of both manual and automated testing and better understand the pros and cons of each, we will compare the two methods and see how they differ:

  • Accuracy: automated testing is more accurate and reliable due to the elimination of the human error factor. 

  • Investment: automated testing demands higher investment due to the necessity of creating the testing tools.

  • Needed time: manual testing is more time-consuming than the automated one.

  • Exploratory testing: not possible with automated testing and possible with manual testing only.

  • User-friendliness: impossible to evaluate with automated testing, demands manual testing only.

  • Performance testing: not possible with manual testing.

  • Programming skills: required for automated testing, are not necessary for manual testing.

Which testing method should you choose for your project?

When choosing a suitable testing method, assess your project’s status (initial development stage or a well-established one), deadlines (whether you need to do the testing ASAP), and testing goals (usability, performance, system testing, etc.). Once you clearly outline the goals and requirements, you can easily choose a testing method that will allow you to achieve the desired results within a set timeframe and available resources.