Manual vs Automation Testing – What Are The Differences?

Software testing is a critical part of the software development life cycle. It ensures the code satisfies the functional specifications as defined by the product owner, and helps software teams to ship the finished software with confidence. Ultimately, software testing is essential to delivering a great customer experience. At a high level, there are two ways to test software; manual vs automation testing. Let’s compare both ways.

Manual vs Automation Testing

The methods of performing manual and automation testing are quite different. Both require specific resources, tools, and skills. There are pros and cons to both manual and automation testing, which we’ll discuss later in this article. First, let’s briefly define what we mean by “manual testing” and “automation testing”.

What is Manual Testing?

With manual testing, a tester prepares test cases, executes the tests, and reports the results to their manager or team lead. This involves a human tester who physically performs tests on a piece of software to determine whether or not the test results are a “pass” or “fail”.

What is Automation Testing?

In automation testing, code scripts written by a human tester are run to verify tests. The tests are not carried out by people but are performed programmatically by using various test automation tools.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Both Methods

There are many benefits and disadvantages of manual testing and automation testing, concerning time commitment, cost, and more. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of manual testing vs automation testing now.

Advantages of Manual Testing

One of the main benefits of manual testing is that it doesn’t require any programming skills, but that doesn’t mean anyone can be a manual tester. For manual and automation testing to be successful, specific skills and characteristics are required (more on this later).

There are fewer upfront costs in manual testing, as tooling can be minimal, especially if you’re just getting started. Manual testing allows testers to conduct exploratory testing or random testing, which means they are free to deviate from the test cases as they see fit. The testing process is not limited to just the steps detailed in the test case so that testers can increase their test coverage. Manual testing also allows the tester to adapt quickly to small changes in the user interface or functionality without needing to re-write the test cases.

Disadvantages of Manual Testing

Manual testing can be time-consuming, as a human performs each test without the support of automated scripts. For example, a single test case could easily take several minutes or maybe even hours to execute. Due to the human component of manual testing, it is also prone to human error. That’s why it’s vital to hire experienced testers who are thorough and quality-driven.

Advantages of Automation Testing

Automation testing is less time-consuming once you’re up and running. After the scripts have been written and the tooling implemented, running tests can be done pretty quickly.  Automation testing tends to be more accurate as there is less room for human error (assuming the test scripts are accurately written).

Disadvantages of Automation Testing

The main disadvantage of automation testing is that programming skills are needed, which raises the entry barrier and also increases hiring costs. Automation testing also requires spending more time upfront to get the tooling and scripts up and running.

With automation testing, the test is limited and restricted to the scope of the script itself. In other words, there isn’t the scope for exploratory testing or random testing as allowed by manual testing. It also means the script needs updating anytime there are changes (even small changes) to the user interface. Automation testing doesn’t mirror the mind of a human, and humans are very smart and intuitive.

Choosing Manual or Automation Testing

Each testing scenario is different. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach as every piece of software is different, every team dynamic is different, and business needs vary significantly across the board. That said, there are some general indicators you can use to help you determine when to use manual vs automation testing.

When to use Manual Testing

As mentioned earlier in this article, manual testing is highly valuable when it comes to exploratory testing. That is when a human tester opens up the application under test and begins testing without the guidance of any test cases or scripts.

Conducting a quick smoke test is also a great example of manual testing. Here, the tester selects a small part of the software to test, to verify nothing immediately obvious has broken. Smoke testing can be done ahead of more exhaustive manual testing, or before thorough automation testing begins.

Other scenarios where manual testing is valuable to include testing how an application runs across multiple browsers or operating systems, conducting beta testing on an early release with a group of beta testers, and doing acceptance testing with the client. Learn more about different types of manual testing.

When to use Automation Testing

Automation testing has become increasingly popular due to its time-saving benefits and accuracy. However, it will never fully replace manual testing because manual testing is uniquely beneficial.

Automated testing is excellent for determining how an application can handle a certain amount of load. For example, what happens when 10,000 users attempt to log in to your application at one time? Automation testing will be able to get to the bottom of that faster than manual testing; in fact, it’s likely impossible to simulate a load test like that manually.

Automated testing is commonly used in DevOps teams to verify builds and conduct unit tests. Anytime you have repetitious tests, automation testing is a good choice.

Testing Tools

There’s no shortage of tools available to help testers perform both manual and automated testing.

Manual Testing Tools

Due to the sheer amount of testing documentation involved in manual testing, having an efficient way to manage, update, and report on those tests is key. There are numerous manual testing tools that you could find useful, but starting with a test case management tool like TestLodge would be a clear place to start.

Automation Testing Tools

Scripting tools like Selenium and continuous integration platforms such as Travis CI help optimize automation testing. API testing tools and load testing tools are also a necessary part of an automation testing team’s stack.

Skills Required

Software testing isn’t for everyone. Specific skills and characteristics are needed to be a successful tester. In general, a good software tester should have a curious mindset and be interested in technology. Excellent writing skills are also necessary as so much of software testing involves communication.

Manual Testing Skills

A manual tester should be a competent writer, a strong communicator, have a sense of curiosity, and be able to think outside the box. The more technical skills, the better, but it’s not necessary to have strong technical chops to be a good manual tester. The best manual testers are thorough and keep an eye on the details.

Automation Testing Skills

Automation testing requires more technical skills than manual testing. With automation testing, the tester is responsible for creating, updating, and running scripts that programmatically test the software. This requires the tester to be familiar with a broad set of coding languages and technical systems.

What Is Manual Testing? How To Do Manual Testing

What Is Manual Testing?

Manual testing is the process of verifying that software works as required by physically using the functions and features of an application as an end-user would, including their potential mistakes, with the aim of making sure that the software is free from defects.

There are two ways to test software; manually by a human and by automated so a computer can do it. Each method has advantages and disadvantages, but they both share the same underlying goal of aiming to ensure quality in the software under test.

How To Do Manual Testing

Understand The Requirements

For manual testing to be successful, a tester first needs to understand the requirements, which means, how the software is required to work. Documents containing all relevant information about the application under test are known as requirements, or user stories if written using that format. They help testers understand the software’s purpose, all sections to test, what the tester needs to do, and what classifies as a defect. Knowing this information before preparing to test is very useful because, as with all software testing, the main goal is to get the software as close as possible to being bug-free.

When requirements or user stories are unavailable, the tester will need to be a little more creative by looking at different sources to help them understand how the system should work.

Write Test Cases

After the requirements have been studied and understood, it’s time to write test cases. Test cases work as reference guides for testers, laying out the steps and instructions for testing the different functions and scenarios within the software application. Writing detailed test cases is essential because they help test execution run smoothly and ensure the broadest possible test coverage. Test cases should also contain enough detail so that tests can be repeated as necessary. Doing this allows future testers to conduct or rerun any tests without needing to ask additional questions.

Some testers still use Excel to document their test cases, but test case management tools such as TestLodge can help organize test cases more efficiently, and improve the productivity of a tester.

Conduct The Tests

After writing the test cases and preparing the testing environment, it’s time to begin testing. Once each test has been completed, it should be marked as having passed, failed, or skipped. When doing manual testing, keep notes on what has happened to cause a test to fail because it is useful to have access to these metrics for future planning.

Further Investigation

There are many benefits to using well-planned test cases than documenting your testing efforts, but sometimes engaging in exploratory testing between cases can bring benefits that would not necessarily have been achieved.

Exploratory testing allows testers to work without a script and follow their imaginations, responding to lines of inquiry as they appear. Going “rogue” for a while can unearth unexpected areas that could be added to test cases for the next round of testing, help investigate a failed test further, and can be useful when there isn’t 100% test coverage of a given area.

Log Bug Reports

As well as testing, the tester is also responsible for logging details of all found bugs or defects. Logging richly detailed information about the bugs will benefit the development team later. Preparing in advance by writing good bug reports helps you and your team, and will save time later if you need to answer any questions about the bugs you have found.

The bug report you create needs to have a uniquely identifiable title to help with locating it later. Include steps for replicating the bug (often the test case steps), expected and actual results, plus any relevant attachments to help the development team understand the issue such as screenshots, screen recordings, or export files.

Report On The Test Results

After running tests, being able to quickly see how things went can be pretty useful. How many tests were run? How many tests failed? How many tests were skipped? Knowing these metrics makes it easier to plan for the next steps, such as how many reruns are needed.

Why and When to Test Manually

Manual testing can be labor-intensive. Although it’s easy to say, “let’s skip it” or “let’s just automate it,” manual testing is a vital element in software building because automated testing can’t cover everything. After all, it’s humans who will be using your software, so it makes sense that humans are involved in testing your software. Manual testing finds and solves more usability issues than automated testing because it allows the tester to be flexible during the test, so they can try different options on the fly.

This isn’t to say automated testing has no value. The main benefit of using automated testing is to alleviate the tedium of repetitive tasks, including reruns. It also provides value in some areas where manual testing does not.

Closing Thoughts

Although manual testing involves much work, it is vital for ensuring a satisfying user experience and a high level of quality. A human tester is always going to find things an automated test cannot. The keys to successful manual testing include understanding the requirements of the software, writing good test cases, and logging thorough bug reports.

AI Mobile Automation Testing (Fact or Fiction)

Technology is ever-growing, and so are the various testing techniques, such as AI mobile automation testing.

A study by Kobiton showed that companies are willing to invest more and more in mobile app testing.

Mobile app testing is something many applications have to go through. It can be slightly challenging, too; as Shannon, an evangelist at Kobiton, says, “mobile application automation is challenging to achieve”; however, new trends aim to ease the process.

Mobile testing continues to increase in importance. It’s essential to have the right strategy and tools for each type of mobile testing.

A big trend I keep hearing these days is about having the ability to integrate app testing with AI and ML. This new trend will help speed the mobile testing process effectively and efficiently.

In this article TestGuild writer, Laveena Ramchandani shares how mobile app testing has evolved and how AI helps deliver this successfully.

What is mobile testing, and why is it important?

Mobile device testing is a technique for testing for functionality, usability, and consistency on mobile apps. Testing on mobile devices is done manually or assisted by automation.

Mobile testing is vital for many reasons;

  • Conducting business
  • Make sure the app works as intended
  • Make sure it’s accessible to a broad audience
  • Mobile apps usually have more users and need to work on a broader range of devices, leading to greater complexity in testing. While web apps are increasingly used on mobile devices, testing them is not quite as complex.

When it comes to mobile apps, you need to consider various things when planning your mobile app testing.

What can you do before you start mobile testing?

  • Understand your application
  • Understand your needs
  • Critical components of the application and how they function ( eg, iOS device on an Android device)
  • Automation that needs to be done
  • Framework required (XY tests and Espresso to remove flakiness, aim for hybrid frameworks)
  • Make sure your tests are running
  • Test run at a decent speed
  • Tests completed in a timely manner
  • Aim for device fragmentation native frameworks however that work for one platform( could add Appium)

The frameworks for Mobile Automation Testing

There are various frameworks you can use when performing mobile app testing; however, the following frameworks are the highly used/ recommended ones.

Is Codeless Mobile app testing the way forward?

Should you focus on script-based testing or codeless automation?

Good question?

As you’ve seen, mobile testing is still in its infancy, and many scripting issues can cause your test to become flaky.

That’s why you are seeing a lot of frameworks coming out that try to combat issues, such as the Xpath error on Appium.

The answer might be to go codeless with machine learning behind it.

For instance, the ML code can look for another identifier if a locator is not recommended or can’t be found at runtime.

This is an area where artificial intelligence plays a significant role.

The new tech trend that we’re currently seeing ourselves in is commercializing artificial intelligence.

So that is why you see more codeless, scriptless automation solutions that AI is driven,

However, with some frameworks today, you still have to do a bit of manual collation of test steps to stitch everything up and then make it work via the AI enhancements, but this can increase inconsistencies.

That’s why Shannon thinks a solution like Kobiton, on the other hand, showcases true AI-driven, scriptless automation, and it’s true scriptless and based on machine learning algorithms. And there is no need to do the manual drag and drop step.

Pros of codeless

  • With AI the algorithm learns your application
  • Robust
  • AI becomes smarter every time you use the test case over and over
  • Not time-consuming

Cons of Codeless

  • More of a top-down approach from UI to the layers below
  • Not a lot of test coverage with scriptless automation
  • Not comprehensible, you can do some API tests and e2e but not as extensively
  • No granular control of what you are trying to automate

So how does Kobiton get around some of these cons?

Nova at Kobiton

Nova AI Engine sits between the device and the application essentially. Nova aims to observe and capture metadata from a manual session to learn your application and your interactions with your application.

The aim of Kobiton here is for Nova to go faster, forward, and be flexible. If you want to go scriptless using AI Mobile Automation Testing, then Nova helps with that too:

  • Nova captures the XPath associated with every element you touch
  • Nova generates an Appium script for you
  • Now you can run your scriptless script on as many devices as you wish
  • You can run the Appium script as many times as you like after that for any device set within your chosen framework
  • You can also run your scripts via a Jenkins job or on a CI/CD pipeline.

Kobiton supports CI/CD tools and has integrated with Jenkins. It’s a “first-come, first scriptless and not so much script-based at the moment.”

For those who are not going to go scriptless, Nova provides:

  • An auto-generated script that you can use
  • An in-house Appium server that is much faster can help with scriptless testing.
  • Appium being so great and how it can envelop both native frameworks or native app frameworks, Kobiton can do the same, but it can do it three times faster, leveraging Appium scripts.

flexCorrect to help AI with script-based automation

flexCorrect is the first of its kind coming to the market.

Shannon also mentioned that this is where we see artificial intelligence helps assist script-based automation, especially when it comes to flaky and inconsistent tests.

“So flexCorrect assists in script-based automation so that when you are running your Appium script and say it fails because an element not found on Page flexCorrect will prevent it from falling. Instead, it will find the next best-fit XPath for that element in question and implement that so that your tests continue running.”

Furthermore, artificial intelligence comes into play by analyzing script-based automation.

So it’s capturing the object within the tree hierarchy of your application, and it’s also doing a manual session, or even just reruns of the test case on a real device Nova Kobitons AI engine can actually map elements across the screen, so if you’re tapping this element on the screen, it will pin that within the hierarchy and capture that XPath right there.

So that’s the two-pronged approach to how flexCorrect works in artificial intelligence, assisting script-based automation.

Also, have one prong that is again capturing the objects to capture the entire hierarchy and learning from it, analyzing it, and then the second prong of being able to map elements, map that element and pin it to the hierarchy.

So when you run that test again and say the developer added a new button, added a new dropdown, added something that word can knock out any of your Xpass or any of your technical identifiers with flexCorrect. It will correct that instance for you, ensuring that your test continues running.

AI in Mobile Automation Conclusion

To conclude as the technology continues to evolve and provide greater benefits, mobile app testing is an area where we must focus too.

AI is currently enhancing mobile app testing and is an innovation again in itself coming from a really robust artificial intelligence engine that’s running it.
Shannon says. that this is constantly being worked on with every release to really make sure that it has the utmost confidence and failures and passes and everything so that we can allow our users to know that they’re in good hands using Kobiton.

Helps facilitate your testing and make sure everything is kept running and nothing fails due to that pesky element not found on the page.