Debate: Manual Software Testing Versus Automated Testing

The Big Debate: Automated VS Manual Testing

Throughout a Quality Analyst’s professional experience, you can find yourself facing certain dilemmas that can sometimes make you a little nervous. There’s no doubt that you will encounter the debate between manual software testing versus automated testing in just about every project you work on.

It’s common to hear people say things like, “Automate test cases to reduce time,” “We lost a lot of time manually testing things,” and “It would be much less routine if the tests were automated.” However, are all these claims true 100% of the time? Should manual testing disappear?

Testing Advantages and Disadvantages

Let’s first look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of both types of testing.

On one side, automated testing lets you execute a much larger quantity of test cases in less time, which means you deliver fast results. In the long run, you can save time by eliminating routine test execution that normally would have to be done again and again. However, writing scripts for automation can take time. Plus, it’s not something that just any tester can do. There’s additional limitations, since not all visual aspects can be tested this way.

On the other hand, manual testing is more like the tests that real users will experience as they navigate the software. This opens up a whole range of scenarios that would be difficult to consider if the tests were automated. Additionally, manual testers often don’t need to have such high technical abilities, which also lowers the cost of testing. The disadvantage is that you can get stuck in routine when running the same tests over and over again.

If it seems like the doubt of automating or not is growing bigger and bigger, then we’re on the same page. Let’s look at some more factors.

Factors to Consider with Test Automation

When weighing whether to automate or not, there are many factors to consider. However, the three biggest would be:

  • Cost
  • Human Resources
  • Project Context

Automating can get expensive, which is why a cost benefit analysis is vital when making this decision. It’s true that open source alternatives exist, but more often than not, companies opt for paid tools, for a variety of reasons, such as support aspects, trustworthiness, reputation, or correlation with other skills that have already been acquired.

Additionally, the cost can increase even higher if you take into account this second factor- the human resources necessary. Success or failure when automating will depend on the skills of the team. It isn’t a surprise that test automation experts can cost a lot more than testers without these abilities.

The third factor is easily the most important of the three. The project context is crucial when making this decision. Many companies fail when trying to automate testing because they don’t accurately take this into account. You first need an in-depth understanding of the project- not just on a methodology level, but about the technical limitations, bureaucracies, and particular aspects of the project, like how volatile the project will be.

The Decision isn’t Always Obvious or Easy

Often, a decision can seem like the right one, right until the end when it fails. And that’s because businesses didn’t consider some simple things, like whether the computers were powerful enough to handle automation. Or sometimes there are internal policies that start creating barriers and slow down the initiative. Projects that change often are also not suggested, since scripts generated could quickly become obsolete.

So is Manual Software Testing Always the Best Option?

If you come across one of these situations and have decided not to automate, then manual tests are easily tailored to the needs and realities of each project. Now, with everything that we’ve mentioned, do we suggest you never automate? Or are we saying automation is too risky?

No. Absolutely not. We are just saying that there are very important things to consider before diving into automation.

Automated Testing and Manual Tests are not Exclusive

Now, let’s assume that you find the perfect balance in the project and decide to automate. Does this mean that you shouldn’t do any manual software testing? Again, the answer is no! Automating absolutely can be expensive and take a lot of time to create the scripts. On the other side, manual testing can become too routine and can take a lot of time to execute.

So What Should We Do?

We suggest you find something in the middle. Automate those test cases that will bring you the most value in terms of testing times and costs, yet maintain manual testing, especially for those test cases that focus on the user experience. Finding this middle ground will make sure your decision is as successful as possible.

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