Testing remains to be one of the integral parts of the software development lifecycle. As technology advances, the “death” of manual testing continues to be predicted by various players in the software development world. The fact that we can now generate tests with a few AI prompts seems fascinating.
However, manual testing is here to stay. Why can’t software development companies do away with manual testing and embrace automation?
In this article, I will discuss the importance of manual testing in software development and how it is still important in time automation. I will also highlight the use cases of manual testing and how it can be completed by automated testing.
What is Automated Testing?
If you type ‘automated testing in software development’ in Google search engine, you will likely be bombarded with hundreds of automated testing tools. How do these tools work?
Automated testing is the process of automatically reviewing and validating a software product’s different features. Test automation is done using an automation tool. Some automation tools are free, while others are paid.
Automated testing is suitable for projects that have gone through an initial manual testing phase. It is also fit for large projects or those that need testing repeated severally.
Automated tests are written together with the project roadmap and executed automatically as the development team writes the code. You can automate tests such as checking the syntax or declaring variables, such that you reduce debugging time.
Advantages of automated testing
Test automation benefits software development companies in various ways. These are some:
Speed: Automated testing is perfect for repeated tests in the software development lifecycle. Such tests can also ensure consistency as they check the same parameters every time they execute.
Faster feedback: Developers can get real-time feedback as they write their code. Such developers don’t have to wait for the QA team to check their code and issue feedback.
Early bug detection: Developers can note when their code has errors and bugs and fix them before they reach production.
Improves test coverage: Automated testing, when combined with manual testing, improves the percentage of code tested in a project.
Limitations and challenges of relying only on automated testing
Test automation may look like the answer to all your testing needs. However, it has the following limitations:
Not the best for user interface: Automated testing might not be the best when testing elements that rely on user experience or visual appearance. For instance, you may be unable to test usability and visual aspects.
High initial setup cost: Test automation may demand large amounts of time and resources for the initial setup. Some tools may also have a steep learning curve.
Maintenance overhead: Your automated tests must sync with the changing codebase. You must also keep updating your tests if your application changes requirements or undergoes frequent changes.
Tests are as good as the creator: Automated scripts rely on scripts. Thus, if the scripts have errors/ bugs, the tests might not be effective. Automated tests also look only for the errors they have been programmed to check.
What is Manual Testing?
Manual testing is testing a program manually against the expectations set. For instance, a tester can manually check if the software being created is responsive to screen sizes. The test engineer in manual testing uses the program as an end user and identifies if it has glitches that should be fixed.
Manual testers are expected to record their findings based on the project considerations. A manual tester can check for external databases, log files, and services for errors. According to ZipRecruiter, software manual testers in the United States earn $45.65 an hour.
Use Cases Where Manual Testing Excels
We can’t outrule the importance of manual testing, as not all types of tests can be automated. The following are some of the instances where manual testing comes in handy:
You need to use a software application to determine its usability. Some factors to consider are the ease of moving from one page to another, the fonts, loading speeds, and color blends. Testing all these factors needs manual intervention.
Test automation follows a script that follows a sequence of validating behavior. However, it is hard to anticipate when automating tests. Manual testing is exploratory and looks for bugs in unusual behaviors. A manual QA will apply human logic and explore some tests a machine cannot do.
Automated testing focuses mostly on what happens under the hood. For instance, can a customer place an order? Visual testing will examine what appears on the user’s browser and how it influences their actions. Such a tester can also check if the final product meets the brand image.
When building new projects in the market
You may build a new project without a proven business model or target audience. Such a product may not have the necessary tools to test its viability. It will also not make sense when you must keep changing your test scripts as you try new things. Manual testing will be useful as you can check if everything works as expected.
Setting up test automation can be expensive and time-consuming. You can opt for manual testing if you are working on a small project or a single feature. You can even contract external testers if hiring a full-time manual QA team is out of the question.
If automated tools are lacking
Suitable for most applications
It can be hard to evaluate the functionality of devices/ apps such as fitness trackers, location trackers, and smartwatches unless you test them manually. When a manual tester works on such an app/device, you are sure they can mimic real-life situations.
Why Combine Manual and Automated Testing?
Most modern software development companies combine manual and automated testing. These are some of the reasons why it works:
Improve coverage and depth: A good application should be well-tested for functionality and design. Manual testing will check usability, while automated testing will check repetitive tasks.
Cost efficiency: Sticking to one approach can be expensive. However, you can combine the two approaches where manual testers work on exploratory testing while you automate large repetitive tests.
Complex test scenarios: Some test cases will need a human touch, and that is where manual testing comes in. On the other hand, some tests are huge and repetitive, and you can only solve them through automation.
Adaptability to changes: You can manually test features and products with evolving requirements. You can also automate features with frequent code changes and ensure these changes don’t break the existing functionality.
How manual and automated testing can complement each other
Manual and automated testing are not competitors but complements. This is how they complement each other:
For manual testing
For automated testing
The look and feel of the app through UI & UX testing
Integration and Unit tests
Judgment tests where automation may fail
Data-intensive and repetitive tasks
Exploratory tests that check real-life situations like high traffic and overload
Testing based on known inputs and outputs
Small and simple features/ products
Large, data-intensive, and repetitive tasks
Challenges facing manual testing
Manual testing may seem like a good choice for all projects. However, it also lacks in the following areas:
Time-consuming: Testing all the aspects of an app in development can be time-consuming. There is also likely to be a lot of back and forth between the development and QA teams as they discuss what works.
Subject to human error: The human eye may miss some areas. The QA may be forced to write down the test and tick against each test.
Does not provide for parallel execution: Manual testing calls for going through one test at a time. Much time will likely be spent on testing, affecting the timelines within which an app can be delivered.
Limited scalability: Most applications grow with time. However, the number of test cases will increase as the source code grows. A company may only scale if it increases the number of testers, affecting salaries.
Automated testing improves repeatability, efficiency, and coverage in tests. However, we cannot ignore manual testing as it brings a human perspective. I will use manual testing when I need a complete evaluation of the user experience and explore areas that are hard to automate. Combining the two brings a more thorough and robust testing environment.
Manual testing will always remain part of the software testing process. Areas such as user experience, visual testing, and exploratory testing demand manual testing. However, the best test suites for scalable projects combine manual and automatic testing, where the latter focuses on repetitive tests. Always analyze your application to determine where to apply automatic and manual tests.