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7 December 2023

12 Min. Read

API Testing

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: A Full Comparison Guide

Manual Testing vs Automation Testing: A Full Comparison Guide

Key Highlights

In this blog, we cover following key highlights

  1. Learn why manual testing still holds a relevant place in the world of software testing

  2. Get to know about the differences between manual and automated tests

  3. Understand how manual and automated testing helped companies like WhatsApp and Netflix

  4. See the value of HyperTest for performing automated testing

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Let’s start this hot discussion by opening with the most debated and burning question, Is manual testing still relevant in the era where AI has taken over, what’s the future of manual testing and the manual testers thereof?


future of manual testing and the manual testers

What’s the need of manual testing in the era of AI and automation all around?

It is an undeniable fact that with the rise in automation and AI, manual testing has definitely taken a back seat. It is all over the internet that manual testing is dying, manual testers are not required anymore. But with what argument?


Simply because automation and AI is seeing all the limelight these days, it is not true in all senses that it can completely take over the job of a manual tester or completely eliminate manual testing.

Let’s break it down and understand why have this opposing opinion despite of witnessing all the trends:


👉When a product or software is newly introduced to the market, it's in its early stages of real-world use. At this point, the focus is often on understanding how users interact with the product, identifying unforeseen bugs or issues, and rapidly iterating based on user feedback.


Let’s understand this with the help of an example:


  • Consider a new social media app that has just been released. The development team has assumptions about how users will interact with the app, but once it's in the hands of real users, new and unexpected usage patterns emerge. For instance, users might use the chat feature in a way that wasn't anticipated, leading to performance issues or bugs.


  • In this case, manual testers can quickly adapt their testing strategies to explore these unforeseen use-cases. They can simulate the behavior of real users, providing immediate insights into how the app performs under these new conditions.


  • On the other hand, if the team had invested heavily in automation testing from the start, they would need to spend additional time and resources to constantly update their test scripts to cover these new scenarios, which could be a less efficient use of resources at this early stage.


👉New software features often bring uncertainties that manual testing can effectively address. Manual testers engage in exploratory testing, which is unstructured and innovative, allowing them to mimic real user behaviors that automated tests may miss.


This approach is vital in agile environments for quickly iterating new features. Automated testing setup for these features can be resource-intensive, especially when features frequently change in early development stages. However, once a feature is stable after thorough manual testing, transitioning to automated testing is beneficial for long-term reliability and integration with other software components.


A 2019 report by the Capgemini Research Institute found that while automation can reduce the cost of testing over time, the initial setup and maintenance could be resource-intensive, especially for new or frequently changing features.

Let’s understand this with the help of an example:


  • Consider a software team adding a new payment integration feature to their e-commerce platform. This feature is complex, involving multiple steps and external payment service interactions. Initially, manual testers explore this feature, mimicking various user behaviors and payment scenarios. They quickly identify issues like unexpected timeouts or user interface glitches that weren't anticipated.


  • In this phase, the team can rapidly iterate on the feature based on the manual testing feedback, something that would be slower with automation due to the need for script updates. Once the feature is stable and the user interaction patterns are well understood, it's then automated for regression testing, ensuring that future updates do not break this feature.


While automation is integral to modern software testing strategies, the significance of manual testing, particularly for new features and new products, cannot be overstated. Its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and capacity for immediate feedback make it ideal in the early stages of feature and product development.


Now that we’ve established ground on why manual testing is still needed and can never be eliminated from the software testing phase anytime soon, let’s dive deep into the foundational concepts of both the manual and automation testing and understand both of them a little better.

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Manual Testing vs Automation Testing

Manual Testing and Automation Testing are two fundamental approaches in the software testing domain, each with its own set of advantages, challenges, and best use cases.


Manual Testing

It refers to the process of manually executing test cases without the use of any automated tools. It is a hands-on process where a tester assumes the role of an end-user and tests the software to identify any unexpected behavior or bugs. Manual testing is best suited for exploratory testing, usability testing, and ad-hoc testing where the tester's experience and intuition are critical.


Automation Testing

It involves using automated tools to execute pre-scripted tests on the software application before it is released into production. This type of testing is used to execute repetitive tasks and regression tests which are time-consuming and difficult to perform manually. Automation testing is ideal for large scale test cases, repetitive tasks, and for testing scenarios that are too tedious for manual testing.

A study by the QA Vector Analytics in 2020 suggested that while over 80% of organizations see automation as a key part of their testing strategy, the majority still rely on manual testing for new features to ensure quality before moving to automation.

Here is a detailed comparison table highlighting the key differences between Manual Testing vs Automation Testing:


Aspect

Manual Testing

Automation Testing

Nature

Human-driven, requires physical execution by testers.

Tool-driven, tests are executed automatically by software.

Initial Cost

Lower, as it requires minimal tooling.

Higher, due to the cost of automation tools and script development.

Execution Speed

Slower, as it depends on human speed.

Faster, as computers execute tests rapidly.

Accuracy

Prone to human error.

Highly accurate, minimal risk of errors.

Complexity of Setup

Simple, as it often requires no additional setup.

Complex, requires setting up and maintaining test scripts.

Flexibility

High, easy to adapt to changes and new requirements.

Low, requires updates to scripts for changes in the application.

Testing Types Best Suited

Exploratory, Usability, Ad-Hoc.

Regression, Load, Performance.

Feedback

Qualitative, provides insight into user experience.

Quantitative, focuses on specific, measurable outcomes.

Scalability

Limited scalability due to human resource constraints.

Highly scalable, can run multiple tests simultaneously.

Suitability for Complex Applications

Suitable for applications with frequent changes.

More suitable for stable applications with fewer changes.

Maintenance

Low, requires minimal updates.

High, scripts require regular updates.

How does Manual Testing work?

Manual Testing is a fundamental process in software quality assurance where a tester manually operates a software application to detect any defects or issues that might affect its functionality, usability, or performance.


  1. Understanding Requirements: Testers begin by understanding the software requirements, functionalities, and objectives. This involves studying requirement documents, user stories, or design specifications.


  2. Developing Test Cases: Based on the requirements, testers write test cases that outline the steps to be taken, input data, and the expected outcomes. These test cases are designed to cover all functionalities of the application.


  3. Setting Up Test Environment: Before starting the tests, the required environment is set up. This could include configuring hardware and software, setting up databases, etc.


  4. Executing Test Cases: Testers manually execute the test cases. They interact with the software, input data, and observe the outcomes, comparing them with the expected results noted in the test cases.


  5. Recording Results: The outcomes of the test cases are recorded. Any discrepancies between the expected and actual results are noted as defects or bugs.


  6. Reporting Bugs: Detected bugs are reported in a bug tracking system with details like severity, steps to reproduce, and screenshots if necessary.


  7. Retesting and Regression Testing: After the bugs are fixed, testers retest the functionalities to ensure the fixes work as expected. They also perform regression testing to check if the new changes have not adversely affected the existing functionalities.


  8. Final Testing and Closure: Once all major bugs are fixed and the software meets the required quality standards, the final round of testing is conducted before the software is released.


Case Study: Manual Testing at WhatsApp

WhatsApp, a globally renowned messaging app, frequently updates its platform to introduce new features and enhance user experience. Given its massive user base and the critical nature of its service, ensuring the highest quality and reliability of new features is paramount.


Challenge: In one of its updates, WhatsApp planned to roll out a new encryption feature to enhance user privacy. The challenge was to ensure that this feature worked seamlessly across different devices, operating systems, and network conditions without compromising the app's performance or user experience.


Approach: WhatsApp's testing team employed manual testing for this critical update. The process involved:


  1. Test Planning: The team developed a comprehensive test plan focusing on the encryption feature, covering various user scenarios and interactions.


  2. Test Case Creation: Detailed test cases were designed to assess the functionality of the encryption feature, including scenarios like initiating conversations, group chats, media sharing, and message backup and restoration.


  3. Cross-Platform Testing: Manual testers executed these test cases across a wide range of devices and operating systems to ensure compatibility and consistent user experience.


  4. Usability Testing: Special emphasis was placed on usability testing to ensure that the encryption feature did not negatively impact the app's user interface and ease of use.


  5. Performance Testing: Manual testing also included assessing the app's performance in different network conditions, ensuring that encryption did not lead to significant delays or resource consumption.


Outcome: The manual testing approach allowed WhatsApp to meticulously evaluate the new encryption feature in real-world scenarios, ensuring it met their high standards of quality and reliability. The successful rollout of the feature was well-received by users and industry experts, showcasing the effectiveness of thorough manual testing in a complex, user-centric application environment.


How does Automation Testing work?

Automation Testing is a process in software testing where automated tools are used to execute predefined test scripts on a software application. This approach is particularly effective for repetitive tasks and regression testing, where the same set of tests needs to be run multiple times over the software's lifecycle.


  1. Identifying Test Requirements: Just like manual testing, automation testing begins with understanding the software's functionality and requirements. The scope for automation is identified, focusing on areas that benefit most from automated testing like repetitive tasks, data-driven tests, and regression tests.


  2. Selecting the Right Tools: Choosing appropriate automation tools is crucial. The selection depends on the software type, technology stack, budget, and the skill set of the testing team.


  3. Designing Test Scripts: Testers or automation engineers develop test scripts using the chosen tool. These scripts are designed to automatically execute predefined actions on the software application.


  4. Setting Up Test Environment: Automation testing requires a stable and consistent environment. This includes setting up servers, databases, and any other required software.


  5. Executing Test Scripts: Automated test scripts are executed, which can be scheduled or triggered as needed. These scripts interact with the application, input data, and then compare the actual outcomes with the expected results.


  6. Analyzing Results: Automated tests generate detailed test reports. Testers analyze these results to identify any failures or issues.


  7. Maintenance: Test scripts require regular updates to keep up with changes in the software application. This maintenance is critical for the effectiveness of automated testing.


  8. Continuous Integration: Automation testing often integrates into continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, enabling continuous testing and delivery.


Case Study: Automation Testing at Netflix

Netflix, a leader in the streaming service industry, operates on a massive scale with millions of users worldwide. To maintain its high standard of service and continuously enhance user experience, Netflix frequently updates its platform and adds new features.


Challenge: The primary challenge for Netflix was ensuring the quality and performance of its application across different devices and operating systems, particularly when rolling out new features or updates. Given the scale and frequency of these updates, manual testing alone was not feasible.


Approach: Netflix turned to automation testing to address this challenge. The process involved:


  1. Tool Selection: Netflix selected advanced automation tools compatible with its technology stack, capable of handling complex, large-scale testing scenarios.


  2. Script Development: Test scripts were developed to cover a wide range of functionalities, including user login, content streaming, user interface interactions, and cross-device compatibility.


  3. Continuous Integration and Deployment: These test scripts were integrated into Netflix's CI/CD pipeline. This integration allowed for automated testing to be performed with each code commit, ensuring immediate feedback and rapid issue resolution.


  4. Performance and Load Testing: Automation testing at Netflix also included performance and load testing. Scripts were designed to simulate various user behaviors and high-traffic scenarios to ensure the platform's stability and performance under stress.


  5. Regular Updates and Maintenance: Given the dynamic nature of the Netflix platform, the test scripts were regularly updated to adapt to new features and changes in the application.


Outcome: The adoption of automation testing enabled Netflix to maintain a high quality of service while rapidly scaling and updating its platform. The automated tests provided quick feedback on new releases, significantly reducing the time to market for new features and updates. This approach also ensured a consistent and reliable user experience across various devices and operating systems.


Manual Testing Pros and Cons

1.Pros of Manual Testing:


1.1. Flexibility and Adaptability: Manual testing is inherently flexible. Testers can quickly adapt their testing strategies based on their observations and insights. For example, while testing a mobile application, a tester might notice a usability issue that wasn't part of the original test plan and immediately investigate it further.


1.2. Intuitive Evaluation: Human testers bring an element of intuition and understanding of user behavior that automated tests cannot replicate. This is particularly important in usability and user experience testing. For instance, a tester can judge the ease of use and aesthetics of a web interface, which automated tools might overlook.


1.3.Cost-Effective for Small Projects: For small projects or in cases where the software undergoes frequent changes, manual testing can be more cost-effective as it doesn’t require a significant investment in automated testing tools or script development.


1.4. No Need for Complex Test Scripts: Manual testing doesn’t require the setup and maintenance of test scripts, making it easier to start testing early in the development process. It's especially useful during the initial development stages where the software is still evolving.


1.5. Better for Exploratory Testing: Manual testing is ideal for exploratory testing where the tester actively explores the software to identify defects and assess its capabilities without predefined test cases. This can lead to the discovery of critical bugs that were not anticipated.


2.Cons of Manual Testing:

2.1. Time-Consuming and Less Efficient: Manual testing can be labor-intensive and slower compared to automated testing, especially for large-scale and repetitive tasks. For example, regression testing a complex application manually can take a significant amount of time.


2.2. Prone to Human Error: Since manual testing relies on human effort, it's subject to human errors such as oversight or fatigue, particularly in repetitive and detailed-oriented tasks.


2.3. Limited in Scope and Scalability: There's a limit to the amount and complexity of testing that can be achieved manually. In cases like load testing where you need to simulate thousands of users, manual testing is not practical.


2.4. Not Suitable for Large Volume Testing: Testing scenarios that require a large volume of data input, like stress testing an application, are not feasible with manual testing due to the limitations in speed and accuracy.


2.5. Difficult to Replicate: Manual test cases can be subjective and may vary slightly with each execution, making it hard to replicate the exact testing scenario. This inconsistency can be a drawback when trying to reproduce bugs.


Automated Testing Pros and Cons

1. Pros of Automation Testing:


1.1. Increased Efficiency: Automation significantly speeds up the testing process, especially for large-scale and repetitive tasks. For example, regression testing can be executed quickly and frequently, ensuring that new changes haven’t adversely affected existing functionalities.


1.2. Consistency and Accuracy: Automated tests eliminate the variability and errors that come with human testing. Tests can be run identically every time, ensuring consistency and accuracy in results.


1.3. Scalability: Automation allows for testing a wide range of scenarios simultaneously, which is particularly useful in load and performance testing. For instance, simulating thousands of users interacting with a web application to test its performance under stress.


1.4. Cost-Effective in the Long Run: Although the initial investment might be high, automated testing can be more cost-effective over time, especially for products with a long lifecycle or for projects where the same tests need to be run repeatedly.


1.5. Better Coverage: Automation testing can cover a vast number of test cases and complex scenarios, which might be impractical or impossible to execute manually in a reasonable timeframe.


2. Cons of Automation Testing:

2.1. High Initial Investment: Setting up automation testing requires a significant initial investment in tools and script development, which can be a barrier for smaller projects or startups.


2.2. Maintenance of Test Scripts: Automated test scripts require regular updates to keep pace with changes in the application. This maintenance can be time-consuming and requires skilled resources.


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2.3. Limited to Predefined Scenarios: Automation testing is limited to scenarios that are known and have been scripted. It is not suitable for exploratory testing where the goal is to discover unknown issues.


2.4. Lack of Intuitive Feedback: Automated tests lack the human element; they cannot judge the usability or aesthetics of an application, which are crucial aspects of user experience.


2.5. Skillset Requirement: Developing and maintaining automated tests require a specific skill set. Teams need to have or develop expertise in scripting and using automation tools effectively.


Don’t forget to download this quick comparison cheat sheet between manual and automation testing.


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Once your software is stable enough to move to automation testing, be sure to invest in tools that covers end-to-end test case scenarios, leaving no edge cases to be left untested. HyperTest is one such modern no-code tool that not only gives up to 90% test coverage but also reduces your testing effort by up to 85%.


  • No-code tool to test integrations for services, apps or APIs

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  • Build a regression test suite from real-world scenarios

  • Detect issues early in SDLC, prevent rollbacks


We helped agile teams like Nykaa, Porter, Urban Company etc. achieve 2X release velocity & robust test coverage of >85% without any manual efforts.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Which is better manual testing or automation testing?

The choice between manual testing and automation testing depends on project requirements. Manual testing offers flexibility and is suitable for exploratory and ad-hoc testing. Automation testing excels in repetitive tasks, providing efficiency and faster feedback. A balanced approach, combining both, is often ideal for comprehensive software testing.

2. What are the disadvantages of manual testing?

Manual testing can be time-consuming, prone to human error, and challenging to scale. The repetitive nature of manual tests makes it monotonous, potentially leading to oversight. Additionally, it lacks the efficiency and speed offered by automated testing, hindering rapid development cycles and comprehensive test coverage.

3. Is automation testing better than manual testing?

Automation testing offers efficiency, speed, and repeatability, making it advantageous for repetitive tasks and large-scale testing. However, manual testing excels in exploratory testing and assessing user experience. The choice depends on project needs, with a balanced approach often yielding the most effective results, combining the strengths of both automation and manual testing.
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