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1 February 2024

09 Min. Read

Manual Testing

Top Challenges in Manual Testing

Top Challenges in Manual Testing

Key Highlights

In this blog, we cover following key highlights:

  1. Understand the concept of manual testing from ground zero

  2. Know about how it is different from automation testing

  3. Get the reality check and know if automation is replacing manual testing

  4. See the challenges of manual testing and learn to avoid them

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The software development lifecycle (SDLC) has undergone significant evolution, characterized by shorter development sprints and more frequent releases. This change is driven by market demands for constant readiness for release. Consequently, the role of testing within the SDLC has become increasingly critical.

In today's fast-paced development environment, where users expect regular updates and new features, manual testing can be a hindrance due to its time-consuming nature. This challenge has elevated the importance of automation testing, which has become indispensable in modern software development practices.

Automation testing efficiently overcomes the limitations of manual testing, enabling quicker turnaround times and ensuring that software meets the high standards of quality and reliability required in the current market.

In this blog, we will delve into the various challenges associated with manual testing of applications. While manual testing is often advisable for those at the beginning stages of development or operating with limited budgets, it is not a sustainable long-term practice. This is particularly true for repetitive tasks, which modern automation tools can handle more efficiently and effectively.

What is Manual Testing?

Manual testing is a process in software development where testers manually operate a software application to detect defects or bugs. Unlike automated testing, where tests are executed with the aid of scripts and tools, manual testing involves human input, analysis, and insights.

Key aspects of manual testing include:

  • Human Observation: Crucial in detecting subtle issues like user interface defects or usability problems, which automated tests might miss.

  • Test Case Execution: Testers follow a set of predefined test cases but also use exploratory testing, where they deviate from these cases to identify unexpected behavior.

  • Flexibility: Testers can quickly adapt and change their approach based on the application's behavior during the testing phase.

  • Understanding User Perspective: Manual testers can provide feedback on the user experience, which is particularly valuable in ensuring the software is user-friendly and meets customer expectations.

  • Cost-Effectiveness for Small Projects: For small-scale projects or when the testing requirements are constantly changing, manual testing can be more cost-effective than setting up automated tests.

  • No Need for Test Script Development: This saves time initially, as there is no need to write scripts, unlike in automated testing.

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  • Identifying Visual Issues: Manual testing is more effective in identifying visual and content-related issues, such as typos, alignment issues, color consistency, and overall layout.

What’s the Process of Manual Testing?

Manual testing is a fundamental aspect of software development that involves a meticulous process where testers evaluate software manually to find defects. The process can be both rigorous and insightful, requiring a combination of structured test procedures and the tester's intuition. Let's break down the typical stages involved in manual testing:

  • Understanding Requirements: The process begins with testers gaining a thorough understanding of the software requirements. This includes studying the specifications, user documentation, and design documents to comprehend what the software is intended to do.

  • Test Plan Creation: Based on the understanding of requirements, testers develop a test plan. This plan outlines the scope, approach, resources, and schedule of intended test activities. It serves as a roadmap for the testing process.

  • Test Case Development: Testers then create detailed test cases. These are specific conditions under which they will test the software to check if it behaves as expected. Test cases are designed to cover all aspects of the software, including functional, performance, and user interface components.

Example Test Case:
- Test Case ID: TC001
- Description: Verify login with valid credentials
- Precondition: User is on Login Page
- Steps: 
    1. Enter valid username
    2. Enter valid password
    3. Click on Login button
- Expected Result: User is successfully logged in and directed to the dashboard
  • Setting up the Test Environment: Before actual testing begins, the appropriate test environment is set up. This includes hardware and software configurations on which the software will be tested.

  • Test Execution: During this phase, testers execute the test cases manually. They interact with the software, inputting data, and observing the outcomes to ensure that the software behaves as expected in different scenarios.

  • Defect Logging: If a tester encounters a bug or defect, they log it in a tracking system. This includes detailed information about the defect, steps to reproduce it, and screenshots if necessary.

  • Retesting and Regression Testing: Once defects are fixed, testers retest the software to ensure that the specific issue has been resolved. They also perform regression testing to check if the new changes haven’t adversely affected existing functionalities.

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  • Reporting and Feedback: Testers prepare a final report summarizing the testing activities, including the number of tests conducted, defects found, and the status of the software. They also provide feedback on software quality and suggest improvements.

Test Summary Report:
- Total Test Cases: [Number]
- Passed: [Number]
- Failed: [Number]
- Defects Found: [Number]
- Recommendations: [Any suggestions or feedback]

  • Final Validation and Closure: The software undergoes a final validation to ensure it meets all requirements. Upon successful validation, the testing phase is concluded.

The process of manual testing is iterative and may cycle through these stages multiple times to ensure the software meets the highest standards of quality and functionality. It requires a keen eye for detail, patience, and a deep understanding of both the software and the user's perspective.

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How Manual Testing is different from Automation Testing?

Manual testing and automation testing are two distinct approaches in software testing, each with its own set of characteristics and uses. Since we’ve already explored the concept of manual testing above, let's first understand the concept of automation testing and then move ahead with the differences.

Automation Testing: Automation testing uses software tools and scripts to perform tests on the software automatically. This approach is ideal for repetitive tasks and can handle large volumes of data.

  • Speed and Efficiency: Automated tests can be run quickly and repeatedly, which is a significant advantage for large projects.

  • Accuracy: Reduces the risk of human error in repetitive and detailed test cases.

  • Cost-Effective in the Long Run: While the initial investment is higher, it's more cost-effective for long-term projects.

  • Non-UI Related Testing: Better suited for non-user interface testing such as load testing, performance testing, etc.

  • Requires Technical Skills: Knowledge of scripting and programming is necessary to write test scripts.

For better clarity, here’s a comparison table between the two types of testing:


Manual Testing

Automation Testing


Performed by human testers

Performed by tools and scripts


Time-consuming, especially for large-scale testing

Faster, can run tests repeatedly


Initially less costly, more for long-term

Higher initial cost, but cheaper long-term


Prone to human error in repetitive tasks

High accuracy, minimal human error


Ideal for exploratory, usability, and ad-hoc testing

Best for regression, load, and performance testing

Technical Skills Required

Generally not required

Requires programming knowledge


More flexible in test design and execution

Less flexible, requires predefined scripts

Feedback on User Experience

Better at assessing visual and user experience aspects

Does not assess user experience

Top Challenges in Manual Testing

Manual testing, while essential in many scenarios, faces several key challenges. These challenges can impact the effectiveness, efficiency, and overall success of the testing process. Here we are going to discuss the most prominent challenges in manual testing as faced by majority of testers.

Time-Consuming and Labor-Intensive

Manual testing requires significant human effort and time, especially for large and complex applications.

Consider manual testing in a retail banking application. The application's vast array of features means a significant number of test cases need to be executed. For example, just the fund transfer feature might include test cases for different types of transfers, limits, recipient management, transaction history, etc.

Human Error

Due to its repetitive nature, manual testing is prone to human error. Testers may miss out on executing some test cases or fail to notice some bugs. Consider a scenario where a tester needs to verify the correctness of user input fields across multiple forms. Missing even a single validation, like an email format check, can lead to undetected issues.

Example Missed Test Case:
- Test Case ID: TC105
- Description: Validate email format in registration form
- Missed: Not executed due to oversight

Difficulty in Handling Large Volume of Test Data

Managing and testing with large datasets manually is challenging and inefficient. For instance, manually testing database operations with thousands of records for performance and data integrity is not only tedious but also prone to inaccuracies.

Example: Healthcare Data Management System

A healthcare data management system needs to manage and test thousands of patient records. The manual testing team might struggle to effectively validate data integrity and consistency, leading to potential risks in patient data management.

Inconsistency in Testing

Different testers may have varied interpretations and approaches, leading to inconsistencies in testing. For example, two testers might follow different paths to reproduce a bug, leading to inconsistent bug reports.

For example, inconsistencies might come when testing a mobile app for delivery services, leading to varied bug reports and confusion. A particular testing team might report an issue with the GPS functionality, while another might not, depending on their approach and device used.

Documentation challenges

Comprehensive documentation of test cases and defects is crucial but can be burdensome. Accurately documenting the steps to reproduce a bug or the test case execution details demands meticulous attention.

Bug Report Example:
- Bug ID: BUG102
- Description: Shopping cart does not update item quantity
- Steps to Reproduce:
    1. Add item to cart
    2. Change item quantity in cart
    3. Cart fails to show updated quantity
- Status: Open

Difficulty in Regression Testing

With each new release, regression testing becomes more challenging in manual testing, as testers need to re-execute a large number of test cases to ensure existing functionalities are not broken.

Lets say you’re performing manual testing of a financial analytics tool since a new feature is added to the app. You need to perform manual testing for all the existing functionalities to check its compatibility with this new feature. This repetitive process can become increasingly burdensome over time, slowing down the release of new features.

Limited Coverage

Achieving comprehensive test coverage manually is difficult, especially for complex applications. Testers might not be able to cover all use cases, user paths, and scenarios due to time and resource constraints.

Manually testing an ever-expanding application is increasingly impractical, especially when trying to meet fast-paced market demands. Complex applications often feature thousands, or even lakhs, of interconnected services, resulting in a multitude of possible user flows. Attempting to conceive every possible user interaction and subsequently creating manual test scripts for each is an unrealistic task. This often leads to numerous user flows being deployed to production without adequate testing.

As a result, untested flows can introduce bugs into the system, necessitating frequent rollbacks and emergency fixes. This approach not only undermines the software's reliability but also hinders the ability to swiftly and efficiently respond to market needs.

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In conclusion, manual testing remains a critical component in the software testing landscape, offering unique advantages in terms of flexibility, user experience assessment, and specific scenario testing.

However, as we have seen through various examples and real-world case studies, it comes with its own set of challenges. These include being time-consuming and labor-intensive, especially for complex applications like retail banking software, susceptibility to human error, difficulties in managing large volumes of test data, limited scope for non-functional testing, and several others.

The future of software testing lies in finding the right balance between manual and automated methods, ensuring that the quality of the software is upheld while keeping up with the pace of development demanded by modern markets.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are limitations of manual testing?

Manual testing is time-consuming, prone to human error, and lacks scalability. It struggles with repetitive tasks, limited test coverage, and challenges in handling complex scenarios, making it less efficient for large-scale or repetitive testing requirements.

2. What is the biggest challenge in manual testing?

The main challenge lies in repetitive and time-consuming test execution. Manual testers face difficulties in managing extensive test cases, making it challenging to maintain accuracy, consistency, and efficiency over time.

3. Is manual testing difficult?

Yes, manual testing can be challenging due to its labor-intensive nature, human error susceptibility, and limited scalability. Testers need meticulous attention to detail, and as testing requirements grow, managing repetitive tasks becomes more complex, making automation a valuable complement.
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