The murky future of manual testing has been getting a big word of mouth lately. As more organizations are jumping on the Holy Grail of DevOps (also known as the CI/CT/CD trio), test automation has been slowly superseding manual tests. And this switch is justified for some reason. Not only does automated testing accelerate software development and delivery, but it also alleviates the human factor accountable for failures.
Therefore, we have every reason to believe that the imminent demise of manual testing is around the corner, right? WRONG. Let me explain why.
Love it or hate it, manual testing is still the most widely used form of QA. Even with the rise and growth of new technologies and tools, we are not able to toss it away.
Why? It all comes down to costs. And in some cases, manual tests are more cost-effective than their counterparts.
However, there is one scenario that rules out manual verification, and that is the final form of Artificial Intelligence. Therefore, until this technology matches a human brain, manual testing is safe.
But let’s go beyond mere rhetoric and focus on more tangible reasons behind the eternity of manual testing.
Probably, this is the main selling point of manual testing. If you need data that's mere mathematics, a computer will outsmart any human brain. However, when we’re talking about a program's usability, manual testing is in the driving seat.
Let’s imagine the situation when a web page or an app has an ‘Enter’ button that shrinks so much that users can hardly discern what it says. Will the automated scripts identify that activity as a bug? I doubt that.
Unlike manual tests, AT is useless at usability issues and UI glitches.
Besides, it still has no potential or capacity to locate UI defects as efficiently as a human brain does.
Besides, most of the time, testers come across bugs while performing other tasks. Automated scripts cannot boast those multitasking skills. Instead, they can spot only those errors that were programmed beforehand.
On top of it, running manual tests in regard to the UI makes sure that design elements in the interface match elements in the final layout. Again, not something that automated scripts have in their portfolio.
Although being the quickest option, automation testing is not limitless. Its restrictions are either deeply ingrained into the system or stem from inexact pre-programming.
Automated tests revolve around planning and preparation, which sets the limit for the test. Therefore, when you have a system to test automatically, you cannot sidestep from pre-made test scenarios and test cases.
On the contrary, when testing manually, you can scrutinize the system or break the testing process. In other words, manual testing grants you the luxury of ad-hoc or exploratory testing, otherwise unavailable within the AT approach. Ad hoc testing is executed randomly and doesn’t presuppose any planning or test design techniques. Therefore, manual testing is the only path to follow here.
Automation guzzles up a big chunk of investment and calls for upfront planning. Both of these prerequisites can often be peripheral in short-lived projects. On the other hand, manual testing bodes well for short-term ventures thanks to lower costs and fits those with evolving requirements.
Also, as manual testing needs little to no tools, an organization doesn’t have to shell out expensive testing gear. If your software requires small tweaks and doesn’t have a large codebase, it’s also more beneficial to verify a function manually. Otherwise, your testers will have to set up a whole testing unit.
But there’s the other side of the coin - You may need to fork out for larger testing personnel to verify that your software operates as intended.
Manual testing has been a go-to option during the early stages of software development as well. It allows developers to identify bottlenecks or visual errors before kicking the development process into full gear. Since the initial phase is known for countless iterations, it’s counterproductive to engage the workforce and investments in automated processes. Thus, manual testing translates into less time and money being frittered away on righting the wrongs later in the process.
The mobile test automation market is still in its infancy. It means that the solutions for mobile testing are quite scanty. And although the Selenium family offers an Appium testing framework, this tool still has some errors and limitations that hinder the efficient automation of mobile apps. Such challenges as button sizes, device variation, location of devices in space, and others cause a risk for poor testing processes.
On the contrary, manual testing proves to have greater efficiency since it:
You can spend zillions of work hours automating the verification of particular functionality, but it doesn’t guarantee that your tests won’t fall flat. Therefore, when testing software with complex logic, the value-price ratio to perform manual tests can be greater than the resources needed to write automation scripts. Also, these kinds of tasks typically have a short shelf life since you may need your scripts just once due to their specifics. This makes automation counter-beneficial and manual tests more worthwhile.
With the ever-evolving trends in the software industry, a growing number of software specialists opt for automated testing over a manual one. However, as it’s obvious from above, manual tests still maintain a stronghold in the validation phase of the rapid software development cycle.
Not only do they give due diligence to user experience and un-automatable scenarios, but they’re also less costly during short-term projects. So to all automation advocates that pronounce manual testing dead: it’s still alive and kicking.