Manual or Automated Testing?
April 12, 2010

Manual or Automated Testing — Which is Better?

Test Management
Application Lifecycle Management

Automated Testing vs. Manual Testing

Automated testing is done through the use of tools and scripts. Manual testing is done by testers. 

But which is better?

That's impossible to answer without knowing what is being tested.

Of course, everyone wants an easy answer. Then they could go to their boss and say...

If we only use <insert your favorite testing preference here> testing, then all will be well with our testing.

If only it was that easy. Then there would only be one version of software, tested once and always working thereafter, with no revisions. And that's simply not possible.

So, automated testing and manual testing both have a role to play in successful software development.

Why Would You Choose Automated Testing Over Manual Testing?

Adding automated testing can help you improve your testing efficiency — and test more faster. 

There are occasions for both automated and manual testing. 

Answering the following questions can help you determine if manual or automated testing is right for you.

What Are You Trying to Test?

Manual testing is great when a person’s judgment is required. Automated testing excels in repetitive testing, such as regression testing.

Are There Specific Repeatable Results Every Time?

Manual testing is usually better with dynamic conditions. And automated testing is good for verifiable results.

What Variations May Occur?

Automated testing handles variables well and never gets bored catching issues that manual testing may miss.

Is the Result Text-Based?

Automated testing generally works well with text strings and numeric values. Manual testing of image-intense projects is recommended.

Is it a Repetitive Test?

Repetitive tests are usually good candidates for automation. Learn more about what test cases can be automated >

Is a Judgment Call Required?

Manual testing is recommended if you are verifying the quality of images in a web page or the clarity of an online video since automation lacks judgment in such testing.

Are You Testing Large Quantities of Data?

Without automation this kind of testing can be a resource hog. It's also more prone to human error.

Are You Testing Size Limits or Boundaries?

These tests are good candidates for automation because computers don’t care how few, how many, or what characters are typed. And computers also don't lose count. People have to manually count and visually check characters, which may lead to errors.

Does the Test Include Characters That Are Hard to Distinguish?

Automated testing can easily tell the differences between characters, such as an 'o' (lowercase letter) and a '0' (number). These may be difficult for a tester to distinguish.

How Are Pop-Up Error Messages Handled?

Mixed testing may be best, unless you're using test-driven development which is automated from the start. Use manual testing to determine the correct responses to the message. And then automate the error-handling as part of the test.

What Matters Is Good Testing

So, there is no universal answer to which type of testing is better. Sometimes automated testing is better. And other times, manual testing is better.

Good testing is about identifying what to test, the expected results, and how to make sure as many scenarios as possible are covered. At a minimum, good testing requires a well-thought-out strategy to ensure testing results are meaningful and help development progress.

When you understand what you are testing and the expected results, then the type of testing needed starts to become clear.

Interested in learning more about automated testing?

Automated Testing Best Practices