Sound the alarm: software testers may be going the way of the dinosaurs in the not-too-distant future!

At least, that’s what a short online search on the contentious topic of manual vs. automated testing seems to imply.

But how serious is this threat to the livelihood of testers? According to rumors, when the automation meteorite hits, it will send us all back to oblivion and replace the testing department’s buzz with the peaceful hum of a machine.

In this blog post I ask: Are testers about to go extinct, or could this be an opportunity to evolve?

More than a fighting chance

To respond to the question I raised, I must first address a few of fallacies that undergird some of the arguments made online, the most important of which being that software testing may be considered a single, homogeneous activity.

In reality, testing can be divided into a number of different categories, each of which allows for some degree of automation. However, as we’ll see, the balance between automated and manual testing can be altered in either direction, but neither method can exist without the other.

Manual vs automated: Pros and Cons
Manual Testing:
Pros Cons
Can be more affordable in the short-term. Very time consuming and tedious.
More flexible. Uses large number of resources.
More capable of finding real user issues. Human error can be a significant challenge.
Allows for random insights and observations.


Automated testing:
Pros Cons
Extremely fast. Tools can be expensive.
Conserves resources. Time can still be a problem if scripts take a long while to execute.
More reliable. Automated tools cannot pass subjective judgement on

things like the effect of language, color and images or

user experience.

Can be programmed to handle complex tests. High maintenance costs
Makes test happen earlier, which leads to earlier detection of bugs Makes development take more time


When to use manual and automated testing

Manual testing is best suited to the following testing types:

  1. In many cases, a corporation purchases its systems from third-party vendors. Testing is a long distance from development in this case. Automating acceptance testing is costly, and faults are discovered late.
  2. In the upkeep of systems that have been in use for a while. Because the majority of the issues have already been discovered, the expense of automation is more than the value that can be realized.
  3. Exploratory Testing: When a test is intentionally left unclear, it relies significantly on a combination of logical and intuitive skills that only a human tester can give.
  4. Testing for user-friendliness necessitates human testers empathizing with what actual users would encounter when using the product. Clearly, this is a job that can’t be done by a machine.

On the other hand, automated testing is the preferred choice in the following types of testing:

  1. Component or unit testing is a type of low-level testing. When using modern development tools, this type of testing is usually built-in.
  2. Regression Testing: Automated testing makes it easier to cope with constantly changing code and ensures that ‘runaway’ regression is avoided.
  3. Performance testing: When you want to imitate the behavior of many concurrent users and measure response time or the number of transactions that the system can handle properly, automation comes in handy.
  4. Load Testing: When compared to manual testing, automated testing allows testers to perform load testing faster.
Take care of bug reports with automation

If you use test automation combined with you manual testing, you can connect the automation tool with your test management tool.

In summary

Testing automation is a tremendous achievement in our profession, and it may save organizations a significant amount of time, money, and human effort, allowing them to focus their resources on other mission-critical operations that would benefit more from manual monitoring.

However, it’s important to remember that automation is just one technique of software certification, and that it can’t be easily applied to certain types of testing that rely on subjective judgement as much as objective measurement.

Regardless of the hoopla, human testers will always be required to manually enter parameters into an automated script, maintain it over time, and, in some situations, analyses and act on the data it generates.

So, testers all over the world, rest assured that tomorrow will bring another wonderful day in our field. We’ve never had it better with one foot in manual testing and the other in automation!

It’s now your turn to speak up. What are your thoughts on the current discussion between manual and automated testing, and how the two methods might be used for different types of testing? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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