Manual Testing vs. Test Automation: Why You Need Both

Mobile app testing practices are constantly evolving and teams are always striving for ways to increase test coverage for the sake of software improvements. Although some testers may argue that manual and automated testing are dynamically opposed, using either method on its own rarely provides adequate coverage.

Testing purely by automation would be complicated, time-consuming to maintain, and could miss critical user experience aspects. Manual testing alone would be slow, tedious for testers, and might leave a lot of code untested.

The reality is that without doing both, quality assurance cannot be achieved in an efficient and effective manner.

Importance of Test Coverage

The faster testing teams can find issues, the cheaper it is to fix them, such that the cost savings of detecting issues before release is worth putting the investment in testing resources. To fix an error post-release is said to have 4-5x greater associated costs than if it was fixed pre-release, and up to 100x more expensive if detected during maintenance, according to one IBM report.

Coverage ensures software has been tested against all expected requirements. It also establishes that every method, decision, condition, branch, and path has been tested throughout testing, so bugs are immediately discovered. Early discovery of bugs reduces their impact and the total cost to fix them.

Test coverage also keeps the scope of the code under control, tracks the quality of each feature of an app, and reduces gaps between requirements and test cases. Although the amount of involvement of manual and automated testing is largely determined by the specifics of the app, both methods should be used in tandem to cover as much code as possible.

Why Automated Testing?

One of the greatest advantages of automated testing is the ability to reuse tests, which is highly valuable to regression testing. This has the benefit of lowering costs and improving utilization of personnel. Testers can quickly and continuously execute hundreds of time-consuming tests simultaneously to be sure an application is performing as expected at all times.

On the other hand, in the case of smaller projects, like apps with a single set of features, automated testing isn’t the ideal choice because of the time it takes to develop scripts.

Highlighted below are some strengths and weaknesses of automated testing.

Strengths of automated testing

  • Scalable for larger projects (utilizing computer labs)
  • Ability to run lengthy, tedious tests that manual testers sometimes avoid
  • More cost efficient for larger projects, over time
  • Tests are highly reusable for applications in the maintenance phase
  • Ability to execute tests constantly and simultaneously

Weaknesses of automated testing

  • Slower and more cumbersome for simple feature applications
  • Cannot fully capture the user experience (look & feel)
  • Often requires technical expertise and programming skills (without tools like App Experience)
  • Code and configurations (even frameworks) tend to be application-specific

Why Manual Testing?

Simply, not every piece of testing can be accomplished with automated testing. App crashes, for example, need to be pinpointed through manual testing, as do issues needing to be replicated and when testing the usability and design of the user interface. It is also beneficial to manually test when working on small and short-term projects to save time when tests are simple and few.

Highlighted below are the strengths and weaknesses of manual testing.

Strengths of manual testing

  • Better for user interface testing
  • Handles more complicated use-case scenarios
  • Simulates real user experiences
  • Faster implementation for smaller projects
  • Easier to replicate user issues (reproduce bugs)
  • Easier to deal with app crashes

Weaknesses of manual testing

  • Less scalable, risking lack of test coverage per release
  • Requires staff/resources to perform
  • Minimal-to-no regression testing
  • Error-prone due to tester’s attention to detail
  • Test-case execution is mundane and tedious

The Strength of Manual and Automated Testing

While both styles of testing have unique benefits and drawbacks, their ability to complement one another is what makes them so powerful. Where one type lacks, the other accounts for.

Automated testing has the advantage of speed and consistency, but lacks user perspective. This is where manual testing is better utilized, so it picks up where automated testing leaves off.

Both might be used to cover different parts of the same features or for coverage of completely separate features. However, automated testing can only work as well as the scripts written for it, and manual testing is only as accurate as the testers. Blending both types of testing can result in a harmonious balance of speed, functionality, usability, minimized bugs, and a better-resulting user experience overall.

Combined Manual and Automated Testing Assures Higher Quality Apps

One of the most common discussions among testing teams in recent years has been whether automated or manual testing is more useful. In the interest of increasing test coverage for better software quality, the focus should be where the strengths lie in each method and where those strengths are the most applicable.

In order to improve the user experience, software quality, and functionality in the most efficient way possible, a combination of these two testing practices must be used. Platforms such as SIGOS App Experience supports both of these approaches and provides teams with a wide array of real devices hosted in cloud data centers.

Teams can acquire devices for manual testing or use automation frameworks for script development. And those that can find just the right formula to put these two practices together will reap the most benefits from testing.

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