When you begin web testing, one of the primary decisions you’ll have to make is when you’re going to test manually or use automated testing.
While neither of these options are technically better or worse than the other, the size, budget and time allowance of a project will certainly be factors that affect which method will work best in your testing procedure.
Below, we’ll outline the best times to use manual vs automated testing, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Manual testing is essentially self-explanatory — testing of a web application is done manually, by human action. This means that someone actually goes on a device to evaluate numerous components including design, functionality, and performance by clicking through multiple elements or units of a web application without support from a tool or script. Sometimes, people will interchange the terms exploratory testing or live testing with manual testing, as well.
The method of manual testing is inherently valuable to consumer-facing websites because the tester is able to have the full user experience, making it easier to assess visual components such as text size and layout as well as UI.
Additionally, most QA processes will begin with some degree of manual testing because it’s an ideal way to perform one-off testing and exploratory test cases as well as usability and ad-hoc testing.
The limitations of manual testing are that it’s not the best method for test cases that have frequent repetition. For code that’s updated by the day or hour, manual testing would take an exponential amount of time and human resources, and therefore, would not be an efficient way to approach Agile development.
Furthermore, because manual testing is performed by a human, there’s more room for human error as opposed to the accuracy of automated testing. It can also be a boring, time consuming and tedious task for developers to continually perform manual tests every time they update a code, rather than spending their time actually improving the code itself.
Automated testing uses the assistance of tools, scripts, and software to perform test cases by repeating pre-defined actions. All automated testing, however, requires some manual testing at first to create initial testing scripts.
The biggest draw of automated testing is that it’s noticeably faster and more accurate than manual testing. This is because automation allows multiple tests to be run in parallel, since the test cases can be distributed across different machines.
In comparison, manual testing has to be done sequentially, and so only one test can be run at a time. In this way, the accuracy of automated testing makes it ideal for finding bugs when running tests repeatedly over a long time period or running multiple tests on different browsers.
Additionally, automated testing is preferred for large projects that require regression, load, and performance testing or any repeated execution. Specifically, developers that use an Agile methodology depend on automated testing to be able to retest scripts as they continually change code because manually testing every time a small fix was made would be exceptionally time-consuming.
The downfall of automated testing is that, unlike manual testing, there is little human observation involved. While automated testing is more efficient in many ways, developers will sometimes find that they need to execute manual testing in order to add a human element and meet specific consumer needs.
Often people will attribute automated testing as being more expensive because it requires a greater investment in tools. However, if your project calls for automated testing, this investment will most likely pay for itself and be more cost-effective over time.
Complementing Testing with Tools
Whether you’re deciding to pursue a manual or automated testing strategy, there are a number of ways to make the process faster, easier, and more accurate for your QA team.
Tools such as CrossBrowserTesting offer solutions and features that complement manual and automated testing alike. These value-add features including live testing, automated testing, and visual testing all contribute to a well-rounded project execution.
However, the success of your testing process will first depend on your ability to measure which testing method is best for your project. By evaluating the pros and cons of manual testing and automated testing as well as their best uses and what you would like to accomplish through testing, you can launch a solid strategy that will continue to improve your web application and users’ experiences.
To learn more about beginning test automation, check out our eBook.