QA Testing - Why You Need Both Manual and Automated Methods

QA Testing - Why You Need Both Manual and Automated Methods

6 min read
QA Testing Why You Need Both Manual and Automate

We all love pitting two opposing disciplines in a good old-fashioned face off. And in the world of software QA testing, not many discussions are as contentious as those involving automated vs manual testing methods. While automation testers swear by the speed and efficiency of their automation scripts and tools, manual testing zealots, too, eulogize the art of traditional testing.

But should you really pick one over the other? In some instances, perhaps. In most cases, though, you will likely be needing both. While automated testing is expected to grow at a CAGR of at least 16% from 2021 to 2027, we still don’t see it completely replacing manual testing any time soon. Here’s why.

Major benefits of automated testing

Test automation is the future (just not the near future), there’s no doubt about that. Here are some reasons why you should start incorporating automated testing into your SDLC if you haven’t yet.

Saves time

Speed, efficiency, and repeatability. These are the first three benefits you’ll instantly gain the moment you start using automated testing tools. Although it might take time to design test cases and write scripts, once you already have them, you can reuse them over and over, making only a few tweaks when needed. This can significantly shorten not only your testing process but also your software development and release times.

Testing while you sleep

Some tests take a long time to complete. Some of them even have to run 24/7. Unless you hire multiple testers on alternating shifts, you can’t have manual testers conduct tests non-stop. But you can with an automation tool. You can have a test run overnight and just come back to inspect the results the following day.

Accurate and precise

Unlike human testers, automation testing tools do exactly as programmed every single time. Hence, they’re able to achieve a high degree of accuracy and precision. It’s worth noting, however, that the correctness of the scripts (whether they work as originally intended) highly depend on their logic. So, even if an automation script has a high degree of accuracy, the author of the script must ensure that the logic is correct.


Compared to manual testing, automation testing can verify a greater number of tests. Once you become adept at a test automation tool, you can build a suite of test cases and increase your test coverage. That’s why automation works best for large projects. If you’re a test manager, automation will enable you to scale the workload capacity of your team without increasing your team size.

Quick feedback

Automated tests can be run quickly and in parallel, and can provide much faster feedback than manual tests. The ability to provide rapid feedback can be particularly useful in DevOps environments, where CI/CD processes require quick validation of newly committed code changes to make sure nothing broke. Many CI/CD tools readily support automation testing tools, so integration shouldn’t be a problem.

There are several other advantages of automated testing, but we can cover those in another post.

What types of tests should you automate?

Ok. So we know that automated testing saves time, is more scalable, and provides rapid feedback. What types of tests are they therefore suited for? Well, there are several tests that can benefit from automation, but here are a few.

Unit testing - These are tests made against isolated units of codes, such as a function.

Smoke testing - These are tests that check for stability and usability, making sure that the application doesn’t crash.

Load or performance testing - These are tests that strive to determine the capacity or limits of an application by simulating usage of multiple users.

Regression testing - These are tests that check whether a recent code change has had an adverse effect on an application’s existing features.

Integration testing - These are tests that check whether various components of an application work in a cohesive manner.

Functional testing - Tests such as unit, smoke, regression, and integration technically fall under functional testing. So, yes, functional testing is also suited for automated tests.

Basically, it’s best to employ automated tests if you need to:

● Repeat the same test for multiple builds
● Eliminate human errors
● Use multiple data sets
● Simulate multiple users
● Run a test that’s just too time-consuming for a manual tester
● Run a test that has clearly defined pass/fail results

Why you can’t do away with manual testing

Despite the advantages of automated testing, there are still several instances when you’ll need old fashioned manual testing. Here are some of them.

UI/UX testing

The number one use case where manual testing can be deemed utterly indispensable is UI/UX testing, especially tests such as usability, which usually require a high degree of human participation. The main purpose of a usability test is to provide designers insights from the point of view of the end user.

So, if you want to know whether your software application is easy to use and navigate through or if you want to check for visual consistencies or simply if GUI elements work as intended, you really want humans to do the checking. In fact, some of these tests, such as moderated lab usability tests and unmoderated remote usability tests require feedback from multiple human testers.

Small projects

Generally speaking, automated testing can be costly. Although Selenium—undoubtedly the most widely used test automation tool in the market—is technically free, its total cost of ownership (TCO) can be pretty expensive. That’s because you’ll need a tester with coding skills for any of its supported programming language bindings: C#, Ruby, Java, Python, or JavaScript. If you’re not familiar with any of these languages you’ll need to either upskill or hire someone who is.

That’s not all. Even if you already have the right skill, it can take hours to write a working test. Hence, if you’ll just do a small development project, using an automation tool is just overkill. Besides, small projects rarely involve high-volume regression tests that can utilize the capabilities of automation testing tools. In these scenarios, manual testing is the more practical option.

Exploratory testing

Unlike most tests that use automation testing tools, exploratory tests don’t use test cases that are created in advance. Instead, tests are created on the fly. As its name implies, an exploratory test is done while the tester is ‘exploring’ the application. Hence, tests are conducted in an ad hoc manner.

Due to the unpredictable nature of these tests, they’re not suitable for automation testing tools. You can’t design a test case and write a corresponding script if you’re not sure what to expect. Exploratory testing is dependent on adaptability and real-time decision-making, traits that automation tools lack but a human tester is already gifted with.

Field testing

After passing regression tests, most mobile applications have to go through field testing before they can be rolled out into production. To make sure mobile applications work exactly as expected in the real world, you have to test certain functionality that is dependent on outside factors. For example, you might have to connect your device to different networks (e.g., LTE, 5G, WiFi, etc.) or, in the case of GPS or location-sensitive apps, take it to different geographical locations and altitudes.

Field testing is also crucial for apps built for wearables such as smart watches. You might want to see, for example, how it responds to certain temperatures, physical activities, body signals, etc. For these types of tests, you obviously need human QAs to conduct the field tests themselves.


One of the main reasons you do software testing is so that you can eliminate as many bugs as possible before you roll out your application into production. However, since automated testing requires script writing, that process itself is also susceptible to ‘bugs’. You can discover mistakes in your automation scripts when you perform manual testing.

Another major reason to do manual testing, or at least to be familiar with it before leveraging automation, is because it improves the efficacy of your automated tests. At their core, these automation testing tools simply automate the processes done in manual testing. So if you understand the basic concepts and intricacies of manual testing processes, you can design better test cases and maximize the potential of your automation tools.

There will probably come a time when manual testing will become completely obsolete. Maybe AI will take over, who knows? One thing’s for certain though. That time isn’t now, nor is it fast approaching. Hence, stop fretting over which method is best. Just incorporate both automated and manual testing in your SDLC and start churning out bug-free (you wish) applications like a boss now.


[10:27 AM]