No automation service ever left a comment in a report that read: “Think we could do better here.” When you test using binary software, you get left with “yes” or “no” answers—never insights.
Automation plays an absolutely critical role in your software testing, but it does have its limits. To push beyond the functional criteria of “it works” and into the user experience simulation of “it is worthwhile,” you need to engage the human element.
Manual software testing is that human element. It may lack the speed-of-signal appeal of automation, but it provides qualitative responses that lead to innovation and satisfied users. In fact, we should not even think of the two testing approaches as alternatives. When applied correctly, automation and manual testing are uniquely suited to specific tasks within your test plan.
You will achieve the best possible test results when you supplement automation with a manual testing component.
The Limits of Automation
Automation is not a like-for-like replacement for human engineers. It is a solution that, very effectively at times, acts as an extension of the human element to perform defined tasks at a level of speed and stamina beyond our own physical capabilities. It is wholly dependent on the skills of the humans that plan and design the test cases laid out before it.
Automation cannot help you make decisions. It cannot see solutions beyond its programming.
As such, there are four most often cited limits to using automation:
- Automated tests check only what they have been programmed to check
- Quality test case development takes time
- Though you can reduce the impact by outsourcing offshore, the extra layer of complexity that comes with automation can increase costs
- Need for human insight, ingenuity and user empathy
Accepting these limitations means acknowledging there is a place for manual testing within almost every software development project.
Automated and Manual Software Testing Work Together
Automation and manual testing are companion tools within your test toolkit. There are appropriate places for each. It helps to consider the benefits of manual testing as opportunities to improve build quality.
In some instances, manual testing is superior to automation. In the following cases, the human ability to simulate the user experience and the manual-only option of testing in real time improve overall test coverage and lead to more intuitive applications:
- User interface testing
- Usability testing
- Installation testing
- User acceptance testing
- Error handling testing
- Security testing
On the other hand, automation plays a critical role in specific areas of your QA strategy. For example, the repetition and scale of regular regression testing, especially within an Agile environment where testing is needed every time a change is made, makes automation the logical solution in this case. Automation is often best suited for the following:
- Regression testing
- Smoke or sanity testing
- Data-driven testing
- Non-functional testing
- Load and performance testing
- Static and repetitive testing
As is the case with framework design and tool selection, maximizing the potentials of automated and manual software testing depends on your initial test plan.
A Plan for Manual Software Testing
Every project begins with an initial scoping study. By identifying the fundamental requirements of application development and testing, you can readily see which areas can and should be automated and which areas will benefit from manual scrutiny.
Both forms of testing make time and resource demands on your team, so it is important that these factors be realistically incorporated into your initial planning.
Our Quick Guide to When to Use Manual and Automation Testing details when each approach should be deployed within your test schedule. Every project is unique, however, and each has to be considered in light of its own circumstances.
Uncertainty about how best to balance automation and manual testing is a sign that you need to engage the services of a dedicated QA partner.
There is far more risk involved in a DIY QA approach than there will ever be in taking on an external expert.
Outsource Your Manual Software Testing Headaches
Onboarding a QA expert buys you peace of mind. As dedicated testers with experience across domains, test frameworks and tools, your QA team shares product-quality responsibility—and their reputation depends on a successful exit.
More than just bug catchers, QA experts should provide input to your entire development process within an Agile methodology that emphasizes collaboration over isolated task completion.
An outsourced QA expert can help you to:
- Analyze all your testing requirements
- Select the optimal testing tools for your environment
- Develop a comprehensive test plan
- Create and execute test cases
- Produce detailed testing status reports, bug reports and test documentation
- Create a user documentation review
What you are looking for is a partner to help you make informed decisions about your test plan and then to execute that plan to the highest professional standards.
For example, the QA team can assess your product requirements and advise on which elements can and should be automated, as well as which will benefit from manual testing. Once that pathway is established, the QA team then leads the execution of the manual tests in collaboration with your internal stakeholders from across the business, development and IT skill set.
Provided it meets the proper audit and security standards, your QA team provides the reassurance that your application will fulfill its potential and provide a satisfying user experience.
Benefit from Manual Software Testing
As we keep saying, manual testing is a unique asset, not a lesser version of automation. It comes to the fore right where automation steps down. While it is hypothetically possible to automate just about every aspect of your test plan thanks to the recent explosion of automated tools, it is seldom the best way to produce a quality product.
Manual software testing is a necessary piece of the most comprehensive test plans. Your users reap the benefits when you engage human engineers in your test process.
QASource engineers are manual testing experts. With more than $11 billion in successful exits under their belts and some of the world’s leading companies as satisfied clients, they have the experience and skills to provide the perfect test plan for your product. Contact us today for a free quote, or call +1.925.271.5555 to get the right balance of automated and manual solutions.