What Are the Limitations of Automation Testing?

Timothy Joseph
Timothy Joseph | March 24, 2021
What Are the Limitations of Automation Testing?

We are all restricted by limitations, from the business models we use to every system that guides us through software development and quality assurance. The key is to understand these limitations so that your team can overcome them - and be stronger for it.

There’s no doubt that automation testing is the quickest and most cost-effective method of QA testing. But it cannot do everything, and there are notable disadvantages of automation testing over manual testing. Some limitations of automation testing are built into the system and must be balanced against manual testing, while some are the result of inexact pre-programming, such as a failure to develop effective automation test hooks. Then there are limitations that can be attributed to complex dynamic application designs.

So, what are the limitations of software automation? And is there a way to turn disadvantages into advantages when automating testing?

None of these limitations need be fatal to your project. In fact, you can enjoy the benefits of automation testing instead of being bogged down by its drawbacks - all you need is the right approach to test automation and a solid test automation checklist in place.

The Limitations of Automation Testing

Before we explore the limitations of software automation, it’s important to remember that your QA testing can only be as effective as your strategy. Without taking the limitations of automation testing into consideration when implementing test automation can result in roadblocks during QA.

Familiarize yourself with these disadvantages of automation testing over manual testing so that your team can devise processes that combat these difficulties.

  • Tests Only Check What’s Been Programmed

    Automated testing of the core, code - level functionality should give you a keen understanding of your application’s overall build strength. Failure to build a comprehensive test case means creating a false sense of security where not all possible defects are being detected. It is the old computer truism of “garbage in = garbage out” and these self-imposed limitations of automation testing can undermine your entire QA process.

  • Early-Stage Time

    This limitation is one you can expect to encounter as soon as the automation test process begins. There is no substitute for quality test case development, but that process takes time, review and internal resources to create. Time is always a cost for businesses, including the time it takes to upgrade your test schedule and parameters as the QA process progresses. While it is worth it, these time-consuming activities can slow down timelines for essential deadline-driven projects.

  • It Is Expensive

    Just like time, money is a cost to the business. And to incorporate test automation correctly, a serious investment must be made upfront. These cost limitations of automation testing aren’t just for buying the right tools and resources—there’s a cost to labor in implementing these changes. Fortunately, there are cost-effective measures you can take so that automation testing doesn’t break your budget, such as enlisting the help of offshore outsourcing.

  • Loss of the Human Element

    Removing the human element from testing can siphon off creativity and native experience of engineers. A test script can only report on errors, but the human mind can see between the lines of a bug and proactively seek a solution. Some aspects of QA testing just are not compatible with automation, including subjective validation, adaptation to new functionality, testing while strategic functionality is still being developed and the user-focused areas of GUI testing.

  • Continuous Maintenance of Code

    Whenever your software application is updated, your automated tests must be able to reliably produce accurate results. This often requires a review of all your automated test scripts and applying adjustments wherever necessary. Not doing so can often lead to false results that leave your product vulnerable to bugs and attacks. On the flip side, doing so can take up valuable time during the QA process.

  • Inability to Test UX

    Test automation may outperform a human’s ability to test, but it also can’t think like a human. That means user experience tests must always be performed manually. Machines simply can’t detect the accuracy of the appearance, usability and consistency of the UX. For example, an automated test case may provide no errors in its results while a user testing the product’s dashboard may find the platform hard to navigate or not providing needed functionality.


Benefits of Automation Testing

Don’t let the limitations of automation testing hold your project back. By understanding the limitations of software automation, your team can devise a QA strategy that turns disadvantages of automation testing over manual testing into strengths and powerful results.

When implemented correctly, these advantages of automation testing can easily outweigh the negative. Once robust internal processes are defined, you can expect to see these benefits of automation testing within your development cycle.

  • Improves Accuracy

    Mistakes during manual testing are inescapable. Human testers inevitably lead to human errors when executing test cases manually. One of the advantages of automation testing is that test automation follows strict code when performing tests, meaning the same steps are performed when executing thousands of test cases. Because detailed record-keeping can be kept on all test results, test automation can drastically increase accuracy within repetitive test cases as well as for stress testing.

  • Enhances Test Coverage

    Imagine executing thousands of complex test cases across multiple systems simultaneously—that’s just one of the benefits of automation testing. With test automation, your team can examine all the intricacies of your software application in order to accurately analyze its file contents, memory contents, internal program states and data tables. Manual testing simply doesn’t have the time nor the means to promise this level of test coverage.

  • Insightful Reporting

    You want results for every test case executed—and test automation can deliver on that promise. One of the advantages of automation testing is having the ability to track every test script through visual logs that provide details on the number of test cases scheduled or executed as well as the number of reported defects and how these bugs have been resolved. By setting up test automation efficiently, your team can gather additional testing data, from productivity stats to performance metrics.

  • Increase Productivity

    Humans can only work so many hours of the day, requiring breaks and a proper sleeping schedule to be their best at work. One of the benefits of automation testing is that testing can happen around the clock without reducing the quality or quantity of test performance. Your test engineers can schedule tests at the end of their 9-to-5 shift and arrive the next day with test automation results ready to review.


Increase ROI

The disadvantages of automation testing over manual testing can easily be overlooked when looking at the numbers. After its initial investment and setup costs, test automation pays for itself in the long run. Automation testing requires minimal supervision, meaning that you can reallocate your resources effectively across finances and internal employees to focus on other projects. Since automated QA testing ensures product quality in the marketplace and reduces resources spent on post-launch fixes, it’s easy to calculate your ROI with automation testing.

Finding Balance in the QA Process

Now that you understand what are the limitations of software automation, you can see why the best approach to the QA process is creating balance. By balancing manual and automated testing, your team can benefit from both the speed and broad coverage of automation as well as the critical eye of human testers.

Still not sure how your team can overcome these limitations of automation testing? Team up with a reliable QA service provider like QASource. Our team of testing experts specialize in all areas of automation testing and can help your team integrate test automation effectively within your development cycle. Get a free quote today.


This publication is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained in it should be considered legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out of this information and encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.