Which Testing is Best: Manual or Automation?

Timothy Joseph Timothy Joseph | January 15, 2019

The sporting world has long struggled with deciding the significance of the “V” in its MVP awards. The use of the word “valuable” clouds the thinking on whether voters are searching for the player most valuable to the team and its success, or the flat-out best player that year.

We face a similar problem when comparing manual and automation testing in the QA process. Each approach has its pros and cons, but ultimately it is hard to declare one as universally superior. The most effective way to decide between them is to consider how often each has the advantage over the other. Automation gives you greater coverage, API integration, and speed. Manual testing, on the other hand, gives you greater human input, and an accompanying eye for detail and solutions.

You get a clearer insight into their advantages when you consider how to best use them in combination. You will want automation testing to carry the bulk of the workload, running test cases throughout the API process. You will only introduce manual testing once you get down to the usability and GUI testing segments much closer to the end of your release cycle.

If you are asking “Which testing is best: Manual or automation?”, there can never be a clear winner. Both are equally important; how would you automate something that is not tested manually? Similarly, automation only does what we tell it to do, so you still need major elements of manual testing. The key to selecting the best testing methods for your product is knowing how and when to use each.

The Advantages of Automation Testing

Some would argue automation testing settled this debate long ago. It certainly has a strong case as the best approach to QA and testing. Automation testing helps you:

  • Achieve better quality;

  • Get more QA coverage; and

  • Save time and release faster.

Provided you have developed the right test scripts, automation is by definition a faster version of manual testing, which is comparatively slow, time-consuming, and resource-heavy. It is not just a matter of a faster pace either, so let us quickly look at automation testing’s other main advantages over manual testing.

  • Reliable – Automation tests follow a set of defined instructions and run according to those across every single execution. There is no chance of human error creeping in due to fatigue or repetition. You get reliable results every time.

  • Revisable – Automation is rooted in a programming language, which makes it easy to incorporate tweaks and revise tests immediately after small changes are made to the application.

  • Real-time testing – You can process thousands of new users or generate large batch profile updates in real-time.

  • Cheaper in the long run – While there is an initial outlay during setup, automation testing ultimately saves you resources by expanding your QA coverage and increasing the speed of your test phase.

  • Higher productivity - With automation you get your results quicker and your bugs dealt with earlier, which in turn frees up more time for other highly specialized tasks for business and app development, ultimately leading to better product quality.

We are clearly in the automation camp, and we have a thousand years of collective automation experience to back that up. However, we are not quite ready to totally do away with manual testing, despite all the advantages automation can provide.

The Advantages of Manual Testing

Manual testing is hard. It is resource-intensive and it can make demands on your staff that they are unlikely to appreciate. However, there is something to be said for the value of human intervention in the QA process.

The human tester can go beyond the simple detection of a bug, for example, and into providing a solution. They also have an innate understanding of how a user will approach and navigate an app. These kinds of unprogrammable reactions and experience mean manual testing best suits:

  • User interface testing;

  • Usability testing;

  • Installation testing;

  • User acceptance testing;

  • Error handling testing; and

  • Security testing.

Yes, the process is undoubtedly more time-and resource-intensive, but there are still product advantages to be achieved from human scrutiny of an app. You can increase your ROI through encouraging a better user experience and greater adoption of your app.

The real problems arise, however, when you want to conduct bulk testing and API integration testing, which is when automation testing is best.

Which Testing is Best, Automation or Manual?

In our view, you should implement automation testing when and wherever you can. However, you should also keep your manual testing options around for the final QA hurdles, when the human element can better relate to the final user experience.

QASource has experience and expertise in both automation and manual testing. We know how to build rugged automated test cases that will give you the best mix of speed and coverage. And we know how and when to apply manual testing to increase your app performance and ROI. Contact us today for a free quote: Email info@qasource.com or call +1.925.271.5555 to get started.


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.