Why manual testing is still necessary

  March 27, 2015

Automated processes are making headway across numerous industries, and software development process has been changed forever thanks to these initiatives. Many teams are exploring how to automate the vast majority of their tests to ensure that repeatable tests are executed while giving quality assurance employees time to complete other tasks.

With all of these benefits, many have asked whether manual testing is still necessary. The resounding answer is yes. While automation is a great asset, we should not be bowing to our computer overlords just yet. There are still a variety of tasks where manual testing must be used.

Program usability

If you need data that's pure numbers, a computer is second to none at doing these types of assignments. Load testing, for example, is often automated for this reason, as automation can quickly generate thousands of shadow users to gauge the program's ability to manage traffic. However, when it comes to other aspects of a program's usability, manual testing reigns supreme.

Automated testing cannot accurately decipher an app from a user's perspective because it's purely made up of preset conditions. Human testers are able to look at the overall picture, evaluating whether a user will have a positive experience with the program. This includes the aesthetic look of the app, ease of navigation and feature functionality.

While automation may not pick up defects in the code, that does not mean that everything will work as expected. If a feature doesn't have certain tools users need to complete their jobs, they are likely to abandon the app for something that has what they're looking for. Manual testers can view things from an employee's perspective and easily pick up on these types of discrepancies, eliminating them before the app's release.

New areas of exploration

It wasn't long ago that smartphones were defining what applications were supposed to look and feel like. While these devices have now become commonplace, there are other examples of mobile hardware that are emerging. Wearables, for example, are being touted as a potential boon for workplace communication and productivity, but it's largely an unexplored area for these diverse applications. For this reason, it'll likely be difficult to establish automated tests that will work from the beginning. Manual testing can reveal how to best approach testing on this hardware and will cost less in the long run than automation processes.

TechTarget contributor Gerie Owen noted that in the case of new trends, field testing will be required, ensuring that the app is tested anywhere and everywhere that users would leverage it. In this instance, manual testing is often much faster to execute. Once an optimal set of tests has been established, QA teams can determine what types of test management tools would be beneficial for this setup and if any cases would be optimal for automation.

Free for changes and analysis

With an automation setup, scripts must be preordained and coded to ensure that the app meets all set conditions. However, these cases must constantly be reviewed so that they are up-to-date on the most current needs and are accounting for any recent changes. This leaves very little wiggle room to complete adjustments quickly.

Manual testing enables QA teams to act on instinct and work on elements immediately. Users can simply look at the code and include an element on an experimental basis. For this case, manual is not only less costly to implement, it could also provide quicker feedback than an automated test.

"When one of those brilliant thoughts comes to you, something that could change the course of the project, you want to be able to work on it immediately," Base36 stated. "With automated testing this is difficult. You have to set up test cases, program it into the automated tool and then run the tests. With manual testing, you can just quickly test and see the results. Automatic tests take more time to set up, which doesn't allow you to test ideas quickly and easily."

While more organizations are pursuing agile environments, this does not mean that they are completely abandoning familiar processes. Manual testing may not be an optimal choice for all cases, but there are some instances where a human evaluator is necessary for maintaining the quality of the program. By understanding manual testing's strengths, QA teams can leverage it more effectively and reap benefits on top of their automation efforts.

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