What is Automated Testing?

As most people in the software industry know, there are distinct differences between manual testing and automated testing. Manual testing requires physical time and effort to ensure the software code does everything it’s supposed to do. In addition, manual testers have to make a record of their findings. This involves checking log files, external services and the database for errors. If you’re familiar with manual testing, you know this process can be extremely time-consuming and repetitive.

The fundamental difference between manual and automated testing is straightforward. With manual testing, a human is responsible for single-handedly testing the functionality of the software in the way a user would. Automated testing is done through an automation tool, so more time can be spent on higher value tasks, such as exploratory tests while automating time-consuming tests, such as regression tests.  While you do need spend time maintaining test scripts overall, you will increase your test coverage and scalability. 

The benefit of manual testing is that it allows a human mind to draw insights from a test that might otherwise be missed by test automation. Automated testing is well-suited for large projects, projects that require testing the same areas over and over, and projects that have already been through an initial manual testing process. For more details on which tests you should automate, see here.

Implementing a Test Automation Strategy

The move to agile has led many teams to adopt a pyramid testing strategy. The test automation pyramid strategy calls for automating tests at three different levels. Unit testing represents the base and biggest percentage of this test automation pyramid. Next comes, service layer, or API testing. And finally, GUI tests sit at the top. The pyramid looks something like this:


Integrated GUI and API testing solutions like TestComplete can make the process of implementing a test automation pyramid easier as it ensures changes made to the API test cases are automatically reflected at the GUI level as well. 

Who should be involved with test automation?

Testing in these short Agile iterations often necessitates a “shift left” approach. This shift left in agile development process means testing starts much earlier in the application lifecycle. As a result, in such an approach, developers with strong technical expertise are increasingly being held accountable for testing, and thus, they often work alongside testers to create test automation frameworks.

When evaluating a testing solution, it’s important to have a tool that fits the needs of all of the different team members who will be involved in the testing process. These include:

  • Manual testers: Record and replay is crucial for manual testers, especially those who are new to automation. Being able to use the same recorded script with variety of input data can come in handy while identifying and fixing problems across multiple environments.
  • Automation engineers: For automation engineers, robust support for scripting languages, integrations with CI systems, and the ability to scale tests easily could be important.
  • Developers: Implement testing into the development process requires the ability to conduct tests within IDEs such as Eclipse and Visual Studio.

Common Misconceptions About Test Automation

Now that we’ve provided an introduction to test automation, how it works, and who should be involved, let’s take a closer look at some common misconceptions about test automation:

  1. Automation will provide you with more free time

    The misconception that test automation will give you more free time is both true and false. In manual testing, most of the time is devoted to exploratory and functional testing where you would manually search for errors. Once that process is complete, the manual tester must repeatedly go through the same steps over again. With automated testing, that time is cut drastically. The work for automated testers is instead spent coding the tests and making improvements to these tests repeatedly as adjustments are needed. Once the test is complete, however, automated testing allows for the recycled use of tests so that they do not have to go through this whole process again. The time spent on the highly repeatable tasks a manual tester would go through is instead spent focusing on larger, more important issues involving the software you’re developing. 

  2. The Cost of Automated Testing is Too High

    At first, the investment in automated testing might seem cost prohibitive, especially if you’re a smaller company. But analysis has shown that, over time, automated testing pays for itself.

    Automated testing frees you up to focus on larger issues such as customer needs, functionality and improvements. Automated testing also reduces the cost and need for multiple code revisions, so over the course of time, the investment pays out. In addition, each time the source code is modified, the software tests can be repeated. Manually repeating these tests is costly and time-consuming, but automated tests can be run over and over again at no additional cost. An additional way to see ROI for your automated testing is with parallel testing. Rather than running individual tests one after the other, parallel testing enables you to run multiple automated tests at the same time. This dramatically cuts down on the time it takes you to execute your automated tests. 

  3. Automated Testing is Better Than Manual Testing

    The reality is, there is no “better” or “worse” in the automated vs. manual debate, there’s just “different.” Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. Manual testing is performed by a human sitting in front of a computer carefully going through application via SQL and log analysis, trying various usage and input combinations, comparing the results to the expected behavior and recording the results. Automated testing is often used after the initial software has been developed. Lengthy tests that are often avoided during manual testing can be run unattended. They can even be run on multiple computers with different configurations.

    In the end, both manual and automated testing have their roles, especially if the software you’re developing is too large and too complex to rely just on the manual approach.

  4. Automated Testing Inhibits Human Interaction

    Another common misconception about automated testing is that it undermines human interaction. In all honesty, automated testing is more clear-cut and faster than what humans could do without suffering extensive human errors, so this misconception is understandable. That said, products like TestComplete are designed to facilitate a collaborative approach by including features that allow co-workers to go through a piece of test coding and comment on the script. 

    This doesn’t replace the face-to-face communication that’s a necessary part of software development. Instead, it enhances that aspect by providing another channel through which to communicate. Think of it this way – email didn’t replace the telephone; it was just an additional tool that could be used to communicate. The same holds true with tools like TestComplete by SmartBear – they’re not replacements for face-to-face communication as much as they’re ways to improve communication. 

Getting Started with Automated Testing

Building a successful automated testing strategy is tough and the approach will vary on a team-by-team basis. No team is completely identical to another. Some may consist of more manual testers than automation engineers, while some may have shifted left and depend on developers to do the heavy lifting. Budget, deadlines, application type, and development model are all factors that impact how an automated testing strategy should outlined be implemented.

Automated Testing with TestComplete

With tools like TestComplete, the evolution from manual to automated testing does not have to be difficult. By allowing you to see every action you make, either while generating test code or in administering tests, manual testers can see exactly where to make adjustments while they’re learning. After using automated testing tools and techniques, manual testing has proven to be an effective way of double-checking the software to make sure there is no stone left unturned. In that sense, manual and automated testing go hand-in-hand and, when used properly, can ensure that the final product is as good as it can be.