There are two approaches to software testing: manual, where humans perform tests, and automated, where test engineers write code and tests are done by computers.
Over the past decade, test automation has become very popular, and many testing tasks have been fully automated. It’s not surprising because automated tests can deal with repetitive tasks very well, they’re more cost-effective in the long run and they can ensure better test coverage.
According to PractiTest's State of Testing Report, only 11% of respondents stated that their company didn’t use test automation at all. With 75% saying that they used test automation for functional or regression testing, and 49% reported that they used it for load and stress tests.
With these trends in mind, many people start to question whether or not manual testing is still necessary, if manual testing roles will be around in five years, and if test automation tools will replace people soon.
The answer is, manual testing is still vital in the world of testing and roles in this field will still be around for years to come. Here are ten reasons why manual testing still plays a critical role in the QA process.
1. Manual testing is necessary when evaluating the end-user’s experience
Usability and user experience are the first things that come to mind when we talk about the importance of manual testing.
The human eye is irreplaceable when it comes to evaluating the first impression of an app, when you need to look at the aesthetics of an app, and when you need to judge if the interface is easy to use.
Only manual testers can look at the overall picture and accurately tell if users will have a positive experience when using the product.
2. Manual testing is more cost-effective for small projects
Automation tools are expensive. Their setup and maintenance costs are considerably high. So, if you’re working on a big long-term project, then such an investment is worth it.
However, if your application is small and simple, and there’s not much functionality to check, manual testing is a much cheaper option.
3. It’s better to test minor changes manually
Automated tests can indeed save a tremendous amount of time for a QA team.
However, it takes ages to prepare and set up the testing environment, and writing scripts is a lengthy process. Plus, each change to the app means that you have to amend the test scripts, which adds more time to the whole testing process.
That’s why when testers need to test a slight modification, and have no ready-to-use automated tests in their library, manual testing is a better option. It’s less expensive to implement and it can provide quick feedback to developers.
4. Manual testers can quickly reproduce customer-caught errors
Although every company does its best to fix all bugs before releasing a product, some issues are only discovered by end-users. It’s much easier to manually test these customer-caught errors because testers can quickly replicate the problem, and can describe it to developers, so that they can find a solution quickly.
5. Some scenarios are easier to test manually
No matter how sophisticated modern automated tools are, they can't imitate human movement with enough precision. So, when you need to test how an application reacts to swipe or tap gestures, it makes much more sense to assign the task to a manual tester.
6. Automated tests cannot find all errors
Automated tests can only find errors that they are programmed to look out for. Unlike humans, an automated testing tool will never deviate from a predefined scenario because it’s curious. An automated test won’t think about things like, "What would happen if a user does this?" for example.
So, by using manual exploratory testing, where testers are not limited by strict test scripts, testers can ensure that all issues are fixed before releasing an application.
During this type of testing, QA professionals can follow their instincts to discover bugs in the least expected and previously unconsidered places.
7. Automated testing scripts can contain errors
Another thing people often forget is that test automation is not 100% accurate. Like any other piece of code, automated test scripts can have bugs. And sometimes, those bugs cause serious mistakes.
For example, working features can be declared as malfunctioning and vice versa. That is why manual testing of an app's core functionality is necessary, this will ensure that the product is of extremely high quality.
8. Manual testing can be done on all kinds of applications and devices
There are many apps and devices whose functionality is hard to evaluate with automated tests: fitness trackers, biosensors, location trackers, motion sensors or smart clothing.
So, when it comes to testing such devices, manual testers can do a much better job mimicking real-life conditions and situations.
Take a health tracker, for instance, why would you create a computer program to test if it reads a heart rate correctly, a manual tester can check it just by wearing the device for a while.
9. Manual testing positions are easier to fill
No matter how advanced an automation tool is, it still requires a human to maintain it. Qualified test automation engineers are in high demand and are usually expensive to hire.
Manual testing, on the other hand, does not require coding skills and is relatively easy to learn. People who are also looking to start a career in tech often choose it as an entry point into the industry. For companies, this means that manual testing positions are way easier and less expensive to fill.
10. Testing needs variation
Successful testing involves two factors: repetition and variation. Although automated testing can take care of repetition very well, it lacks human creativity and intuition. So, it is a manual tester’s job to add variation to the testing tasks.
Test automation can never fully replace manual testing. It compliments it because it frees testers up from tedious tasks, and it allows them to focus on more valuable work. Using both manual and automated testing will yield the best kind of results.