Manual vs Automated Testing: Definitions, Differences and Benefits


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Praise Iwuh

June 16, 2023

When software testing is mentioned, it is usually followed by the testing method or approach, which is typically one of Manual or Automation testing. Both of these methods have their strengths and limitations, and finding the right balance between manual and automated testing is essential for effective quality assurance. In this article, we explore their definitions, differences, benefits, and challenges.

What you will learn:

  • What is Manual Testing?
  • How does Manual Testing Work?
  • Benefits of Manual Testing
  • Challenges of Manual Testing
  • What is Automation Testing?
  • How does Automation Testing Work?
  • Benefits of Automation Testing
  • Challenges of Automation Testing
  • Manual Testing vs Automated Testing – Major Differences

Manual Testing

The Manual testing process uses human testers to execute test cases, observe software's behaviour, and identify potential errors or defects. It depends on human judgment, intuition and domain knowledge to simulate real-world scenarios and assess software functionalities. Manual testing involves various testing techniques, such as functional testing, user interface testing, usability testing, regression testing, and exploratory testing.

In software development, manual testing is valuable for quality assurance. It leverages the power of human expertise, guile, and resilience to analyse software applications thoroughly.

How does Manual Testing Work?

Manual testing typically follows a sequence of the following steps:

Test Planning and Strategy

The process starts with a thorough analysis of requirements, specifications, and use cases to devise a detailed and complete test plan. Your testing strategy should define clear objectives, prioritise test cases, and establish effective stakeholder communication channels.

Test Case Design

To progress after test planning, the engineers design test cases that cover all functional requirements, edge cases, and boundary conditions. For these test cases to be effective, they must be easily understandable, well-documented, containing clear steps for execution.

Test Execution and Defect Reporting

Here the testing proper takes place. This phase sees careful execution of test cases, recording of observations, and detailed documentation of all identified defects. The documented report can also include steps to reproduce and supporting artefacts for developers to understand and fix the issues.

Test Documentation

Documentation is a valuable resource for future reference and consistency in testing efforts. Test documentation consists of the entire process of test cases, test results, and test environments.

Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration between testers, developers, and stakeholders is the difference between effective software quality assurance. They regularly share test results, discuss findings, and address concerns to ensure a unified understanding of the product's quality.

Benefits of Manual Testing

Flexibility and Adaptability

One of the significant advantages of manual testing is its inherent flexibility. Testers can adapt to changes in requirements, explore unexpected scenarios, and modify test cases on the fly. This agility ensures comprehensive test coverage and the ability to catch even the most elusive defects.

Exploratory Testing

Manual testing allows testers to go beyond predefined test cases and explore the software from a user's perspective. This approach enables the discovery of hidden defects, usability issues, and other unforeseen challenges that automated testing might overlook.

User Experience Evaluation 

Human testers can evaluate user experience, intuitiveness, and overall satisfaction. By directly interacting with the software, they can provide subjective feedback, helping organisations create user-centric applications.

Domain Expertise

Manual testing relies on testers' deep domain knowledge and experience. This expertise allows them to understand the intricacies of the software, anticipate potential issues, and provide valuable insights for improvement.

Challenges of Manual Testing

While manual testing offers numerous benefits, it is essential to address some inherent challenges:

Time and Resource Constraints

Manual testing can be time-consuming, particularly when handling large-scale projects with tight deadlines. Adequate planning and resource allocation are crucial to ensure efficient testing efforts.

Human Error

Manual testing is susceptible to human error, including oversight of defects or inaccuracies in test execution. Testers must maintain vigilance, employ proper techniques, and seek peer reviews to minimise the risk of errors.

Repetitive Tasks

Testers may find executing repetitive test cases monotonous and tedious, increasing the likelihood of oversight. Identifying opportunities for automation or adopting a hybrid testing approach can alleviate this challenge.

Automation Testing

The introduction of Automation testing revolutionised the software development industry, opening the door to higher efficiency, accuracy, and quality in software testing processes. Automation testing uses software tools and frameworks to execute test cases automatically, analyse results and outcomes, and generate detailed reports. It relieves testers of repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as regression testing or high-volume test cases like stress testing. Automation testing can be applied across various levels of the testing pyramid, including unit testing, integration testing, and system testing.

How does Automation Testing Work?

The best practices for Automation testing typically follows:

Test Case Selection

Automation testing is suitable for repetitive, time-consuming, and stable test cases, and the first step is to choose them, starting with core functionalities, critical scenarios, and high-impact areas to ensure maximum ROI from automation efforts.

Test Framework Design

Here, the testers design a scalable and maintainable test automation framework, with consideration to factors like modularity, reusability, data-driven capabilities, and robust error-handling mechanisms. This framework provides flexibility for easy test maintenance and updating.

Test Data Management 

Efficient management of test data ensures easy configuration and maintenance. Testers utilise data-driven testing approaches to execute test cases with different data sets, covering a wide range of scenarios.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Testing

Integration of automation testing with CI/CD pipelines ensures regular test execution. This involves automating tests as part of the build and deployment process, providing instant feedback on the quality of each software iteration.

Test Maintenance

Regular updating and maintenance of automation scripts take place as the software evolves, keeping track of changes in requirements, application updates, and potential impacts on existing test cases. It ensures the accuracy and reliability of automated tests.

Benefits of Automation Testing:

Efficiency and Speed

Automation testing significantly reduces the time and effort required for executing test cases. Automated tests can be executed faster and repeatedly, enabling organisations to achieve faster release cycles and rapid feedback on software quality.

Increased Test Coverage

With automation testing, a vast number of test cases can be executed simultaneously or in parallel. This capability ensures extensive test coverage, including edge cases, multiple configurations, and diverse data sets.

Consistency and Reliability

Automation tools perform tests consistently and precisely, eliminating the risk of human error and ensuring reliable test results. The automation framework follows predefined steps and checks, providing a consistent baseline for evaluating software functionality.

Regression Testing

Regression testing involves retesting previously validated functionalities after changes and is a perfect fit for automation. Automation testing allows for quick and comprehensive regression testing, ensuring that existing features continue to work as expected.


Automation testing is highly scalable, capable of handling large-scale testing efforts, and supporting continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices. It can accommodate high test cases, making it ideal for complex and enterprise-level software applications.

Challenges of Automation Testing:

While automation testing offers numerous benefits, organisations should consider the following factors:

Initial Investment

Automation testing requires an initial investment in tools, infrastructure, and training which may be incovenient.

Test Suitability

Not all test cases are suitable for automation. Complex scenarios, UI testing requiring human evaluation, or ad hoc exploratory testing may still require manual intervention. Organisations must evaluate the suitability of test cases for automation.

Test Stability

Automated tests rely on stable software builds. Automation may be less effective if the application undergoes frequent changes or is in the early development stages, and manual testing may be more appropriate.

Manual vs Automation Testing: Major Differences

Without the hassle of a table, we've broken down the main differences between manual and automated testing here:


Manual testing is done manually by a Quality Assurance analyst (human), while automated testing is done with the use of script, code, and automation tools (computer) by a tester.


The manual testing process is not as accurate because of the possibility of human errors, whereas the automation process is reliable because it is code and script-based.


Manual testing is a time-consuming process. On the other hand, automated testing is incredibly faster.

Programming knowledge

Manual testing is possible without programming knowledge, but automation testing tools require programming knowledge.

Exploratory Testing

Manual testing allows random or spontaneous testing, while automation testing doesn’t.

Final Thoughts

The conversation between manual and automation testing is not about choosing one over the other but rather understanding how they complement each other in the software testing process. Manual testing brings human intuition, adaptability, and user-centric evaluation, while automation testing offers efficiency, scalability, and repeatable execution, and they are best used in tandem with each other. By leveraging the strengths of both approaches, you can achieve comprehensive test coverage, faster feedback, and higher software quality. The key lies in selecting the right mix of manual and automation testing based on project requirements, resources, and the evolving needs of the software development lifecycle.

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