Manual vs Automated Testing: What’s the Difference?

May 23, 2024

Manual vs Automated Testing What's the Difference

Many will agree that the testing process is the most important part of software development. Between manual testing and automated testing, there has been a long-standing debate on which is better.

Both methods have their own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the choice ultimately depends on the project requirements and resources available.

In this article, we will take a closer look at manual testing vs automated testing to understand their differences and when each approach is most suitable.

What is Manual Testing?

In manual testing, a Quality Assurance (QA) analyst performs all the test cases to detect defects in the software. The analyst also creates the test error reports without using any automation testing tools.

The aim of manual testing is to spot bugs and feature problems before a software application launches. This type of testing relies on the tester’s knowledge and intuition to identify potential problems.

Choosing this software testing process may be the best option for smaller projects with limited time and budget, as it does not require any automation tools or extensive training.

Advantages of Manual Testing

Doing manual tests can have a few advantages:

  • Cost-effective: As mentioned, manual testing is more suitable for smaller projects with limited resources, making it a more cost-effective option.
  • Flexibility: Manual testing allows the tester to alter their approach and test cases based on new or changing requirements, allowing for more flexibility.
  • Human judgment: Humans can detect issues or bugs that may not be caught by automated tests, making manual testing more reliable in some cases.

Challenges of Manual Testing

Manual testing also has some limitations:

  • Time-consuming: Manual testing can be time-consuming, as every test case must be executed one by one by a human tester.
  • Human error: With manual testing, there is always a chance of human error, which can lead to undetected bugs or inconsistencies in the testing process.
  • Limited coverage: Manual testing may not cover all possible scenarios and edge cases, as it relies solely on the tester’s knowledge and experience.

When should you use Manual Testing?

Manual testing is the way to go when you need to tap into cognitive and behavioral skills to test software.

It’s especially great for checking out:

  • Functionalities
  • User Interface (UI)
  • User Experience (UX)
  • How websites and apps behave
  • Features
  • User Acceptance

For the best results in manual testing, a QA analyst needs an eye for detail and a proactive approach. Manual testing can be highly effective when the tester (developer, QA engineer, Product Manager, or Designer) takes a multidimensional approach and understands both technical and business use cases of the website and app.

Remember that emulators and simulators cannot provide real-world conditions for comprehensive software tests. Without real devices, monitoring a website or app’s performance with geolocation, low battery life, incoming calls, and other features is impossible. Whether manual or automated testing, real devices are essential.

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What is Automated Testing?

Automated testing uses tools and scripts to run repetitive test cases automatically. QA analysts write code for automated tests, which are then performed by software tools on the application under test.

The tester creates code/script, which simulates user actions and input data into the system for repetitive tests. Without the intervention of a manual tester, it follows the same set of instructions to run tests, compare actual outcomes with expected results, and report back any discrepancies.

Automation testing is most suitable for large projects with a considerable amount of code, and it helps to reduce human error. It also helps in detecting defects early in the development process, reducing time and cost.

Advantages of Automated Testing

Choosing to do automated testing can have the following advantages:

  • Efficiency: You can run automated tests over and over without lifting a finger, saving time and effort for QA analysts.
  • Greater accuracy: Automation tools are less prone to human error, making them more accurate compared to manual testing.
  • Faster turnaround time: Once you’ve created automated test scripts, you can reuse them for regression testing, ensuring you get consistent results every single time.

Challenges of Automated Testing

Automated testing also has its challenges:

  • Initial cost: Setting up automated tests requires an investment in tools, scripts, and training for the QA team.
  • Maintenance: Automated tests need regular maintenance to keep them up-to-date with changes in the application under test. This can add additional costs and effort.
  • Lack of human judgment: Automated testing cannot detect issues that require human judgment or intuition, making it less reliable in some scenarios.

When should you use Automated Testing?

Between manual and automation testing, automated testing works best when you need to test repetitive and predictable scenarios repeatedly.

It’s also ideal for:

  • Regression Testing
  • Load Testing
  • Integration testing

Automated testing is suitable for projects that require frequent updates or bug fixes, as it helps in detecting issues early on. It can also be useful for projects with a large codebase, as manual testing may not cover all possible scenarios.

Key Differences of Manual Testing vs Automated Testing

In choosing between manual and automated testing, it’s essential to understand their differences to determine which approach is most suitable for your project.

The differences between manual and automated testing can be summarized in the following points:

Test coverage

One of the biggest perks of automated testing is the increased test coverage compared to manual testing.

With manual testing, the number of tests you can run is limited by the tester’s time and resources. Thus, it is not ideal when testing large and complex scenarios. To exhibit the best results, manual testing should be used to perform:

  • Exploratory testing
  • Usability testing
  • Ad-hoc testing

On the flip side, automated testing lets you run way more tests in a shorter period, covering more scenarios.

Automation testing should be used to perform the following:

  • Regression testing
  • Load testing
  • Performance testing
  • Repeated execution

Plus, with automated tools, testers can spend more time creating new, optimized tests to add to the automated test suite.

Test cycle time

Every project has a timeline, and software testing may take up a significant portion of the project schedule. So, it is essential to consider the time required for testing when choosing between manual and automated testing.

Manual tests are time-consuming and take more time to complete a testing cycle, requiring meticulous effort and attention to detail. Consequently, the turnaround time is higher, often leading to delays in identifying and addressing issues, which can impact project timelines and overall productivity.

On the other hand, automated tests are faster and require less manual intervention, making the test cycle time shorter. This faster turnaround time can be beneficial in detecting and fixing issues early on, saving valuable time and resources in the long run.


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Scalability refers to the ability to expand or adjust a system’s capacity to meet changing needs. In terms of testing, scalability is essential as it helps handle an increasing number of tests as the project evolves.

Manual testing work is not scalable, as it requires a large number of testers to handle an increased workload. As the number of test cases increases, the time and resources needed to complete testing also increase.

However, automation testing can easily handle a growing number of test cases without adding more testers, making it highly scalable. It can easily manage large-scale testing with top-notch efficiency.

[Also read: Load Testing Mobile Apps: How to Do It?]

Cost and time

Budgets and deadlines are crucial considerations for any project. Choosing between manual and automation testing will inevitably impact the project’s cost and timeline.

Manual testing can be less expensive upfront as it requires fewer resources, such as skilled manual testers. However, it can become costly over time, especially for large projects with a considerable number of test cases.

With automation testing, the upfront cost may be higher due to the need for automation tools and a skilled testing team to write code. But, in the long run, it can save time and resources, making it more cost-effective.

Accuracy and reliability

A successful software testing process depends on the accuracy and reliability of the results obtained from testing. In this aspect, automated testing has a clear advantage over manual testing.

Manual testing is prone to human errors, leading to inaccurate and inconsistent results. For instance, a manual tester may overlook a critical bug during testing, resulting in its deployment into production.

In contrast, automated testing is more accurate and reliable as it follows a predefined set of instructions and removes the risk of errors caused by human intervention. Though it is highly accurate, automation testing cannot entirely replace manual testing, especially when it comes to exploratory testing and usability testing.

Documentation and test reports

Automated and manual testing provides different levels of documentation and test report formats.

Manual testing usually involves more detailed reports, usually recorded in an Excel sheet or other templates. Manual testers take time to complete the reports, and they are not readily available. As such, manual testing is not ideal for fast-paced projects where decisions need to be made quickly.

On the other hand, automated testing generates reports automatically and in real-time, providing instant visibility into test results. Developers can view test reports on a dashboard or through automated testing tools, making it easier to track and fix issues promptly.

Human judgment

Test cases are designed based on requirements and specifications. However, human judgment plays a crucial role in determining which test scenarios to include and prioritize in testing.

Manual testing explicitly relies on human judgment, where testers’ programming knowledge and intuition come into play in identifying potential issues. They can also modify test cases on the fly, depending on the feedback from testing results, making manual testing more flexible in adapting to changing requirements.

In contrast, automation testing is based on writing test scripts based on predefined requirements and scenarios. Though automation tools can detect issues, they are limited to the test cases programmed into them. Thus, human judgment is still necessary to determine which test cases to automate and adjust accordingly.

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What to Choose? Manual or Automated Tests?

Both manual and automation testing have their advantages and limitations, making them suitable for different scenarios.

[Also read: What is End-to-End Testing? A Deep Dive into Securing Your Software]

Depending on the requirements of your project, choosing the right type of testing can optimize your software development process and deliver high-quality products.

But you should not limit your choice to one type of testing. Instead, a combination of manual and automation testing can provide the best results!

This hybrid approach allows testers to leverage the benefits of both methods while minimizing their limitations. Manual testing offers the advantage of human intuition, creativity, and the ability to uncover unexpected bugs that automated scripts might miss. On the other hand, automated testing excels at executing repetitive tasks quickly and accurately, which significantly reduces the time spent on regression testing.

Training manual testers to write automation test scripts or using codeless automation testing tools can bridge the gap between manual and automated testing. By equipping manual testers with skills in automation, teams can foster more collaboration and flexibility, ultimately improving the overall efficiency of the testing process.

Overall, manual testing is still important. However, adding automated testing makes manual tests much more efficient.

Hire QA Developers from StarTechUP!

Whether you choose automation testing, manual testing, or a combination of both, having a skilled and experienced QA team is crucial to ensure the quality of your software products.

At StarTechUP, we offer a highly efficient team of QA engineers to help you deliver high-quality software that meets your business goals. Our experts have experience in various testing methodologies and tools to provide comprehensive testing solutions tailored to your specific needs.

For web development, native mobile app development, or custom software development projects, trust StarTechUP to deliver exceptional results with our top-notch QA services.

Contact us today and let us help you achieve your software development objectives with our reliable QA services!

About the author: Andrea Jacinto - Content Writer

A content writer with a strong SEO background, Andrea has been working with digital marketers from different fields to create optimized articles which are informative, digestible, and fun to read. Now, she's writing for StarTechUP to deliver the latest developments in tech to readers around the world. View on Linkedin