Is Manual Software Testing Becoming Obsolete?

2021-08-04 by Laura Vasquez

Testing is part and parcel of the development process, and it could arguably be the most important aspect because of the role it plays in shaping the final product.

In the past, a manual approach to testing reigned supreme, but now with automated alternatives available, some are heralding the death of manual testing. So is this really the case, or will manual testing remain relevant even in an age of automation?

Automated testing makes a lot of sense

There are a whole host of reasons why test automation is growing in popularity and reshaping how developers plot out their projects.

Firstly, test automation platforms like TestProject.io are making it far more accessible than it has ever been, bringing down the barrier to entry and meaning that even smaller-scale developers can justify taking the plunge without having to worry about spiraling costs.

Secondly, the emergence of cloud-powered automated testing solutions has also alleviated a lot of the issues with both efficiency and accessibility, meaning that even globally dispersed teams can collaborate on creating and deploying tests while allowing remote data centers to do the heavy lifting.

Finally, there is the increased accuracy and repeatability that test automation innately offers. While manual testing carried out by flesh and blood testers can be prone to human error, no such pitfalls exist when everything is automated. And since testers themselves are aware that they could be in a precarious position, there is the increased prospect of unforced errors.

There are limits to keep in mind

So far it might sound like there is little hope for manual testing, and that the doom-mongers are right in predicting its impending downfall. However, there is a bigger picture to appreciate and some aspects of the testing process which automation cannot currently handle.

Perhaps most significantly, you can only really use automation to look for expected errors; those that you can predict and anticipate, but might not be able to pinpoint particularly quickly under your own steam. Errors in the way that code has been written, for example, are ideally weeded out with automated testing, because there are set parameters for what can be looked for.

On the other hand, manual testing is still unbeatable when it comes to identifying issues that you might not have thought of, or might not be able to express and quantify in a way that automated services can interpret. If the design and functionality of a project is not up to scratch, this could be something that a human tester picks up on almost immediately, but which automated testing software would not actually flag if it was the sole solution in use.

This all comes down to the idea that at the end of the day, most software apps are being created with the intention of appealing to people as the end-users. So even if a project is able to tick all the boxes from a test automation perspective, it will not be ready for release if it falls short of the expectations held by users.

A blended approach will work best

By now you might think that things have swung back in favor of manual testing, and that test automation is certain to remain a niche interest, but again this really is something of a false dichotomy. In reality, the future of testing lies somewhere between the two.

Many developers are embracing a hybrid approach that makes use of manual testing in conjunction with automation to get the best of both worlds.

For test automation to work at its best, you first need testers to work out what problems have to be sought out so that the test can be created and automated. Then there are those conundrums that test automation simply cannot detect, as discussed earlier; human team members will have to look out for user interface issues, accessibility concerns, odd color pallet clashes, and so on, meaning that their role is preserved.

Ultimately it is all about melding manual and automatic testing to ensure that QA teams are able to work more efficiently and avoid a lot of the more tedious and time-consuming tasks that they used to have to do by hand, and instead focus on the more interesting aspects of troubleshooting during development.

Aside from the efficiency benefits, this should also make sure that developers are able to build apps that are more robust and reliable right from day one of launch, and also to implement more phases of testing without extending the development timeframe.

Wrapping up

There is no doubt that automation is resulting in some upheaval, not only in software testing but across many industries.

However, digging a little deeper reveals that the best way to leverage these technologies is in conjunction with a human workforce, so manual testing is definitely going to be an asset for the foreseeable future.

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