Manual Testing Vs Automated Testing: What’s the Difference?

Diana Ipacs

September 8, 2023

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Manual testing vs automated testing: Understand which method best suits your software testing needs. Common myths and an FAQ section included!


Manual Testing Vs Automated Testing

Ensuring the quality and reliability of a product through testing is an integral step in the development process. Testing allows software teams to identify and correct potential flaws before they reach the end-users, which safeguards user experience and trust. A rigorous testing regimen also shows a company's commitment to quality, which reinforces its credibility in the market. A product full of bugs won't delight anyone, but a thoroughly tested, bug-free version just might!

To make sure the product meets expectations and requirements, developers and testers have two principal approaches at their disposal: manual testing and automated testing.

Manual testing leverages human intuition and adaptability and excels in usability and exploratory scenarios. Automated testing, on the other hand, provides speed and repeatability, ideal for repetitive and large-scale tasks. Both methods serve unique purposes in software testing.

In this article, we’re going to shine some light on the differences between the two. Let's address common misconceptions and answer some frequently asked questions concerning the differences between manual testing and automated testing!

  1. 1
    Efficiency: Based on project needs, one approach may be more time-saving and cost-effective than the other.
  2. 2
    Precision: Some testing scenarios require exact repeatability, while others need human intuition.
  3. 3
    Skillset: The choice between manual and automated testing may also depend on the skill set of the testing team.
  4. 4
    Resource Allocation: Depending on the testing method, companies may need to allocate resources differently.
Manual testing vs automated testing – Bluebird Blog

The Key Differences Between Manual and Automated Testing

Key differences

Manual testing

Automated testing

Nature of Execution

Test cases are executed by human testers, requiring human observation and intuition.

Testing is done using scripts and automation tools, allowing for script reuse.


Usually slower due to dependency on human pace.

Faster, especially for repetitive tasks or regression tests.


May be less expensive initially but can become costly with repeated manual tests.

Has a higher initial setup cost but can be cost-effective in the long run.


More prone to errors due to human oversight.

Less error-prone when set up correctly but may miss issues not covered by scripts.


Easier to adjust in dynamic or changing environments.

Requires script modifications for every test scenario change.


Better suited for exploratory, usability, and ad-hoc testing scenarios.

Ideal for large-scale regression testing, load testing, and repeated test scenarios.

How to Choose Between Manual and Automated Testing

The decision to employ manual or automated testing—or a combination of both—is influenced by various factors rooted in the software development process. Let's see some of these:

Specific Phase of the Development Lifecycle

  1. 1
    Early Phases (Requirements and Design): In these stages, the application is still taking shape, and the requirements might change. Manual exploratory testing can be beneficial as it allows testers to understand the application and identify unanticipated issues.
  2. 2
    Development Phase: As features are developed, automated unit tests are often created by developers to make sure individual components work as intended.
  3. 3
    Integration Phase: Automated integration tests can verify that different components of the application work harmoniously together.
  4. 4
    System and Acceptance Phases: Here, a combination of methods might be used. Automated tests ensure regression issues haven't cropped up, while manual tests could be used for user acceptance and to evaluate the software's usability from an end-user perspective.

Nature of the Application

  1. 1
    Web vs. Desktop: While both can use manual and automated testing, web applications often employ automation tools designed for browser compatibility checks, and desktop applications might need specific tools tailored to the OS.
  2. 2
    Data-Intensive Applications: In scenarios where vast amounts of data need to be processed, automated tests can efficiently handle repetitive checks.
  3. 3
    User Interface-Centric Applications: For apps where user experience is paramount, such as mobile games or design software, manual testing is essential to gauge the human experience.

Project's Objectives

  1. 1
    Time-to-Market: If the goal is a rapid launch, then automation can expedite the testing process, especially for regression and load testing.
  2. 2
    Budget Constraints: Projects with tight budgets might initially lean towards manual testing. However, if the application is expected to undergo multiple iterations over time, investing in automation upfront can be cost-effective in the long run.
  3. 3
    Quality Assurance: For mission-critical applications, like those in healthcare or aviation, exhaustive testing using both manual and automated methods is required.

As you can see, the decision between manual and automated testing isn't black and white. It's a strategic choice shaped by where the software is in its development journey, what it aims to achieve, and the nature of the application itself.

Myths About Manual and Automated Testing

1. "Automated Testing Replaces Manual Testing"

While automation can handle repetitive tasks efficiently, there are aspects of testing that machines can't replicate. For instance, evaluating an application's user-friendliness or design intuitiveness requires human insight. Therefore, manual and automated testing are complementary, with each approach having its unique strengths.

2. "Automated Testing is Always Faster"

At first glance, automated tests seem to blaze through tasks that would take humans significantly longer. However, the process of writing, debugging, and maintaining these automated scripts requires time and expertise. Additionally, when applications undergo changes, these scripts might need extensive revisions, further adding to the time factor.

3. "Manual Testing is Outdated"

The notion that manual testing is a relic of the past is a misrepresentation. As technology evolves, the value of human intuition and experience in understanding user behavior becomes even more critical. Especially when assessing user experience or conducting exploratory testing, the human touch remains irreplaceable.

4. "Every Test Should Be Automated"

While automation can boost efficiency, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Tests that are short-lived, specific to a single incident, or those that undergo frequent modifications might not be the best candidates for automation. The effort required to automate might outweigh the benefits in such cases.

5. "Automation Guarantees Quality"

While automated tests excel at catching regressions and executing predefined scenarios, they operate strictly within their programming confines. This means they might overlook unanticipated issues, unique edge cases, or visual glitches—areas where a human tester's observation and discretion prove invaluable.

The moral of the story? You need to strike a balance between manual and automated testing to leverage the best of both worlds to ensure software quality.

Frequently Asked Questions About Manual Testing Vs Automated Testing

1. Can one project use both manual and automated testing?

Absolutely. In fact, most projects benefit from employing a mix of both methodologies. By doing so, teams can harness the efficiency and repeatability of automation for certain tasks while leveraging the adaptability and intuition of manual testing for others, resulting in comprehensive coverage.

2. Which is more reliable: Manual vs automated testing?

Both manual and automated testing serve distinct purposes and have their own strengths. Automated testing provides a consistent, repeatable process that can efficiently handle repetitive tasks, ensuring that previously tested functionalities still work after changes.

On the other hand, manual testing taps into human judgment and intuition, which can be crucial for gauging user experience and addressing unforeseen scenarios.

3. Do I need specialized personnel for automated testing?

Yes, automated testing does demand specific expertise. Personnel skilled in automated testing are familiar with scripting languages, understand the intricacies of various automation tools, and can design test scripts to address different testing scenarios effectively. They also need to keep up-to-date with advancing technologies to maximize testing efficiency.

4. Can automation detect visual issues like misalignments or color mismatches?

Automation tools are primarily designed to follow a predefined set of actions and checks.

While there are tools specialized for visual testing that can spot differences in screen layouts, they might not always capture the subtleties or context. Manual testers are often better suited for catching visual discrepancies or assessing the visual appeal of an interface.

5. Is manual testing becoming obsolete with advanced automation tools emerging?

While automation tools continue to advance and offer impressive capabilities, manual testing is still just as important. The human element allows for adaptability, context-aware decision-making, and a deep understanding of user behavior.

As technologies advance, there will always be scenarios where the nuanced approach of a human tester is needed.

6. How do the learning curves for manual vs automated testing compare?

Manual testing often requires domain knowledge and an understanding of the application's end-users, but doesn't necessarily demand coding skills. Automated testing, however, necessitates technical know-how, especially in scripting and mastering the tools (which can have a steeper learning curve).

7. In what scenarios is the ROI/ return on investment for automated testing higher than manual testing?

Automated testing generally offers a higher ROI in situations where tests are repetitive, need to be executed frequently, or when dealing with large and complex applications. This is because, once set up, automated tests can be run multiple times without incurring extra costs, whereas manual tests would require human effort each time.

8. Which testing method is more scalable: Manual or automated?

In terms of sheer scalability, especially for repetitive tasks, automated testing has the edge. It can run a multitude of tests simultaneously, especially when paired with cloud solutions, while manual testing would require a proportional increase in human resources for scaling.

We hope you enjoyed our article on the differences between manual testing and automated testing.

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