Thursday, August 4, 2016

Manual Testing, The Art That Cannot Be Lost

Manual testing that is very important in a company that is often time overlooked. As both a manual tester and someone who loves automation testing, I think it gives me a certain perspective on both. Manual testing is tiresome, costly and takes a very certain personality to be good at. Automation testing is costly, tiresome and let's face it you will miss things in automation. So from my description of both you see that each has it’s cons.

To start let us talk about cost. Each is costly, but each is costly in different ways. Manual testing is costly because for every development team of four there should be at least one manual tester. That means hiring more people, which is expensive. Automation testing cuts the cost of manpower by almost 400% you only need one automation tester for every 16 developers, but they is also a certain level of skill required for automation testing that requires you to pay the testers more. Both are costly just in there own way.

Then you look at tiresome. If you have ever stared at a screen all day, it is kind of boring. As well as you lose interest in what you are doing meaning your productivity goes down. That is downside to manual testing is that it is tiresome to go through the same product over and over again looking for different things. On the flip side to be an automation tester is tiresome because all they do all day is find things that haven’t been automated and write a test scenario for that particular case. So both are tiresome in different ways.

So in manual testing, it takes a very specific personality to be good at because you are the bearer of bad news and you will hardly ever get recognized for what you do. To programmers you seem like the bringer of death because all you tell them is that there is a major bug here and this part does not look right, or things don’t function like they are supposed to. This can be a hard way to live for a lot of people, hence why I say you need a very specific personality.

A person is not perfect. Therefore, a person will not write perfect code, they will miss something when testing, and they will miss something in automation testing. On that note I think when you miss something when automating testing it is a bigger deal. When you are writing a automation test all the manual testers now stop testing that because it is supposed to be tested. Well, because you are human, you will miss something in the automation therefore everyone will miss it. Whereas if you miss something in manual testing it will most likely get caught at most the next time around. I know that this is an opinion, but I feel that it is a pretty backed of conclusion.

In the End, there are costs, not just monetary, on either side of the equation. The absolute best thing is to have a combination of both. If you do that you greatly reduce the risk of missing something. When it is all said and done you want the best experience for your customers, and to do that you should implement exploratory/first look testing by manual testers which are then converted into automated tests. That way you get the most coverage of your product/website.


  1. Not a bad post and line of thought. But I will disagree with you on the ratio data, it all depends on your circumstances. There really isn't a magic ratio number of dev to test staff, and it doesn't matter if it is manual or automation. You staff according to needs, but you use automation as a way to get efficiency gains. And even then the amount of efficiency gain varies, again not magic number. Also, automation doesn't mean you will reduce staff in manual testing side. Don't let people think that because then you put your automation people into a world of hurt by painting them into a corner. False expectations are the number 1 killer of automation projects.

    Now your statements about cost are on target, not a complete bull's-eye but damn close. Both are costly to do, and those costs are in different areas/aspects of the work. But it is how you manage it all and leverage both sides that allow you to get cost control (not reduction) in place. As your efficiency starts to go up then you spend your money more effectively, and that is where you see benefit. You are not hemorrhaging money, and that makes management happy. Also, with automation once it is really running right then you get quicker feedback to people in the overall cycle and that helps to reduce rework time. Which is a way to control cost. Both manual and automation have upfront costs that are high, but once things are going and you become more efficient at it all then you get benefit. This is Risk Management, which is the real goal of Testing. Minimize the impacts of risk so that everyone benefits.

    Finally, you're correct. It does take a certain type of personality/person to do this work. But if you are good at it it can be rewarding both personally/professionally as well as monetarily. That's my opinion, and I've been at this for the last 29 years, of which 25 has been working with automation.


    Jim Hazen

  2. A manual tester can understand another manual tester. I really liked your post. Reached to it while trying to figure out how to setup selenium with Eclipse and having tomcat configured. Still trying to do that, but a great article and insight on automation

  3. Hi Jim, This is a great post! 1000 kudos. We must not lose the ability or passion for manual testing. Otherwise, testers no longer have the view of users and customers. I have worked with test automation since 1988 and the elephant in the room is that many organizations have great challenges in actually implementing test automation. They may get automation to work on a small scale, but program-wide efforts can be a challenge. I research this continually. Right now, in the companies I survey, only less than 50% are "fully reliant on test automation". You are also right that a balance is needed with test automation to deal with time and scope issues. That's one reason I am skeptical about DevOps. I don't see the balance there for testing. Thanks again for a great post!

  4. | When you are writing a automation test all the manual testers now stop testing that because it is supposed to be tested.

    I've been pushed to do this by managers, and I think it's dangerous to not test an area that has been "covered" by automated "testing", because automated and manual testing are different things.

    I'd always want to manually test an area that has been automatically tested / checked. I might not test the bits that the automated test is "covering", but I'd want to cast my eye over it and look into the dark corners; you know, actually TEST it.


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