Automation vs Manual Software Testing: How They Stack Up
Rob Turner

Software testing is an essential part of the development process, but rather than being a one-size-fits-all solution, there are actually a number of ways to carry out the assessment of new apps prior to launch.

Choosing between manual and automated testing is only possible if you understand the benefits and pitfalls of each, so here is a quick exploration of their defining attributes so you can make an informed decision.

Labor requirements

This is the most important and conspicuous area in which the two main software testing strategies differ, because while manual testing requires human testers to check all of the key features and functions of a program by hand, for automation testing this work is offloaded to tools coded to complete this work autonomously.

As a result, the labor costs of manual testing will be greater, and there will also be other associated complications to consider, such as whether you want to hire quality assurance testers on a permanent basis or outsource this to a separate provider. Automation does away with all this, although does require you to find the right solution to conduct trials effectively.


Human error is a factor in any role which is fulfilled by a flesh and blood worker, and this is clearly the case in the context of manual software testing. Whether a tester is distracted, bored, or simply not attentive enough, they could miss out on important and potentially game-changing bugs in the software which come back to bite you post-launch.

Automated testing, on the other hand, is entirely accurate and consistent, whether you are testing a single, simple piece of software or an entire app ecosystem.


As we have already touched upon, manual testing is both labor-intensive and time-consuming, which can create a bottleneck when you are close to the end of the development pipeline and big deadlines are looming.
Automated testing can be conducted far more quickly and, depending on the resources and tools you are harnessing, can scale to suit the scope of your project. It is this speed that makes it preferable to many organizations.


From one perspective, manual software testing is the more accessible option because testers do not need to be experts in programming themselves; they simply know the parameters which they are expected to test and pinpoint the problems they encounter so that developers can go back and fix them.

On the other hand, if you are aiming to work on your own automation testing in-house, then those involved will obviously need to be familiar with the ins and outs of computer code. This is a potential downside, although as more advanced testing tools are developed, these barriers are being pulled down and a more user-friendly approach to automated software testing is emerging.


The final point to note is that while it may sound like automation testing has got this competition all sewn up, there are some things that human testers can do that are not quite available in an entirely automated environment.

A good example of this is testing software interface elements and assessing the overall quality of the user experience offered. These are somewhat nebulous concepts that cannot be unpicked or interpreted by programmed tools alone.

It may make sense to use a combination of automated and manual software testing to cover all the bases and build the best possible product, which is why more developers are taking this route at the moment.

Bio: Richard Grant is a technology consultant and journalist with a background in computer science and programming.