The Difference Between Automated and Manual Testing

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It may seem that the answer is quite clear. With manual testing, you need a person. For automated processes, you need a person to press a button, if at all.

But there’s more than that.

In a former life, I managed a software project where I had both testers and developers. In the application we developed, there was a database schema that changed all the time (it was at a stage prior to release). Every new build, the testers ran a manual upgrade test, checking that data in the old version database could be upgraded to the new version. This procedure was manual and took about a day for  a single tester. And we were releasing 2-3 times a week.

Of course this could have been automated, but I was much younger then, and didn’t know any better. I was under the impression that that’s just the way it is, and that automating is too much trouble. In fact, I also believed that tester’s time is cheaper than developer time, so software economics were in favor of staying this way. At least I know better now.

Automation requires time and maintenance. But it frees us to do what we’re good at: develop more features, or exploratory testing. Manual testing means we’re sacrificing time and effort, instead of letting a computer do it, with the same results. Software economics, like regular economics requires us to automate.

There’s another problem with manual testing: Our applications are so complex, so wasting time manual testing, means we forsake all hope of testing the entire application. Therefore, we we compromise the quality of our product  because of our belief: “that’s just the way it is”. Our time, developers and testers, is valuable and we need to treat it as a precious commodity.

So the difference is not just who’s doing the testing. It’s the opportunity of working creatively, increasing value and doing interesting stuff, rather than lead a boring miserable life.

If you have some miracle-working story on how automation changed your life, please share in the comments.

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