The testing phase is undeniably important in guaranteeing user satisfaction and ensuring the success of your digital project. 

In recent years, the testing landscape has seen the rise of automation testing alongside manual testing. So manual testing vs automation testing – how can you choose the right approach for your project? 

In this article, GEM’s quality assurance expert compares them side-by-side in terms of key features, functionality, and best-suited use cases to assist you in making an informed decision. 

manual testing vs automation testing, which one is right for you

Understanding manual testing vs automation testing 

In this section, GEM’s expert explains the definitions of both methods and their pros and cons. 

Manual testing 

Manual testing is manually running tests on software to discover defects without automation tools or scripts, done from the end-user’s perspective. This method relies on the tester’s insight, experience, and intuition to navigate the software, execute various actions, and observe outcomes.   

It has the following key advantages:  

  • Flexibility and adaptability: Manual testers can quickly adapt their testing strategies in real time to explore different aspects of the software as they uncover new information or if the project’s requirements change. 
  • Human insight: Manual testing, thanks to the tester’s intuition and creativity, identifies subtle, complex issues that automation tests might miss. This human element can be crucial in assessing the software’s usability and overall user experience. It is particularly valuable for understanding the user experience and catching issues that automation tests might overlook. 
  • Lower initial costs: This testing method does not require a significant initial investment in testing tools and test script development. It can be initiated with fewer resources, making it accessible for smaller projects or those in the early stages of development. 
software testing

However, several note-worthy challenges come with it:  

  • Time-consumption: Manual testing can be slow and labor-intensive, especially for large projects. It is less efficient than automation testing for repetitive tasks or regression testing. 
  • Consistency and reliability issues: The quality of this method can vary significantly depending on the tester’s skills and fatigue levels. There is also a higher risk of human error, which can lead to inconsistencies in testing. 
  • Scalability limitations: As the project grows, the scalability of manual testing becomes a challenge. It can become impractical to manually test large, complex systems thoroughly. 

Automation testing 

Automation testing is leveraging software tools and scripts to replace human efforts in reviewing and validating the functionality of a software or app. This method is great for testing processes that require high accuracy over a large range of criteria. 

software quality assurance

Automation testing is a ground-breaking step in the quality assurance field, as it accelerates QA teams’ efficiency and testing outcomes’ reliability.   

  • Efficiency and speed: With the automation approach, it executes pre-defined tests at high speed without manual intervention, allowing for continuous testing cycles and rapid feedback. This automation reduces the time needed for repetitive test scenarios, significantly speeding up the development process. 
  • Reliability: Automation testing is considered more reliable and accurate for repetitive and precision-required tests due to its consistent execution and ability to reduce human error, operating around the clock without supervision. 

However, this method is not without its limitations. 

  • High initial setup cost and complexity: Setting up automation tests can be expensive and complex, especially for large systems. It may also require maintenance to keep tests relevant as the software evolves.  
  • Limited scope and reliability: Automation testing is not effective for all types of tests, such as those requiring human judgment, intuition, or understanding of complex user experiences. In other words, it can miss issues that would be caught by a human tester, such as subtle UI problems or complex user experience issues. 

Manual testing vs Automation testing – A comparison 

Let’s compare the two testing methods side-by-side. This section will help you answer questions like “How accurate are they?”, “How much scalability can they accommodate?” or “Which one is more resource-efficient?” 

comparing manual testing vs automation testing

Accuracy 

Each method’s accuracy varies in different aspects of the development project.  

Manual testing offers detailed and nuanced accuracy in examining the user experience and uncovers issues automation tests might miss. However, it is subject to inconsistencies due to human error. 

In addition, while it provides the flexibility to modify tests on the fly, its reliability for repetitive tasks can suffer due to variations in human performance. 

Automation testing is highly reliable for repetitive tasks and tests that don’t change often. It yields consistent results and is great for catching regressions. Yet this method may overlook complex user experience-related issues that involves human intiuition.  

Cost efficiency 

Manual testing has lower initial costs since it doesn’t require specialized tools or extensive setup. However, the cumulative costs can grow over time, primarily due to the labor-intensive nature of manually executing test cases, which becomes increasingly costly as projects scale and require repeated testing cycles. 

Meanwhile, automation testing requires upfront investment but can be more cost-effective in the long run because its efficiency in executing repetitive tasks rapidly pays off. Over time, these tests can be run countless times at no additional cost, leading to substantial savings, especially in large projects or those with frequent updates. 

testing software

Test coverage and scalability 

Due to human resources’ inherent limitations, manual testing struggles to achieve the same breadth and depth of test coverage as automation testing. It is more suited to exploratory testing and scenarios where human intuition and insight are paramount, but scaling up to cover large volumes of code or numerous scenarios becomes impractical. 

Automation testing can test large volumes of code and many different scenarios quickly and repeatedly. This scalability makes it ideal for ensuring that as the software grows in complexity, test coverage can easily expand without significantly increasing testing time or costs 

Speed and efficiency 

Manual testing requires no setup time, making it initially faster for small-scale tasks or when tests are run infrequently. However, for larger or repeated testing scenarios, it becomes less efficient due to the manual effort involved. 

Compared to it, the automated testing method is significantly faster for running the same tests repeatedly.  


In this table, we summarize everything mentioned above about manual testing vs automation testing.

AspectManual testingAutomation testing
AccuracyOffers detailed accuracy and uncovers nuanced issues
Subject to human error and performance variations
Highly reliable for repetitive tasks; consistent results but may miss complex user experience issues
Cost efficiencyLower initial costs but higher cumulative costs due to labor-intensive natureHigher initial investment but more cost-effective over time due to efficiency in repetitive tasks
Test coverage and scalabilityLimited by human resources, suited for exploratory and intuition-based testing; scaling up is impracticalCan cover large volumes of code and scenarios; scalable as software complexity grows
Speed and efficiency Faster to start for small tasks but less efficient for larger or repeated scenariosSignificantly faster for repetitive tests, enhancing efficiency

When to use manual testing 

Manual testing is ideal for complex and non-repetitive test scenarios. It is also the better choice if the goal is to evaluate the app through the end-user’s perspective to foster more human-centered feedback.  

These cases include:  

  • Exploratory testing, which means the test scenario is not defined and testers need to explore the software’s capabilities without constraints. By testing manually, testers can identify bugs that automation tests might miss. 
  • Usability testing, which assesses how user-friendly and intuitive the software is. This type of testing can only be accurately done by human testers who can provide subjective feedback. 
  • Ad-hoc testing involves random testing without any specific plans or documentation. Therefore, it relies on the tester’s experience and knowledge to find errors. 
manual testing

When to use automation testing 

Automation testing excels in scenarios where tests need to be repeated after each update or change to the software, with the most notable use cases being: 

  • Regression testing: Automation testing can be run frequently and consistently to ensure new code changes do not break existing functionalities.  
  • Repetitive test cases: Automated tests are invaluable for tests that must be run with the same conditions for multiple times. It conserves time and effort and eliminates the variability introduced by manual testing, leading to more reliable results.  
  • Load and performance testing: The automated approach can emulate the actions of thousands of users simultaneously to yield many insights into the application’s functionality and behavior. This is crucial for identifying and addressing performance bottlenecks before they impact the user experience. 

It is also ideal for cross-browser and cross-environment testing, in which tests are run across different devices, browsers, and operating systems. 

automation testing

A hybrid approach for the ideal balance

The combination of both methods of testing has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. This trend is largely driven by the complex demands of modern software development, where speed, efficiency, and quality are paramount.  

Let’s take an example of a project that can greatly benefit from this combination – upgrading an e-commercial platform of considerable size.  

  • Manual testing is used for evaluating the user experience of the shopping cart and checkout processes. Testers will provide human-centered insights into issues that could directly affect customer satisfaction 
  • Automation testing conducted a high number of transaction processing tests to ensure that backend systems could handle peak loads without manual intervention.  

This dual strategy allowed for comprehensive coverage of both user-facing features and system-wide functionalities, thus fostering a seamless upgrade with minimal disruptions to the shopping experience. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, the continuous evolution of software development also necessitates innovation and creativity in quality assurance. Both manual testing and automation testing have different values in different testing and development scenarios. While manual testing brings invaluable human insights into user experience and exploratory challenges, automation testing excels in efficiency, consistency, and scalability. Therefore, in the current age, leveraging the strengths of both methods is a highly regarded approach to achieving the highest standards of software quality and user satisfaction