Manual testing is a process that helps identify defects in an application. It is an important step in any development life cycle. Manual testing remains widely used given its flexibility and human insight despite notable downsides like high cost and slow speed due to repetitive execution. Testers have to carry out tedious tasks repeatedly. However, the most effective way to reduce the duration of the testing process as a whole is through automation testing.
However, automation testing carries distinct challenges too. There is a very specific reason why tools are made. They are not as adaptable as people. Manual testing is quicker than automation testing during the build changeover.
This article will discuss some of the common manual testing challenges and how to handle them.
What is Manual Testing?
Manual testing is when a human tester physically interacts with an application to see if it works correctly and finds any problems. Manual testing aims to find defects, errors, or requirements missing from the app compared to its intended functionality.
Before releasing a new software application, programmers must thoroughly test it. Testing makes sure the program functions as intended and satisfies non-functional needs like usability, speed, and security, as well as the functional requirements.
Some examples of manual testing activities include:
- Exploratory Testing: Using the software app as a normal user would, randomly clicking buttons, and menu options, filling out forms, and entering both valid and invalid data to see how the app responds. This tests the overall functionality and workflow by taking it for a test drive.
- Functional Testing: Checking that all buttons, forms, links, and other UI elements in the app work and take users to the intended pages or outcomes. Verifying that the application’s primary features perform as planned.
- Comparative Testing: Cross-checking the functionalities, features, options, and workflows supported in the app against written specifications and requirements docs to ensure capabilities that should be included have been implemented.
- Data Entry Testing: Entering invalid data, incomplete information, or values outside expected ranges into forms, login pages, or other fields with data validation to verify that appropriate error messages are thrown and handled properly.
- End-to-End Workflow Testing: Testing major use case scenarios like registering a new user, placing an order, publishing content, etc., from start to finish to verify the full process works smoothly. Identifying any sticking points or inconsistencies in complex workflow steps.
The goal is to take a structured approach to manually testing all user paths, data exceptions, features, and workflows supported in an application before release.
Major Challenges in Manual Testing
Some major challenges in manual testing include:
- Limited Test Coverage: Manual testers can’t execute every possible test case and scenario. There are too many permutations of workflows, input data, usage combinations, etc. Testers must prioritize and may miss corner cases. Exhaustive testing would take infinite time.
- Repetitive Regression Testing: When new features get added or bugs are fixed, the same core functionality must be repeatedly retested. Manual testers must re-execute many redundant test cases every time to ensure existing functions work and no new defects are introduced. This is fatiguing.
- Prone to Human Error: Testing requires carefully following procedures, accurately entering complex input data, precisely interpreting requirements, etc. People make mistakes frequently, fail to notice subtle issues, and misunderstand specifications. Killer defects can slip through.
- Challenging to Scale: As application size and complexity rise exponentially, the number of tests needed increases too. At a point, no team can manually keep up with the testing needs of every code change and new feature, leading to quality issues.
- Time-Consuming: Applications often change rapidly. Testers struggle to manually go through all the test cases with every iteration within tight deadlines. This leads to developers getting ahead of testers and potential bugs going undetected.
- High Costs add up: Each manual tester costs money regarding training, salary, infrastructure, etc. The time they spend on repetitive tasks like regression testing also adds costs without commensurate value. Saving time saves money.
- Inconsistent Execution: Different testers will execute the same test case differently based on the interpretation of steps, order of actions, etc. Results can vary considerably between testers, making analysis difficult. Standardization is tough.
- Limited Parallel Execution: Manual tests must be run sequentially one by one, unlike automated tests, which can run in parallel. This severely limits total execution speed and throughput.
- Difficulty with Complex Scenarios: When test cases involve many configurable elements, dependencies, platforms, data combinations, etc, they become extremely complex for manual testers to handle reliably.
- Lack of Test Automation: Testers waste a lot of time repetitively retesting the same functionality. This makes continuous integration and delivery pipelines challenging.
How to overcome Manual Testing Challenges in Software Development?
LambdaTest is an AI-based test orchestration and execution platform designed to address the challenges associated with manual testing. LambdaTest allows testers to test various browsers and their different versions manually.
Here are some effective ways to overcome common challenges with manual testing:
- Clearly outline the key areas, features, and usage flows that testers should focus on based on business priorities: The project manager and business analysts need to provide clear guidance to the testing team on what parts of the application are most important or high-risk from a business perspective. This allows testers to allocate more time and effort to thoroughly testing key features and typical usage flows based on what truly matters most to the business.
- Establish a Realistic Test Environment: Manual testing is constrained by the physical environment, unlike automated checks that can run anytime from anywhere. Yet testers need to simulate real-world conditions to catch issues. So teams should create a separate test environment mirroring end-user setups as closely as feasible. While not always practical to get access to production systems directly, providing dedicated equipment for manual testing prevents testers from needing to work around developers’ or product managers’ schedules and system configurations.
- Leverage Continuous Integration for Better Collaboration: Manual testing productivity heavily depends on cross-team coordination. When developers and testers are disconnected across distant teams or sites, test planning/tracking/reporting happens through slow manual processes. Integrating continuous integration (CI) enables all to continually see the latest build status, test results, and priority issues in a shared system. With CI, testers can easily start checking new code increments as they are merged rather than waiting on staged deliveries. Developers also immediately know bugs discovered to fix. Promote active discussion forums enabling cross-functional teams to clarify doubts.
- Identify High-Priority Areas Upfront: No one can thoroughly test an entire complex application manually. There are too many potential usage flows, configurations, and data combinations. Attempting comprehensive coverage is impractical. Instead, testers should collaborate with user experience researchers, product experts, and technical architects early on to highlight the 20% of features, flows, and interfaces that drive 80% of user value.
Focus manual testing tightly on quality gates for those capabilities specifically. Document reasoning for targeting specific functions so later reviews can confirm priorities align with reality.
- Select Tools That Best Support Manual Testing Work: Testing tools should aid the context. Manual testers do not require automation suites. Helpful tools for manual testers include note-taking apps, screen capture/recording capabilities, spreadsheet trackers, diagramming software, reporting dashboards, etc. Proper tools augment their thinking process, systematizing planning, logging, and sharing the testing experience when direct hands-on interaction reveals insights that automated checks might miss. Choose utilities that feel like natural extensions of manual testing strengths rather than constrain thinking to pre-packaged scripts.
- Rank test cases by risk levels so testers can thoroughly cover high-impact functions first within schedule constraints: With limited testing time, have testers focus first on testing the riskiest areas and functions, categorizing each test case as high, medium, or low risk. This ensures critical, high probability-of-failure functions get comprehensive testing early in the cycle while there is time to fix issues before launch.
- Do in-depth client interviews early so testers completely understand expectations By speaking directly with client stakeholders early on rather than relying solely on specs, testers gain a clearer picture of how end users will utilize the system. Documenting these user stories provides developers with essential context about real-world usage as they code features.
- Provide continuous training to improve skills further over time: Hire testers based not just on their technical testing knowledge but also their creativity and perseverance in systematically diagnosing tricky, hard-to-find bugs. Then train throughout their tenure to expand their expertise. This builds an adaptive, versatile testing capability.
Assess testers for both soft skills and technical testing abilities when hiring.
- Improve Test Documentation: Create complete end-to-end test cases encompassing all flows, including both optimal paths and edge cases. Have clear test data requirements specifying the exact input and output needs. Maintain a living traceability matrix mapping every identified test case to functional requirements.
- Focus on Tester Training: Conduct frequent hands-on workshops for manual testers to develop expertise in different testing techniques. Shadow senior testers to transfer knowledge on complex application modules and build. Assign real-time mentors to provide guidance tailored to individual tester needs
Send testers to conferences, seminars, and certification courses on the latest testing best practices
- Enhance Test Data Prep: Invest in test data management tools to support generating and masking high-quality test data
Automate test data creation using modeling, synthetic data generators and production cloning where feasible
Develop documented guidelines around requisite test data standards and attributes
- Drive Process Improvements: Do periodic audits of existing manual test processes to identify gaps and areas of improvement. Learn from project assessments, review sessions, and tester feedback surveys.
Revisit test coverage models, metrics thresholds, and entry/exit criteria periodically.
- Monitor Metrics Closely: Leverage tools to capture metrics like test execution timeframe, cases passed/failed, and defects found.
Analyze trends in testing numbers to quantify improvements and highlight areas needing attention.
Correlate defect rates with attributes like application module, tester experience, etc. to pinpoint issues.
Manual testing remains an indispensable component of overall test strategy despite the rise of automation. While automated checks deliver vastly improved scale and consistency, they cannot replicate manual testing’s power of human insight and intuition. However, teams must implement manual testing judiciously to maximize its value.
Clearly defining narrow objectives tied to risk priorities focuses manual efforts on the areas most likely to yield meaningful discoveries, given its inherent time investment. Configuring dedicated test environments facilitates unconstrained exploratory testing to uncover subtle issues. Selecting supporting tools ranging from note-taking apps to screen capture aids the context-driven, free-flowing style that fuels impactful manual testing.
In summary, manual and automation testing coexist as complementary disciplines rather than compete. Governed manual testing fueled by an optimized toolchain and environment can seem almost as nimble and reliable as automation. It reveals critical insights machines cannot discern. Finding the right equilibrium between manual verification and automated validation is key to managing QA with maximum creativity and productivity.