With automation from check-in to build, is there still a need for manual testing?
Yes, although testing can be automated from check-in to build, there is absolutely a need for manual testing. Unit tests should almost always be automated; that is why test-driven development is so effective. And although automation is extremely efficient and effective for regression testing and keeping the testing debt low in Agile methodologies, there are two areas where manual testing is key.
The first is when a product is new and is still undergoing significant change. When an application in its early release, or when it is constantly being enhanced and updated, the cost of keeping the automated test suite up to date may outweigh its benefits. It is critical that applications be stable before a significant investment is made in developing an automated regression test suite.
The second area is usability and human experience. There is no effective way of automating usability testing or testing the human experience. Usability and human experience testing requires the tester to look at the overall picture, i.e., will the user enjoy the experience of using this application?
For example, I once tested an e-order annuity application where the application had to be transacted within six months after a spouse's death. The date of death was placed several screens into the application, which meant an agent or customer service representative would have collected over half of the data needed for the transaction only to find the surviving spouse was not eligible for the annuity. Automated testing most likely would not have found that bug.
Testing wearables and mobile devices also requires manual testing because field testing is required. Mobile devices must be tested anywhere and everywhere the user will use them. This is even more important with wearables, since they must be tested with users of different demographics.
In conclusion, although we can automate most of our testing, there are some defects that will only be found through manual testing, and therefore, it will always have a place.
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