Transitioning from Manual Testing to Automated QA

Manual testing will always be an essential part of quality assurance (QA), but it has its limitations. QA automation (QAA) allows you ensure the quality and functionality of your software even when you’re releasing it to production multiple times a day.

In this article, we examine why QAA is an essential part of modern software development, and go through the steps to begin your QAA journey.

What is manual testing?

In the software context, manual testing involves actual humans performing test cases on a particular program. These tests are designed to flesh out bugs or issues so that teams can release their software free of defect. In many cases, manual tests are not scripted and are entirely ad hoc.

When unscripted, manual tests can be different every time which makes it hard to keep track of what has been tested as part of each release. Manual testing can check any aspect of the software, such as user interface, flow, or functionality. Testers also use smoke tests to quickly determine if the current build is stable or not; this type is specifically designed to check the most common paths through a product and highlight any glaringly obvious issues.

What is QAA?

Like manual testing, creating automated QA tests, which that are easily repeatable, can help locate bugs before a product is released and continue to check a program’s integrity even after launch. Moreover, automated tests free up programmers to continue focusing on new functionality and enhancements, rather than chasing elusive bugs.

Household names such as Facebook, Google, Paypal, and CapitalOne all rely on automated testing to ensure their offerings meet quality standards. With these large companies, even a bug occurring 0.01% of the time can mean thousands of complaints across the world.

Developers have to set up and define test cases and scenarios at various levels. It’s important to look at end-to-end tests, unit tests, API tests, and integration tests. With apps adding ever more complex innovations to stand out, automated testing is essential to make this a possibility.

You can start automated tests in one of a few ways. Developers can run automation software with the push of a button at any time, or they can set up a schedule for the automation software to follow. It’s also a great idea to configure tests so that they are run every time a code change is submitted, ensuring that nothing is overlooked; this is referred to as continuous integration (CI).

Why make the transition from manual testing to QAA?

There are several factors that make QA automation a smart decision.

Sustainable work practices

You’d be hard-pressed to find a human who would enjoy performing the exact same test case hundreds of times in a row. And when a test has been performed ad nauseam, the poor human would be given another test case to perform a similar number of times.

Such a process could take its toll, leading to boredom and ultimately introduce user errors caused by a lack of focus. Machines, on the other hand, have no issue repeating the same test over and over. Best of all, they won’t make mistakes doing so. It’s what they’re created to do!

Implementing QA practices forces you to better define product requirements

To create an automated test plan, you should have at least some idea of how your product should function every step of the way. Having expectations at each stage of your design will lead to a more efficient and higher-quality product.

For instance, declaring that you want your product to be fast is great, but writing a test case requires you to have a discussion about the specific parameters involved. Just how fast is fast? Do you want your page to load in five seconds, or one?

Since a test will produce actual numbers, you’ll need to have a well-defined idea of the success or failure criteria.

This same logic holds true for the user interface aspects of your application. To verify that everything works as it should, it’s essential to outline every combination of user interface interactions that a user might take in your program. With that information, you can write test scripts to verify that each button press works as it should, that each input has the correct output, and that graphics load at the right time.

Increase development velocity and productivity

Even the smallest software change can lead to the introduction of numerous bugs in your application. Testing your code every day during development or after production will allow you to release products or updates that much more quickly.

On the other hand, if you only have the resources to test weekly, you won’t be able to release products nearly as fast.

Manual testing on a daily basis (or even a weekly basis) requires a lot of time and human resources to complete. Automated testing, on the other hand, is quite easy to perform each day. Automated testing is common, and a dedicated test automation framework can run in the background while you’re working on other things.

QAA not only frees you up, but saves countless hours of testing that humans would otherwise have to do. This also allows those same testers to work on other aspects such as writing new code or planning out future improvements. This creates a much more productive (and enjoyable) working environment.

Bus factor

Manual test scenarios are often created by one or a select few members of the programming team.

If these individuals are out of the office, it can put a real bottleneck on the testing process. Even worse, if the brains behind your manual testing leave the company, testing can become random or grind to a complete halt.

Should the testing guru of your group document all the test cases, the information is made available to everyone. This makes it infinitely easier to see what’s been done and what’s left to do should that expert leave the scene.

Better yet, if these test cases are done with automated QA, anyone can run the tests whenever they’re needed.

Long-term cost savings

The human factor will always be necessary for coding, but reducing the amount of human effort required to perform QA testing can reduce labour costs across the scope of a project. These savings can continue long-term by reusing automated tests to check future iterations of your application for bugs.

Adding new features to your product down the road can put a strain on a team when creating and getting those features ready for release. On the QA side of things, the same team can tweak existing test cases and run them through your preferred test automation framework. Since the automated suite does a lot of the heavy lifting, you and your existing team can more achieve much more than you'd otherwise be able do.

Compliance and security

Last, but certainly not the least important, are the tests you’ll need to perform for security and compliance. This list of tests varies significantly product-by-product. For example, medical forms will need to adhere to confidentiality guidelines, and forms need to have an appropriate amount of encryption.

Should you automate your compliance and security testing, you’ll be able to prove to agencies that you’re meeting regulations at any point in time. Many compliance certifications require a documented process for testing, which would be readily available in your test automation framework.

Unit testing versus end-to-end testing for QA purposes

Unit tests are excellent tools for your development team to ensure the quality of different blocks of code. After all, each piece must function independently for the entire program to work as it should. Unit testing can be automated and even verified while your compiler checks for errors in your code.

However, unit tests don’t cover enough ground to make a meaningful impact on manual-to-automated QA transition. Even if most of your code is covered by unit tests, but all end-to-end tests are still manual, you haven’t made it in the automated QA world just yet.

End-to-end testing is a much longer process, especially when factoring in all possible test scenarios. Even performed in an automated environment, unit tests are no substitute for an end-to-end automated QA experience where all the pieces must work seamlessly together. Due to the complexity of such end-to-end test scenarios, manual testing is not feasible for checking all possible scenarios.

How to make the transition

Once you’ve made the decision to jump into automated testing, there are six steps that will set you on the right path.

Step 1: Know where you are

We all have to start somewhere. Even if you’re nowhere near your goal, knowing where you are in working towards it is a significant step towards getting to where you want to be.

When it comes to preparing for automated QA testing, here are some questions you should be asking yourself:

  • Do I have scripts?
  • How often do I test?
  • How often do I release?
  • How long does it take to do a full test?
  • How many bugs do I usually find?

As you start answering these questions, you can start to develop your automated QA strategy.

Step 2: Write out your test scenarios

Even if you’re still working towards automated QA testing, take the time to write out your test scenarios. At the very least, this information can be handy in the event of employee turnover or needing to provide information for compliance regulations.

With your test scenarios on hand, identify which tests are the highest priority. Working through the list, also determine which tests are less important or even optional. Having this documentation of your test cases will make any potential transition that much smoother.

Step 3: Determine which tool you’re going to use

When you’re ready to take the plunge into QA automation, you’ll need to identify which framework(s) you’ll need to use. Not all frameworks are made equally, as different frameworks better serve specific purposes.

For web design, you’ll likely want to start with either Cypress or Playwright. Cypress works well for most use cases but does not provide support for Safari; in this case you'll want to give Playwright a try.

Appium, on the other hand, links up nicely with any mobile or desktop device for testing apps on those machines.

Step 4: Choose the simplest viable test case

With your framework set, it’s time to run your first automated test case. Start with the happy path—your default scenario that leads to an expected output. For instance, use a valid set of credentials and test the ability to log into your website or app.

If parts of your test require email or SMS, you can use Mailosaur with your test framework. One of Mailosaur’s key features is to provide programmers with valid email addresses and mobile numbers for testing.

Don’t worry about testing edge cases yet. Use expected outcomes to verify that both your program and test setup work as they should.

Step 5: Extend your test scope

Once you’re content with your happy path, extend your test plan. If your happy path involved logging into your app or website, a good next step is to add tests for the sign-up process.

Take a look at the test scenarios from step two and add them to your test plan in layers, with your happy path as the core.

Step 6: Report on the progress and how it’s affecting your development flow

With a few automated QA tests now under your belt, revisit some of the questions from step one and ask yourself if the changes you’re making are having a positive effect on how long it takes to test and the number of bugs you’re seeing.

Then, share your findings with the rest of your team. Don’t invest in more resources for automated QA testing until the rest of the team buys into the direction you’re headed.

If you’re able to show your company how automated QA testing is positively affecting the business, there’s a potential for personal improvement within your organisation.

Ready to get started?

If this article has inspired you to get started with automated testing, you already know where to begin! When you’re ready, install the best framework for your app and learn how to use it.

And don’t forget to sign up for Mailosaur to get your hands on test email addresses and mobile numbers for all your email and SMS testing!