Software testers who have relied on manual testing throughout their careers are becoming increasingly worried about their future. With the current trend of applying automation and AI to almost any imaginable work task, many testers believe it's just a matter of time before their roles get replaced by computers. If you visit any online forum or community, you're bound to see questions like:

"Is manual testing dead?"
"Should I forget manual testing and focus on test automation?"
"Is it even worth searching for manual testing jobs nowadays?"

Those questions paint an alarming picture of the software testing industry as we know it. Although it seems a bit drastic, this doubt and uncertainty around manual testing are valid, given the advancements in technology and how more organizations emphasize automation for their QA processes. Every company that works with software seems to be looking for testers specializing in automation.

However, that doesn't mean that manual testing is "dead" or even "dying," as many believe. On the contrary, manual testing is as essential as ever for delivering high-quality products, even with today's modern software development processes. No amount of automation or AI can take away what makes manual testing a must for organizations that want to provide a stable and reliable experience.

The Increasing Trend Toward Test Automation

The pace for delivering software these days has accelerated at a pace we've never seen before. Customers continuously expect new features and functionality for the services they use, and they want them delivered today. Rapidly iterating and deploying new updates has become the norm for software development organizations across the globe. This fast-moving development cycle has led to more companies adopting automated testing practices to meet these expectations.

Test automation offers several advantages over more traditional forms of software QA, from faster testing times to improved accuracy to eliminating repetitive and tedious steps when validating an application. A computer can go through hundreds or thousands of regression tests in a fraction of the time with fewer mistakes than a human tester, making automation a more attractive option than hiring and training dozens of testers.

Modern applications are also much more complex nowadays, requiring more thorough validation. For instance, customers expect to access modern web applications through a desktop computer, a tablet or a smartphone. Each device has different quirks, requiring different testing scenarios and validations. These test scenarios are a challenge to handle manually, especially at scale. It's much quicker and cheaper for a company to spin up more servers to run all these automated tests than hiring, training and managing new testers.

The Value of Manual Testing in an Automated World

Despite all the advantages that test automation provides to organizations, that doesn't mean it's a silver bullet that will replace all other testing processes. Automation is just a piece of the software quality puzzle and shouldn't be the only testing method in place for validating applications. Manual testing still holds immense value for ensuring your company delivers a high-quality customer experience by covering what automation can't.

Manual testers have plenty of advantages over automation. They can apply their vast experience with the product and their industry to improve what they're testing. Manual testers also have an understanding of human behavior that computers simply don't have and can provide further insight into improving the software. Additionally, intuition plays a significant role in testing by covering scenarios others have overlooked, which automation cannot do on its own. These are just a few advantages a human tester has over its computerized counterpart.

Test automation only does what you tell it to do, and, in return, it tells you whether those expected outcomes are still valid. While this functionality—known as regression testing—is ideal for ensuring that recent changes haven't affected an application, it's an inflexible process that can let bugs slip in undetected. Allowing testers to explore the application without any guidelines, also known as exploratory testing, is where manual QA shines. The slower, meticulous pace of validating an application with complete freedom uncovers bugs or usability issues that lead to an improved product.

What the Future Holds for Manual Testers

Even with all the advantages that the human touch provides regarding software testing, there's no denying that automation is here to stay. Expect companies to continue adopting test automation and fueling its exponent growth. The current AI trend will further accelerate these advancements as well. As those tools improve, more organizations will jump on the automation bandwagon and take advantage of its benefits.

Does that mean that manual testing is going the way of the dinosaur and become a relic of the past? Not at all. There's still a spot for manual testing in today's software development environment. Automation cannot cover every area that helps boost the stability of an application. Unless technology improves much faster than anyone expects, organizations will still need non-automated testing if they want to deliver first-rate products.

However, that doesn't mean manual testers can or should continue doing what they've been doing throughout their careers. The future of manual testing lies in adapting and growing alongside technological advances. Instead of disregarding automation, manual testers must integrate it into their skillset. That's not to say all testers need to migrate toward automated testing. Instead, they should rely on their strengths—critical thinking, intuition and life experience—while using automation to complement their skills.

How Manual Testers Can Stay Relevant in Today's Automated World

Learning how to use and work effectively with automated testing tools is an excellent starting point for manual testers. While it sounds daunting, especially for testers with zero coding experience, the good news is that the barrier to entry with these tools is as low as ever. Many testing tools nowadays offer ways to leverage automation without needing to learn required skills for test automation, like understanding how to program and debug code.

For instance, Telerik Test Studio is an outstanding tool for manual testers to get into test automation quickly. Using Test Studio doesn't require coding to build, run and maintain automated test scenarios for most modern applications, whether on the web or desktop-based. Being able to do test automation without coding lets manual testers move the repetitive and tedious portions of their job off their plates and frees them up to focus on higher-value forms of testing. These benefits make Test Studio a worthy addition to a manual tester's toolbelt.

Besides taking advantage of tools like Test Studio to easily leverage automation, manual testers can also expand the parts where humans are better than computers. For instance, deepening your understanding of UX principles and modern software design can help give better suggestions for improving the quality of the applications under test. Testers can also enhance complementary skills, like communication, test management, testing strategies and other abilities that will not only help the organization but also help them become better testers.

Summary: Manual Testing is Far from Dead

Although the current trends point toward businesses adopting automation and AI services to help with tasks such as testing, it doesn't diminish the value provided by manual testing. Manual testers hold a lot of value that computers can't replicate, from a better understanding of how people use software to using past insights and intuition to help make better decisions and a better product.

The key for manual testers to continue to be a vital part of software QA is to work alongside automation and augment their existing skills. Leveraging codeless testing tools like Telerik Test Studio helps testers create automated tests while freeing them up to do other testing that yields better quality results. Expanding current knowledge also helps manual testers with their work and their future in QA.

All the talk about the end of manual testing for software development companies is greatly exaggerated. Rather, manual testing still remains as crucial as ever for any organization that wants to provide its customers with high-quality applications.

This article was originally published on the Telerik blog.