From Waterfall to DevOps, manual testers have been critical to the success of any application. As a result, manual testing remains a popular testing strategy in software development. However, as QA teams are expected to perform a wider range of tests within shortening development cycles, relying solely on manual testing becomes increasingly impractical. This is especially true for high-velocity teams that struggle to keep up with constant releases with most testing happening more frequently in shorter time frames. Yet manual testing is critical to understanding the user perspective and finding defects before they’re customer-facing. Therefore, as teams embark on their DevOps journey, the right mix between manual and automated tests helps them keep up with development while also providing seamless user experiences.

The Importance of Manual Testing

It's widely acknowledged that user experience has a direct impact on revenue and customer satisfaction. According to PWC, 75% of customers consider UX to be important when making a purchasing decision, and 32% will leave if they have a single negative experience. This is where manual testing is extremely useful. Manual testers empathize with users, mimic their actions, and anticipate their pain points, all of which are critical in creating the seamless experience that customers value.

Another significant advantage of manual testing is the freedom to create test cases on the fly via exploratory testing. In the testing pyramid below, the size of the pyramid layer corresponds to the volume of each type of test performed. Exploratory testing sits at the peak since it’s the most targeted. A single exploratory test can test a specific user journey, whereas numerous unit tests are executed to ensure the code works as expected. Therefore, while each testing layer is essential for guaranteeing application quality, exploratory tests provide a more nuanced perspective.


While manual testing encourages empathy with the end user, as product velocity increases, maintaining test coverage and detecting defects before production becomes increasingly difficult. To improve efficiency, testing strategies must evolve and include automation. But where does manual testing fit in?

The Evolution of Testing

In the era of digital transformation, quality assurance has evolved from a discrete stage of software development to an integral practice that occurs throughout the SDLC. In doing so, it has transformed into quality engineering. Today, QE teams are quality drivers, working with developers to build better, faster. Some teams have even fully embraced automation, motivating others to follow suit. But even as automation tools become smarter and more autonomous, they still require human oversight, management, and maintenance that links to the customer experience. In other words, test automation requires the skills of a manual tester.

Embracing Discovery: Use Cases for Manual Tests in Quality Engineering

Exploratory Tests

According to mabl’s 2021 State of Testing DevOps Benchmark report, exploratory testing discovered 33% of all complex bugs, 29% of UI bugs, and 11% of all defects. This is significant because, despite being at the top of the Testing Pyramid, exploratory tests help teams get closer to the customer experience and away from the code.

Ad Hoc Tests

Ad hoc testing is ideal for discovering errors that machines cannot detect, such as localization issues that occur when a product targets multiple regions. This type of manual test typically lacks a plan or method, and is entirely dependent on the tester's knowledge and experience.

User-Friendly Tests

Manual testers have historical knowledge of a product and can consistently detect errors that test automation lacks nuance and contextual knowledge to identify. Further, testers understand uncommon or less logical user journeys through the product that might otherwise be missed.

Amplifying Quality: Use Cases for Automated Tests

Regression Tests

Manual testing struggles to manage frequent changes, new functionalities, performance fixes, bug fixes, or environmental changes at the scale required by DevOps teams. Regression tests, particularly those with auto-healing capabilities, are invaluable timesavers for QE teams working with a quickly evolving product.

Performance Tests

Performance testing helps identify and eliminate performance bottlenecks. Even if hardware resources are limited, continuous stress and load tests can be used to assess a product's or feature's performance and stability. Automated testing for speed, scalability, stability, and reliability can be performed earlier and more frequently in the SDLC, resulting in faster deployments.

Repeatable Functional Tests

A functional test examines how a user interacts with the system's interface to determine whether an application or feature performs as expected. Historically, functional testing was a time-consuming and expensive manual process fraught with human error. These tests can be automated and run thousands of times in minutes to ensure that the expected results are obtained, resulting in a high-quality product that meets all stakeholder needs.

The Right Mix: Low-Code and a Culture of Quality

Combined manual and automated testing can help teams achieve specific test goals along a powerful DevOps pipeline. This hybrid approach provides agile teams with meaningful opportunities to collaborate and innovate without sacrificing time and resources. By turning to intelligent, low-code test automation, they can significantly improve efficiency, while also maximizing manual tester expertise to ensure the highest quality release. This lays the foundation for a culture of quality. The entire QE team is able to contribute fully to their organization’s testing strategy through democratized low-code testing, ensuring a consistent, cohesive approach to quality that can adapt to faster development cycles. Breaking silos is not easy, but doing so creates a culture that benefits everyone.

Automated testing and low-code solutions like mabl provide software testers the extra bandwidth needed to perform high-value manual testing without sacrificing reliability, effectiveness, and test coverage. Software testers can use simple scripts and straightforward solutions to quickly simulate thousands of complex scenarios. Faster feedback increases team productivity and elevates release quality. By turning to intelligent, low-code test automation, QE teams can build an efficient testing strategy that enables manual and automated testing to work in tandem.

To see how easy it is for manual testers and automation engineers to create and maintain automated tests, start a free two-week trial of mabl today.