Functional Testing Relevant Even in the Times of Automation Testing

Functional testing services can help create the perfect testing environments

There is always the discussion that automated testing will replace functional testing (or manual testing). Automation is considered to be more efficient and allows testing at a scale and level manual testing may not be able to replicate. 

One of the most followed arguments is that functional testing is too expensive. Automated testing is cheaper, faster, and is capable of delivering the same results. Despite these assumed advantages, everyone has realized that automated testing still cannot replace functional testing. Functional testing services are as relevant and important as ever and they are here to stay.

The Need for Automated Testing

There are many areas where the need for automated testing cannot be challenged. This includes:

Handling Time-Consuming Tasks

Every time a change is made to an app, it needs to be checked for proper functioning. This means re-checking all the functionalities of the app repetitively. Automated regression testing helps detect new bugs with much lesser efforts, thus saving time.

Handling Repetitive Tasks

Automated tests are flexible in nature. They help save valuable time by handling repetitive tasks. Automation is a great alternative in scenarios where the same operations keep getting executed repetitively.

Testing Load & Performance

Functional testing doesn’t provide an alternative for testing load and performance. On the other hand, automation can simulate thousands of users at the same time. Automation is an overarching umbrella that can extend to all testing attributes, including some of the heavily human centric areas such as accessibility, thanks to advancements in technology, including AI and ML

Testing Advanced GUI Systems

Automated GUI tests can help identify and record behavioral differences between platforms. Automation can also detect regression errors more effectively.

Automation also helps eliminate human errors. But there are many areas where functional testing is considered the best option. This includes areas of user interfaces, especially the visual aspects, early development stage, short-term projects, and scenarios that are non-automatable.

Why Can Automated Testing Not Replace Functional Testing?

Functional testing is here to stay and there are many reasons why automated testing cannot replace it. The most important reasons functional testing services will continue to be essential are as follows:

i. You Cannot Automate Usability Testing

A human element is a necessity in usability testing. A computer cannot be programmed to identify good usability from bad usability. It is also not possible to skip usability testing.

Usability testing brings confidence in the QA process for the release of the product. There is literally no way that you can replace a human being from this part of the process.

ii. Automated Tests Can be Bug-Prone

Application code can have bugs. So can an automated test program. All types of automated tests can be written with bugs and errors. This means there is always the risk of false positives and negatives with automated testing.

This can significantly increase the risk of major issues for both your team and your clients. This is where the human element of functional testing services comes into the picture. Humans can identify such errors and ensure proper testing.

iii. Always Testing What is Predictable

Functional testing has the element of spontaneity. The same cannot be said for automated testing, because it can test only what is predictable and more importantly it is yet another piece of software – it is only as smart as we design it to be. This modern form of testing allows us to test only what we expect to happen. On the other hand, functional testing services can also test scenarios that are unpredictable.

In other words, automation is focused on functionalities that already exist. It is perfect for regression testing in environments where there are limited resources. However, resorting only to automated testing means that there will be loopholes and failures in the testing process.

iv. Technical Limitations Exist

Not all test scenarios can be automated. There are scenarios that are impossible to automate and require functional testing.

No matter how cost-effective and vast the scope of automated testing is, it cannot allow elaborate automation. Consider the scenario of testing different types of touch screen devices. The task of automating the experience of ‘tap’ and ‘swipe’ cannot be replicated in a way similar to human interaction; with advancements in technology this is slowly becoming possible, but still not very cost effective compared to functional testing. Functional testing will be required in such scenarios.

The human exploratory testing methodology cannot be replicated in the world of automated testing.

Why Is Functional Testing Still So Important?

The growth in the adoption of test automation has created an impression of functional testing being an outdated and pointless process. Automation tools can run an entire library of test cases in an instant. This makes it easy to come to the above-mentioned conclusion.

Despite these points, functional testing services are still as important and relevant as ever. And there are many reasons why?

The Need for Advanced Skills

Setting up the framework and developing the scripts requires advanced skills. You must have programming skills and an in-depth understanding of test design. Such skills take years to develop through experience in development and QA. Else, you will have to acquire an expert with such skills.

Most functional test cases are simple to run and can be readily learned. All you have to do is to follow the steps within the test case and check for consistency in the actual and expected results at a very basic level. It then gives you an opportunity to delve deeper into understanding the application flow and design creative test scenarios in line with user requirements, bringing in the critical and analytical mindset of a tester.

Regular Changes to Testing Scripts in Agile Environment

An agile environment entails regular feedback, requiring constant updates to the:

  • User Interface
  • Product Flow
  • Features

Any change means the automated scripts have to be rewritten before the next sprint.

These updates also have an impact on the scripts for regression testing. This can be concerning for the development team when evaluating where to invest its resources.

Easier Reproduction of Customer-Reported Issues

It is easy and quick for functional testing services to reproduce customer-reported issues. There is always space for customers to report issues and errors. Manual testers can readily use customer-based information to generate bug reports that can be submitted to the developer. The delay between a customer error reporting and a fix is much shorter in functional testing.

Better Understanding of the Whole Scenario

Another reason manual testing is still so relevant is that it helps you understand the whole scenario around the issue. Automated testing can certainly help you time in the long-term. It can also deliver quick results on a much broader level. However, functional testing services help you get deeper insights at different levels including emotional and conceptual levels. This can help you connect with the end-user in ways that automated testing cannot do. Emotional intelligence based testing is becoming very important as user centricity is becoming key in apps that are developed. These are best simulated and tested by functional testers, rather than sticking to just objective assertions.

User Interface Validations

Automated testing tools provide unmatched convenience in the areas of UI and Responsive testing. The tools validate test cases by checking the following:

  • Image placement
  • Element distance
  • Relative alignment between elements

This means there are many ways in which things like alignment between the menu and logo can get misinterpreted. When it comes to functional testing, such situations can be instantly detected.

Automation to Assist Functional Testing

Given all the above-mentioned reasons, it will be erroneous to claim that automated testing is set to replace functional testing at any point in time. Treating automation as the exact replication of functional testing is the most common mistake in a transition from functional testing services to automated testing.

There is also a widespread conception that functional testing requires constant effort and automation helps in reducing that effort. Automation requires a major but brief initial effort for learning the tool. This is followed by a long-term phase in developing tests and then the effort is focused only on maintaining the automated tests. The perception is that this effort is much less compared to managing functional testing.

However, this is what actually happens:

  • Functional effort is typically not constant over time
  • Automated testing may involve unexpected and significant refactoring, depending on the changes in the application under test and the quality of the automated code
  • Automation still requires lots of effort to automate the tasks

Most of the result is in the difference between the expected results and the actual results of automated testing.

Automated testing is expected to be much more cost-effective than functional testing. And it is so in the overall scenario. The fact is that automation doesn’t offer the same level of ROI for each and every step as offered by functional testing services. Some steps in a test are more complex and difficult to automate. Then there are other steps that have a higher degree of reusability.

So it is recommended to use functional testing in conjunction with automation to achieve optimal results. This can be achieved using the following strategy:

  • Break a test into tasks
  • Change the strategy from test automation to task automation
  • Automate a set of tasks, not the entire test
  • The list of tasks can be rated based on the effort required for manual execution and for automation

This helps you identify the set of tasks that provide higher ROI when automated.

So it is recommended to leverage the benefits of both functional testing and automation. Fucntional testing is here to stay and will continue to play an important role in the development lifecycle.

The best way to embrace automated testing is to make it an integral part of the planning process from the very beginning. It is important to keep the following two points in mind when doing so:

  • Automated testing cannot completely replace functional testing
  • Automated testing is not just regression support

You should be careful in the selection of testing tools, especially in the mobile app development environment. When automation is used properly, it can help free up resources, improve efficiency, and allow greater focus on product enhancement. And you can expect a greater ROI.

What is the Future?

Functional testing is not going anywhere, but it is always evolving. There will be an increased shift toward exploratory testing by functional testing services. This will be in conjunction with automation. There will be greater emphasis on exploratory testing in groups, involving fewer repetitive test cases. Functional testing is expected to step into an increasingly uncharted territory, where automated testing will take a lot of time to reach.

The result will be a significant increase in product quality. Most functional testing services are also expected to evolve to keep up with the growing demands. Smart testers will learn which tests are ideally suited for automation. Teams can certainly automate all permutations of data; the right testers will know the ones that provide the best value. This will help in reducing automation maintenance and run time and boost the ROI.

In Summary:

When it comes to the end-users, a product is only as good as the performance it delivers. Quality Assurance is the key to the success of a product. Even when thorough application testing is repeatable, it is important to include a certain degree of variation in the tests. Automation is perfect for running multiple, time-consuming tests. However, it is functional testing that helps explore use-cases that may not be immediately apparent. 

Whatever application tests you may decide to run, you need to strategize about the areas that need to be tested and how, even before the development process begins. And this is where great functional testing services can help create the perfect testing environments using the right combination of tools. It is also important to inculcate this as a mindset amongst engineers such that in the ideal space, automation testers are solid functional testers too and vice versa. Even if that is not the case with all engineers, a tight handshake between the two functions is important as one cannot exist without the other. 

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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