Complete Guide to Manual Testing

When a software is tested without the use of tools, it is called manual testing. Checkout this all-rounded guide to know about the various aspects of manual testing and get answers to all your related doubts.

Manual testing remains a crucial and widely used approach to ensure the quality and reliability of software applications. It involves human testers executing test cases manually, simulating user interactions, and evaluating the system’s response. Let’s explore more on this topic and understand why manual testing is important and how to transition from this to automation.

What is Manual Testing?

Manual testing is a software testing type consisting of designing and executing all the test cases manually by human testers without using automated tools or scripts. In this approach, testers play the role of end-users and manually test the software application to identify defects and evaluate its functionality, usability, performance, and other quality aspects. They then highlight these issues to the developers by reporting the bugs to them. Sometimes, bug reporting can be done using tracking tools. An example of manual testing is QA engineers manually checking a newly built webpage to see if the UI, menu tabs, clickable links, and everything else is working as intended. Here, they are ensuring that the look and feel of the site are as per the expectations of the users.

Characteristics of Manual Testing

As humans perform manual testing, we know inconsistencies are inevitable. In contrast to automated testing, which offers continuous execution, human testing may produce outcomes with greater variability because of inadvertently overlooked regions or subjective evaluations. 

Human intuition is a benefit of manual testing, but human error is a risk as well.

Here are some of the major characteristics of Manual testing:

  • Potential variation:

Because manual testing is done by human testers, there’s always a possibility that each time something is done, it will be done differently. When it comes to automated testing, the processes are always the same. However, in manual testing, the result will vary. This is due to more variable outcomes because of accidental mistakes or delays in certain areas.

  • Uncovering the Unexpected:

The wonderful thing about manual testing is that it allows testers to experiment freely and in various ways with the product. This enables them to observe the behavior of the software in scenarios that automated tests—which are meant to follow predetermined paths—might completely overlook.

  • User-Centric Approach:

In contrast to automated testing, in which some tools still require some coding knowledge, manual testing focuses on using the program as a normal user would. In this manner, testers can ensure the proper operation of all the key features without having to build complex scripts.

  • Freeform Exploration:

During manual testing, testers can freely interact with the software and use their experience to identify issues. They can explore more creatively because they’re not adhering to rigid guidelines like with automated testing.

  • Focus on Big Picture Functionality:

Automated tests can catch every detail, but manual testing may not. Since it involves human testers, there is room for interpretation, and outcomes may vary based on the tester. This also means that a few issues may occasionally slip through the cracks, but testers are better at ensuring that users can effectively use the software.

Why Do We Need Manual Testing?

We need manual testing as the first step of understanding and verifying the application for its correctness for the users. The manual testing approach helps to assess the application from a user’s perspective and evaluate the user interface, intuitiveness, ease of use, and overall user experience of the software. Another reason why manual testing is necessary is to perform exploratory or Ad Hoc testing. Testers can randomly browse through the software to check if all the functions and UI aspects are working properly. But that’s not all. Since some aspects of software behavior are difficult to automate, especially when it comes to exploratory testing or scenarios involving non-deterministic behavior, QA engineers can turn to manual testing in such cases. It allows testers to apply their creativity, intuition, and domain knowledge to explore such areas and identify potential issues.

Manual Testing Goals

Manual testing has multiple goals that assist developers and testers in producing quality products. It helps in defect detection, usability assessment, validation of specification requirements, and testing user scenarios from the user’s perspective. Overall, manual testing helps improve the quality, reliability, and user satisfaction of the software application before its release. And it also complements automated testing efforts and plays a crucial role in ensuring a thorough evaluation of the software from a human perspective.

Core Manual Testing Techniques

The following core manual testing techniques are essential for maintaining the quality of software:

  1. Equivalence Partitioning: This technique divides the input values into behaviorally related classes. To ensure the program handles every value in the class correctly, testers choose one value from each class.

    To validate correct login functionality, for example, test a login form using real usernames and passwords from various equivalency classes.
  2. Boundary value analysis: The main goal of the boundary value analysis approach is testing the boundaries or limits of input values. Testers provide values at the lowest, maximum, and above and below the designated boundaries. This guarantees that in these crucial situations, the software operates as planned.

    One way to find potential problems with handling edge cases is to test a text field with a character limitation by inputting the exact limit, one character below, and one character above.
  3. Error Guessing: By applying their understanding of typical software flaws, testers forecast possible areas for improvement. Then, they create test cases that are especially meant to address these potential issues. This technique, by being proactive, helps find problems that functional testing alone would miss.
  4. State Transition Testing: This technique looks at the way, how a program acts when it switches between several states, such as being logged in and logged out. Testers create test cases that simulate different software state transitions to make sure the program works as intended at every turn.

    Applications with intricate workflows or user interactions should pay special attention to this.
  5. Decision Tables: Decision tables are structured to document test cases based on input conditions and expected outcomes. They can help ensure comprehensive test coverage and improve the clarity and maintainability of test suites.

Here’s a simplified example of a decision table for testing a login form

decision table for testing a login form

Types of Manual Testing

There are different types of manual testing based on how they are performed. Among multiple manual testing types, we will discuss four common types here:

Functional Testing

Functional testing is a testing type that checks the functional requirements and behavior of an application. It involves testing the individual functions and features of the software to ensure that they work correctly and meet the desired specifications. The main goal of functional testing is to validate that the application functions as intended and delivers the expected results. To conduct functional testing, you require full knowledge of functional specifications and input-output data. It further includes compatibility, regression, and integration testing within itself.

Black Box Testing

Black box testing focuses on testing the functionality and behavior of the software without knowing its internal structure, code, or implementation details. The tester treats the application as a ‘black box,’ and they evaluate how the software handles various inputs and produces corresponding outputs.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

UAT focuses on evaluating the software’s functionality and usability from the end-user perspective. It involves testing the software in a real-world environment with actual users to ensure that it meets their requirements, business needs, and expectations.

System Testing

System testing verifies and validates the behavior, functionality, and performance of a complete and integrated software system. It is performed after component testing and integration testing, ensuring that all system components work together as per expectations and meet the specified user requirements.

Stages of Manual Testing

The stages of manual testing include unit testing, integration testing, system testing, user interface (UI) testing, and acceptance testing. But they wouldn’t necessarily be in this sequential manner. These stages can overlap or occur in a different order as per the project’s needs and the testing approach.

Module or Component Testing

Component/module testing refers to verifying an isolated part of the system to ensure that it is functioning as intended. It involves testing functions, methods, or classes to ensure they work properly and produce the correct outputs.

Integration Testing

Integration testing verifies the interactions and dependencies between different components or modules of the software after they integrate. It aims to identify defects that may arise due to the integration of these components.

System Testing

System testing involves checking the entire integrated system. It verifies the behavior of the software in accordance with the specified requirements. It is performed on a fully configured system and covers end-to-end scenarios to ensure the software functions properly.

UI Testing

UI testing validates the user interface elements of the software, which includes the layout, design, responsiveness, and usability of the application. It ensures that the UI is intuitive, functional, and consistent across multiple devices and browsers.

Acceptance Testing

The final stage of manual testing is acceptance testing. It validates whether the software meets the business requirements and is ready for deployment for customers’ use. Acceptance testing includes functional testing, usability testing, and performance testing.

Manual Testing and Test Automation

We know that manual testing is a technique that testers follow where they do not use any automation tools or scripts to automatically verify application features. Rather, it involves executing test cases and verifying the expected results against the actual results to identify defects or issues in the software under test manually. The entire process is based on the tester’s skills, experience, and domain knowledge to design and execute tests. Test automation, on the other hand, is usually the upcoming step after manual testing, where testers strive to achieve much more accuracy in less time and with fewer resources. And there are many test automation tools to assist manual testers in easing their work by using several features. For instance, manual testers spend a large chunk of their time identifying and writing test cases with all the necessary test steps, actual results, and expected results. Automation tools help convert these steps to automated ones. Testsigma is one such test automation tool that uses AI capabilities to capture your interaction with the software and turns them into test steps. It uses a Test Recorder feature to convert UI actions to natural language-based automated test cases. Some other features of the tool that make it perfect for manual testers are:

  • Testers can write test cases in plain English, similar to manual test cases, and run them on the tool.
  • There is no need to manually change or alter the test cases after every UI or code change, as the tool uses self-healing tests, autoregressions, and test suggestions.
  • You no longer need to create a report manually; the tool will generate customized reports to quickly get a high-level overview of the pass/fail test trends.
  • And lastly, instead of running all the test cases on multiple browsers and OS to check the compatibility of the software, simply tests in parallel across 800+ OS/browser combinations and 2000+ real mobile devices using Testsigma.

How to Move from Manual to Automation Testing?

Before you move from manual to automation, consider if this move is actually necessary and how many test scenarios will benefit from this move. After you have defined and made sure that the transition from manual to automation will be the right choice, start the process with careful planning and a structured approach. Understand the automation testing basics, recognize test cases you can automate, choose an automation tool, create a strategy for a smooth transition from manual to automation, design a framework, and start with a simple automation test case. You can move forward from here and focus on writing maintainable test cases and slowly increase your test coverage. Most importantly, the move from manual to automation should be made after you have identified the areas to automate, the difficulties you might encounter, and the tool you will use to begin the automation process.

How to Perform Manual Testing?

To perform manual testing, follow the below steps in a sequential manner:

Test Planning

Test planning is the first stage of manual testing, where testers understand the user requirements and design documents. They lay down a plan to identify test objectives, define the test strategy, and create a test plan outlining the testing approach with necessary resources and timelines.

Test Case Designing

The next step is to design the test cases. It involves outlining the steps to be executed, the expected results, and any prerequisites or test data requirements.

Test Environment Setup

Thereafter, you set up a test environment, which includes configuring the hardware, software, and network settings required for performing the tests. The step also includes installing the application, databases, web servers, or other components you may need to run the tests.

Test Execution

After all the planning, designing, and preparing, testers execute the test cases to document the actual results. They interact with the application’s user interface and validate its behavior against the expected outcomes per the user specification documents.

Reporting and Analysis

Any defects or issues encountered in the last step are recorded and raised to the concerned teams for fixing. The reporting consists of screenshots, testing conditions, and the details of the faults. Developers analyze the issues assigned to them and determine the best approach to resolve the problem as early as possible.

Test Closure

In this final stage, testers review the test execution results and assess if the testing objectives have been met. They re-evaluate the defects that have been fixed by the developers and close the issue if the fault is resolved. They generate test summary reports, highlighting the test coverage and the number of defects found with other relevant metrics for stakeholders after the complete testing is over. In some cases, test closure may also involve documenting best practices and preparing for future testing cycles.

Get here the top list of Manual Testing Tools.

Myths of Manual Testing

Myths Facts 
Manual testing ensures a 100% defect-free product. Manual testing attempts to find as many bugs as possible but does not guarantee a completely defect-free product. 
Anyone can do manual testing. Manual testing requires skills and expertise to understand the application and work on the test cases. 
All manual testing types can be automated. Not all manual testing can be automated; some test cases require a manual approach. 
Manual testing is easy. Manual testing calls for a certain level of skills and understanding. 

Tips for Performing Better Manual Testing

We have a few tips for you to become a good manual tester.

  • Properly understand the specification requirements and the design documents before creating the test cases.
  • Clearly define the scope of testing, objectives, and test approach.
  • Design and develop test cases only after you know the risk analysis, business impact, and critical functionalities.
  • Break down the testing into small, manageable increments.
  • Write easily understandable, scalable, and concise test cases.
  • Ensure to develop test cases that can be reused in the future.
  • Conduct exploratory and ad hoc testing to uncover unexpected defects, edge cases, or usability issues.
  • Maintain open and effective communication with the development team, stakeholders, and other team members involved in the project.
  • Pay keen attention to the user interface elements, such as layout, design, responsiveness, and usability.
  • Keep learning about the product and testing to keep growing and enhancing your skills.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Manual Testing

Some of the advantages of manual testing are:

  • Flexibility to adapt and explore various test scenarios based on intuition and expertise.
  • Explore the software and identifies new test scenarios, as testers can think creatively and apply their domain knowledge.
  • Assess the software’s usability, accessibility, and overall user experience.
  • Cost-effective for small-scale projects with limited resources and short timelines.

Some of its disadvantages are:

  • Manual testing is labor-intensive and time-consuming.
  • Susceptible to human errors, such as oversight or inconsistency in test execution and interpretation of results.
  • It can become monotonous and may lead to inconsistencies or missing defects.
  • Not suitable for complex systems or projects with frequent changes, as it requires extensive effort and time.


Manual testing is a necessary first step to ensuring quality software. It helps uncover several defects with a human approach, something not there in automation testing. And although the manual testing process can be time-consuming and tedious, it is always how the testing activity starts; testers browse through the application or the feature before defining and writing the test cases. You can move on to automation testing later on as you complete the manual testing process. Alongside this, it is not advisable to start directly with automation testing. Because with manual testing, you have a solid foundation of the workings of the software with all the proper test plans and cases, which you can translate to automation as per your requirements. And whenever you decide to automate, explore the Testsigma tool to see how it complements your testing efforts with AI and low-code testing of web, mobile, and APIs. We invite you to register for the free demo and see the tool in action for yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a manual testing example?