How to go from manual to automated testing in 6 steps

Nadezhda Yushkevich
Updated on
Jun 21, 2024
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In the early years when test automation first gained popularity, there were predictions that manual testing would soon disappear — within 10-15 years or even sooner, depending on the analyst's outlook. However, looking at this question from a future perspective, it becomes clear that test automation cannot entirely replace manual testing. There are many testing types where manual QA engineers are still essential! Nevertheless, test automation has now become an integral part of the QA workflow, alongside manual testing. Today, many manual QA engineers view test automation as a new step in their career progression.

In this article, we explore the QA engineer career path of the transition from manual to automated testing or becoming a versatile specialist proficient in both manual and automated testing. Specifically, we examine how manual testers can benefit from transitioning to test automation and provide guidance on navigating this path as smoothly as possible.

Why (and when) do we need test automation?

Manual testing often encounters limitations such as time constraints, the inability to cover all test cases comprehensively, and challenges in detecting regressions efficiently. Automated testing addresses these limitations by providing several key benefits:

  • Faster execution. Automated testing allows tests to be executed faster and more frequently compared to manual testing. Test suites can be run overnight or during off-peak hours, freeing up testers' time for other tasks.
  • Coverage. Automated testing enables the testing of a larger number of scenarios and edge cases that may be impractical to cover manually. This leads to more thorough test coverage and reduces the likelihood of undiscovered bugs.
  • Reliability. Automated tests execute consistently and reliably, reducing the risk of human error inherent in manual testing. Tests produce consistent results, allowing for better comparison and analysis of test outcomes.
  • Scalability. As applications grow in complexity, so do test suites. Automated testing provides scalability to handle larger and more complex test suites without a proportional increase in effort.
  • Regression testing. One of the most significant benefits of automated testing is its ability to detect regressions quickly and efficiently. Automated tests can be rerun after each code change, providing rapid feedback on the impact of changes and ensuring that previously working functionality remains intact.

Resource optimization. Automated testing frees up manual testers from repetitive and time-consuming test execution tasks, allowing them to focus on more strategic activities such as exploratory testing, test planning, and defect analysis.

Motivating manual testers when learning test automation

At first glance experienced manual QA engineers don’t have a huge motivation to study test automation. With experience in manual testing, the specialist has a higher wage rate and better chances to find a new job fast in case he decides to change work. On the other hand, what if you get stuck in a routine and would like to learn and practice something else but regarding your professional area? Let’s explore possible benefits for manual testers from exploring test automation.

The response to the industry demand

In ideal conditions, a company that decides to incorporate test automation would hire additional experienced automation QA engineers. However, in reality, budget constraints often limit the company to hire just one test automation engineer. Some companies are also interested in training their current manual QA engineers in test automation. As a result, manual testers gain additional skills and become versatile specialists experienced in both manual testing and test automation.

Overall, test automation skills are in high demand in the software industry. Many organizations are transitioning towards automated testing to improve efficiency, reduce time-to-market, and enhance software quality. By learning test automation, manual QA engineers increase their employability and open up more career opportunities.

Broader skill set

Acquiring test automation skills broadens the skill set of manual QA engineers. It enables them to work on a wider range of projects and adapt to evolving industry trends and technologies. Additionally, understanding both manual and automated testing methodologies equips QA engineers with a more comprehensive understanding of the software development lifecycle.

Simply put, working in a large company, you will be more desirable as a member of any mixed manual and automation QA team. As an experienced manual tester, you also understand how test automation works and can propose efficient steps to optimize the QA workflow.

Career growth

Test automation expertise enhances the career growth prospects of manual QA engineers. It positions them as valuable assets within their organizations and increases their potential for advancement into roles such as automation engineers, test architects, or quality assurance leads. Additionally, automation skills are highly transferable across industries, providing opportunities for career diversification.

Authority and autonomy

Manual testers may be motivated by a desire for greater autonomy and control over their work. By learning test automation, they can take ownership of test automation initiatives, contribute to process improvements, and become more self-sufficient in their testing efforts.

Curiosity and job satisfaction

This is a bit out-of-focus but also an important point.

Manual testers may be motivated by a natural curiosity about new technologies and methodologies. Exploring test automation allows them to expand their knowledge and skill set, satisfying their intellectual curiosity and desire for continuous learning.

In addition, learning test automation can lead to increased job satisfaction for manual testers. They may find fulfillment in mastering new tools and techniques, solving complex problems, and contributing to the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the QA process.

6 steps for manual QA engineer for moving to test automation

The transition from manual QA to test automation is both challenging and intriguing. On one hand, manual testers have already acquired solid QA skills. On the other hand, test automation demands additional competencies, including programming languages, coding, setting up and adopting automation frameworks, and more. So, how should one begin learning test automation?

Step #1. Understand the basics

Familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of test automation, including its purpose, benefits, and common terminology. Gain a basic understanding of automation concepts such as test scripts, frameworks, and automation tools.

To avoid being just a theorist, subscribe to professional test automation communities where you can ask your questions without hesitation.

Step #2. Choose and learn a programming language

One of the most significant differences between manual and automated testing is that a test automation engineer should know a programming language to write a test script.

Choose a programming language commonly used in test automation, such as Python, Java, or JavaScript, and start learning its syntax and features. Focus on understanding variables, data types, loops, conditions, and functions, as these are essential for writing automated test scripts.

In recent years, numerous no-code test automation tools have been released to the market. They significantly simplify test automation tasks, but regardless, you should still possess a basic understanding of coding and programming languages. What if you encounter a scenario where a no-code tool lacks a pre-existing script for automating a task?

Step #3. Select and adopt appropriate test automation tools and frameworks

Research and evaluate different automation tools and frameworks based on your project requirements, technology stack, and personal preferences. Look for tools that offer features such as robust test recording and playback capabilities, support for various platforms and technologies, integrations with CI/CD pipelines, and a vibrant community for support and documentation. Popular automation tools include Selenium WebDriver, Appium, and Robot Framework. Choose one or more tools to focus on and invest time in learning their features and capabilities.

Step #4. Practice writing test scripts

Start by selecting a simple application or feature to test, and then create automated test scripts to verify its functionality. Begin with basic test scenarios, such as logging in, filling out a form, or clicking on buttons, and write test scripts to automate these actions.

As you gain confidence and proficiency, gradually increase the complexity of your test scenarios. Experiment with different types of tests, such as:

  • Functional tests. Write test scripts to verify that each function or feature of the application works as expected. For example, test scripts to verify that user registration, login, and logout functions work correctly.
  • Regression tests. Create test scripts to ensure that recent code changes or updates do not negatively impact existing functionality. Re-run these test scripts after each new code deployment to detect any regressions.
  • Integration tests. Develop test scripts to verify that different components or modules of the application work together seamlessly. Test interactions between various parts of the application, such as database connections, API calls, and user interface elements.

Use automation tools such as Selenium WebDriver, Appium, or Robot Framework to execute your test scripts and automate the testing process. Take advantage of features such as assertions, validations, and reporting to ensure the accuracy and reliability of your tests.

Regularly review and refactor your test scripts to improve readability, maintainability, and efficiency. Incorporate best practices such as code reuse, modularization, and abstraction to make your test scripts more robust and maintainable over time.

Step #5. Learn test automation best practices

Dive into the realm of test automation best practices and guidelines to ensure that your automated tests are not just effective, but also maintainable and scalable. Explore techniques such as the page object model, data-driven testing, and test data management to optimize your automation efforts.

Pay close attention to code organization, ensuring that your test scripts are structured in a modular and maintainable manner. Implement robust error-handling mechanisms to gracefully handle unexpected scenarios and improve the reliability of your automated tests.

Focus on enhancing reporting capabilities to provide actionable insights from your test results. Implement clear and informative reporting formats that facilitate easy identification and resolution of issues.

Step #6. Apply automation skills to real projects

Now that you have basic automation skills, it's time to put them to the test in real-world projects within your organization. Seek out opportunities to apply automation to tasks that can benefit from efficiency gains and increased reliability.

Volunteer to automate repetitive or time-consuming manual test cases, freeing up valuable time for your team to focus on higher-priority tasks. Identify areas of your organization's testing process that can be streamlined through automation and contribute to automation initiatives aimed at improving overall efficiency and effectiveness.

Summary

While manual testing remains pivotal in various scenarios, integrating test automation has become indispensable. With this, organizations can save money and the time of QA teams, ensuring better product quality. Manual QA engineers can also benefit from learning test automation. It provides them with better career opportunities and grants them more authority and autonomy within a testing workflow. In this article, we shared a simple step-by-step guide for mastering automation tools and frameworks that can empower testers to navigate their career paths effectively in the dynamic realm of software testing.

About the author

Nadezhda Yushkevich

Content Writer and Tech Journalist

With 11 years of work experience in journalism, media management, PR, and content marketing, she has specialized in IT and startup areas for the last five years. Interested in practices, trends, and approaches in the field of quality assurance.