Matthew Urwin | Dec 12, 2023

Automation testing describes a tool or a process where the computer runs multiple tests on various parts of a software with minimal or no involvement from the developer.

What Is Automation Testing?

Automation testing is the practice of using tools and frameworks to write scripts and conduct test cases. This allows tests to be performed with greater accuracy and in a shorter amount of time.

Any software that we use daily, whether it be the software that powers up your phone, laptop, TV or even your car, had to go through a set process before it was released for customers to use. This set process is called the software development lifecycle. The lifecycle starts with the idea behind the software (i.e. the problem the software is intended to solve) and ends with releasing and maintaining that software. A crucial step in this process is the testing stage. Before any software is released, it must undergo extensive tests to ensure that it operates as expected under different circumstances.


Automation Testing: When and Why to Use It

Testing software involves running it through different scenarios and observing its behavior. Suppose we have a small program that performs various mathematical operations. In that case, the testing process for the program will include feeding the program different numbers — positive, negative, whole, fraction and so on. This test could be tedious (not to mention time-consuming) if done manually by the developer. As a result, developers began experimenting with automated testing, the first of which appeared in 1985. Since then, developers have tried different techniques to teach computers how to perform testing with more efficiency and accuracy than humans.


Automation Testing vs. Manual Testing 

Manual testing requires a much more hands-on approach from software engineers, QA analysts and other appropriate personnel in contrast to automation testing. Because of this higher degree of human intervention, there are major differences between automation testing and manual testing that teams must take into account. 

  • Speed: Automation testing uses tools and scripts to perform the same tasks that manual testing requires humans to complete, except faster. 
  • Accuracy: Manual testing increases the chances of human errors, while automation testing uses tools to perform tests with greater accuracy. 
  • Cost: Automation testing is more cost-efficient in the long run since its tools can operate over an extended period and outperform manual testing. 
  • Scale: The speed of automation testing enables it to complete tests at a larger scale, while manual testing is much slower.  
  • Flexibility: Automated tests take longer to set up, making manual tests ideal for scenarios that call for flexibility.  
  • User experience: Only human workers can assess whether a product addresses the needs of users, so manual testing is best for centering the user experience

Automation testing and manual testing can serve as complements to each other, but these differences reveal situations where there are clear advantages to using automation testing. 


Why Use Automation Testing?

1. Better Scalability

When we automate tests, we can apply more tests to our software without requiring developers to be present throughout the process. Moreover, as the software becomes larger and more complex, the number of tests needed to achieve high coverage will increase, which automated testing can easily handle. For example, when Linux was first released in 1991, its kernal contained a little over 10,000 lines of code. Now, the kernel contains over 12 million lines of code. A software that size would be impossible to test manually.


2. Efficiency

Computers can run multiple tests within a relatively short amount of time. Compared to manual testing, automated testing can save a significant amount of time and speed up the software development and testing processes. Automated testing likewise increases software development efficiency because we can run tests in parallel with the development process. In other words, we can test software as we develop it, which can lead to a faster release.

More From Sara A. MetwalliPseudocode: What It Is and How to Write It


When to Use Automation Testing

You may be wondering when you should use automated testing with your software. Use automated testing if: 

  • You test your software quite regularly.
  • Your tests are repetitive and automating the testing process will save time and resources.
  • You want or need to run multiple tests in parallel.
  • Automating your tests will improve the quality of the testing process.


Types of Automation Testing

We can use a wide variety of automated testing depending on the type of software and the purpose of the testing process. While there are nine types of automated testing techniques, the three most commonly used are functional testing, unit testing and smoke testing.

Types of Automation Testing

  1. Functional Testing
  2. Unit Testing
  3. Smoke Testing
  4. Integration Testing
  5. Non-Functional Testing
  6. Performance Testing
  7. Regression Testing
  8. Keyword-Driven Testing
  9. Data-Driven Testing


1. Functional Testing

Function testing assesses the software against the set requirements. In other words, function testing primarily focuses on the big picture by answering the question: “Is the software as a whole accomplishing the task it was built for under different scenarios?” This type of testing is often referred to as black box testing.


2. Unit Testing

Unlike function testing, unit testing is used to test individual components or functions of the software in isolation to ensure that they work as expected. Because unit testing focuses on the individual components of the software, it’s often done during development as a first step of the testing process. 


3. Smoke Testing

The purpose of smoke testing is to choose only essential test cases that are designed to assess the stability and viability of the software.


4. Integration Testing

Integration testing focuses on evaluating the application as a whole by studying how the different modules interact with each other within the program.


5. Non-Functional Testing

Unlike functional and integration testing, non-functional testing focuses on the non-functional elements of an application such as performance and reliability. Basically, it tests how well the application performs rather than if it performs correctly or not.


6. Performance Testing

Performance testing involves testing a software’s speed and stability. The goal is to optimize the application so it will deliver the best results in the most efficient way.


7. Regression Testing

Regression testing is a maintenance type of testing. Developers use it after adding or removing a part of the application to compare its current performance to the previous iteration.


8. Keyword-Driven Testing

Keyword-driven testing involves analyzing specific keywords and connecting them with particular actions. Every time the keyword is called, the correlated action should automatically deploy.


9. Data-Driven Testing

Data-driven testing involves using external data to extend your automated test cases. We do data-driven testing so the developer won’t need to manually develop new test cases.

Often, developers make use of more than one testing technique to assess the software. Although automated testing is designed to eliminate human involvement, the developer needs to choose the testing techniques to use, analyze the testing process results and take further action accordingly.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is automation testing?

Automation testing is an approach that uses tools and frameworks to write scripts and execute test cases, largely removing the need for human intervention. As a result, teams can complete tests much faster and reduce the time and costs spent on the testing process.

Difference between manual testing and automation testing

Manual testing requires more human intervention from teams, compared to the tool-driven approach of automation testing. While this means manual testing is better for flexibility and centering the user experience, it also means automation testing is faster, more accurate and better equipped to handle large-scale production.

What is an example of automation testing?

An example of automation testing is unit testing, which involves isolating software components and testing them individually.

Expert Contributors

Built In’s expert contributor network publishes thoughtful, solutions-oriented stories written by innovative tech professionals. It is the tech industry’s definitive destination for sharing compelling, first-person accounts of problem-solving on the road to innovation.

Learn More

Great Companies Need Great People. That's Where We Come In.

Recruit With Us