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Why we should stop using the term u0026quot;manual testeru0026quot;

Tuukka Virtanen
November 20, 2023

In my opinion, the term “manual tester” is outdated, and I don’t think it’s useful anymore. Why? In this blog post, I will explain my rationale for why I think that and suggest alternative terms we should use instead.

First, let’s start with what is usually meant by the term “manual tester.” What do people mean when they use the term?

Traditionally, manual testers were responsible for performing repetitive testing tasks manually, without the use of automation tools or scripting. Essentially, it meant “non-automated testing.” For example, this could involve going through a number sheet and inputting those numbers into the system under test, observing how the system reacts, and documenting their observations. Another classic example would be a tester reading the test case description, following the test case steps, and executing these steps on the testable system, observing the system’s behavior and recording the results.

Sometimes, the term “manual tester” carries a somewhat negative connotation. It is often used derogatorily, implying that it’s “just” manual testing, which suggests that “anyone can do it.” This, of course, is not true, but using the term this way devalues the work done by testing professionals. I believe this is one of the main reasons we should no longer use the term.

What I’m trying to convey is that I believe the role of the “manual” tester has evolved. “Manual” testers are increasingly performing testing tasks with automated tools, and the days of simply inputting numbers without thoughtful analysis are gone. Individuals engaged in manual testing now need a clear understanding of the testable business process, the application domain, and the required acceptance criteria to perform their tasks effectively. They have to employ various tools and software programs for testing, and not all of these tools or programs are “automated,” but they still require a significant amount of tool and domain knowledge to operate successfully. For example, using SQL tools to query a database and confirm that the data complies with the requirements is not something “anyone can do” without proper training.

So, what words should we use instead?

Certainly, there are numerous testing tasks that cannot be automated for various reasons. These tasks should have their own specific terms, such as “functional tester” for testing system functionality and “exploratory tester” for thoroughly exploring the system’s capabilities. We already have these more specific terms that better describe the actual work being done. Why not use them instead?

The next time you hear someone using the term “manual tester,” consider asking them to be more specific about what they mean.

About the author

Consultant | Finland
Test automation consultant with technical experience in test automation and quality assurance. TMap Next certified Test Engineer with knowledge in test planning and execution and test design techniques. Master of Science in Information Management. Indie game development as a side project. Creative and visual thinker.


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