Continuous Testing vs Test Automation: What’s the Difference?

Mar 6, 2024 | Test Automation Insights

GUI icon

Over the years, continuous testing and test automation have become a more integral part of the development process. They’ve gone from being seen as a last-ditch effort for debugging to a staple of the life cycle. However, the two tests are inherently different and have different uses that can be helpful for developers to know at all experience levels.

Let’s compare continuous testing vs automated testing head to head and look at the benefits, challenges, and use cases for both options. 

What Is Continuous Testing?

Continuous testing (CT) is a technique wherein applications are tested continuously throughout all phases of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Its goal is to maintain consistent software quality across the life cycle by offering essential feedback earlier in the process so developers can deploy the product faster and with higher quality.

Benefits of Continuous Testing

There are many benefits to implementing continuous testing at every stage of your SDLC. This is because it allows you to both shift “left” toward white-box testing and shift “right” toward black-box testing throughout production. At a glance, these benefits include:

  • Risk mitigation: At its very core as a form of left-shifting automation, continuous testing is meant to help developers assess business risk coverage more effectively and find results faster.
  • Testing range expansion: Continuous testing allows developers to conduct right-shifting tests more easily, allowing developers to detect issues and quickly resolve them in the earliest stages of production.
  • Easy integration: In most cases, continuous testing can be easily integrated into the delivery pipeline, even at early stages.
  • Faster release time: Instead of discovering a cascade of bugs and other issues within the final phases of the SDLC, continuous testing allows developers to correct risky code soon after it’s added, making it easier to solve problems early on.

Challenges of Continuous Testing

For as beneficial as continuous testing can be, it also comes with several challenges and disadvantages that can make it impractical for some software development teams. At a glance, these challenges and drawbacks include:

  • Human error: Continuous testing inherently involves some level of monotony, especially when your developers have to conduct the tests manually. This leads to a higher risk of mistakes owed to human error.
  • Tool challenges: There are many different testing tools available on the market today, but the most popular tools may not necessarily be right for your team or the projects they’re doing.
  • Time costs: While this testing process can be valuable for helping your team detect critical bugs and other errors in your software, setting up continuous testing tools can be extremely time-consuming, especially for developers who are less familiar with the process.
  • Size problems: For smaller projects or those that don’t require as many repeated tests, continuous testing may not be the best choice for code quality assurance.
  • Environment considerations: Unlike some other forms of testing, continuous testing can only be done in a stable test environment. While this isn’t an issue for every developer team, it can pose challenges for teams that are working with limited resources and time.

Tools for Continuous Testing

From classics like Jira Software and Jenkins to free open-source options like SoapUI, there are as many continuous testing tools as there are programming languages and browsers. Finding the right testing tool for your needs is a matter of determining which programming languages your application uses and the types of platforms for which you need to test it.

What Is Automated Testing?

Automated testing is the implementation of tools that can execute test cases automatically, without manual input from your developers or testers. This process also includes retrieving test results without the need for human intervention.

Compared to more manual testing options, automated testing allows smaller teams to accomplish more by freeing up a developer’s time and resources, using just a few clicks or keystrokes to execute the test. Once the results are in, your DevOps team can review the results and resolve any issues that the tests detected within the code.

Benefits of Automated Testing

In addition to being a more hands-off approach that saves time, automated testing can help developers by:

  • Making scaling easier: Because they can be done with little human interference, automated tests are ideal for large and complex projects that require frequent tests.
  • Saving time: Time is of the essence during development sprints. Automating the types of tests that are more tedious allows your team to work on larger tasks and deploy your software faster.
  • Reducing human error: Because automated tests do not rely on developers or testers to find bugs, they reduce the likelihood of human error that usually comes with continuous testing.
  • Enabling customization: Developers and testers can customize automated tests to suit the needs of the application using object recognition and other features.

Challenges of Automated Testing

While automated testing can save time and allow developers to allocate resources to other tasks within the project, there are some challenges and drawbacks. These can include:

  • Methodology limitations: Because automated testing tools typically rely on a pass/fail methodology to determine results, there is less emphasis on user insight.
  • Cost of implementation: The setup and configuration costs associated with automated testing can be too expensive to be cost-effective, especially for smaller projects or teams.
  • Script maintenance: To avoid false positives or negatives in your automated tests, your team needs to keep up with software development and modifications by adjusting the test scripts.
  • Lack of human elements: While test automation does save time and resources, it removes the element of human insight that’s more inherent in continuous testing.

Tools for Automated Testing

There are numerous test automation tools available on the market for developers. However, like their counterparts in continuous testing, some automated testing tools may be better for some organizations than others. For example, Ranorex Studio is ideal for large teams or projects with intricate moving parts at every phase of the process.

Continuous Testing vs Test Automation: Key Differences

While the two types of tests have similar objectives, their processes are slightly different. The key differences between the two include:

  • Timeline: Typically, continuous testing requires developers to allot more time to QA tasks, while automated testing programs can often run in the background while the developer works on other tasks.
  • Onset: Continuous testing tends to occur in tandem with the software’s development, while automated testing can often start later in the process.
  • Error risk: Test automation reduces the risk of human error more than continuous testing.
  • Release methodology: Continuous testing relies on user insight for the release, while automated testing uses a pass/fail methodology in a release.
  • Responsibility: Whereas automated testing relies on programs that automatically run selected and customized tests, continuous testing relies on DevOps for regular execution.

While automated and continuous testing can be done individually, using both of them in your project’s QA processes allows you to mitigate risk. Together, they also allow you to improve the quality of your product and increase your productivity more than they would separately.

How Ranorex Can Help

Ranorex Studio is a suite of powerful testing platforms that help developers and testers implement multiple types of tests across different devices, browser types, and coding languages. In turn, this also allows them to focus on creating the best possible software product, detect and resolve more bugs before publication, and release a higher-quality product faster overall.

Some of the tools within Ranorex’s suite include automated testing tools that can be implemented at all stages of the development process. These include functional, regression, black box, and cross-browser testing among others.

Why Choose Ranorex for Your Software Testing?

Easy Test Design

As part of the Ranorex family of products, Ranorex DesignWise allows developers to create their own tests quickly and easily for quality assurance. Even with custom-built code, this tool allows them to detect potential bugs and improve user experience, all while saving time and frustration.

Excellent Security

As a part of your testing tools, Ranorex allows you to test your software off the grid. This reduces the likelihood of security breaches during and after release. These tools also securely store your team’s credentials to make the testing process easier.

Ranorex is designed to streamline the development process with secure data handling at the forefront of every test and feature, be it through functionality testing, cross-browser testing, or anything in between.

Powerful Object Recognition

Housed within Ranorex Studio, Ranorex Spy is unmatched in its object recognition capabilities. This feature allows you to ensure more impactful, stable automated tests, saving you time and money on test automation.

Using machine learning, Ranorex Spy instantly tracks all UI elements, including dynamic elements within your software, to provide detailed control information on each one for use in the validation process.

Flexible API

Ranorex API enables developers to work across as many platforms as they need for their application, all using their .NET IDE of choice for C# and VB.Net. It works with a full array of API methods to improve testing across all browsers and device types, all while still offering the best object recognition capabilities on the market.

Start a Free Trial of Ranorex Today

Ready to make your development process more seamless than ever? Start your free trial of Ranorex Studio and Ranorex DesignWise today to build effective continuous and automated tests that will make your software even better for your users.

Related Posts:

5 Software Quality Metrics That Matter

5 Software Quality Metrics That Matter

Which software quality metrics matter most? That’s the question we all need to ask. If your company is dedicated to developing high-quality software, then you need a definition for what “high-quality” actually looks like. This means understanding different aspects of...

The Ins and Outs of Pairwise Testing

The Ins and Outs of Pairwise Testing

Software testing typically involves taking user requirements and stories to create test cases that provide a desired level of coverage. Many of these tests contain a certain level of redundancy. Traditional testing methods can lead to a lot of wasted time and extend...