Manual software testing services can help QA testing teams ramp up test coverage without adding headcount. Most of these services give you access to hundreds of testers across the world for an hourly, monthly, or annual fee. But there are key differences in the way the services handle testing, and those differences can affect how much time these services actually end up saving (or costing) you.
We’ve found there are five main areas that set manual testing services apart:
Keeping these differentiators in mind, we compare 11 manual software testing services—starting with our solution, Rainforest QA.
Want to scale up your manual testing without adding headcount? Sign up for Rainforest QA for 24/7, on-demand access to manual testers from our worldwide community of QA specialists. You can try our manual testing service free for 14 days; after that, it’s only $25/hour.
Rainforest QA crowdsourcing provides incredibly fast manual testing, returning all results within an average of 17 minutes after submission—day or night. We do this by offering a unique blend of software and service:
Most manual software testing services create and manage your entire QA program for you. This usually entails a long onboarding process where someone from the services company attends your development team meetings until they have a basic understanding of your team's process and quality goals. Then they use that information to create a personalized testing program for you.
By outsourcing your QA strategy and test plan, you’re trusting that someone outside your team will be able to understand your goals and process well enough to provide valuable testing results.
In our many years of working with companies to build effective and efficient software testing programs, we’ve found your QA testing program will provide far more valuable results and move quicker if you design your QA strategy and test plan internally. That's why we focus on providing the manpower to handle the actual test execution, while empowering your team to take ownership of the strategy.
If you’ve never developed a QA strategy before, we provide expert one-on-one guidance to help you get started as part of our premium Professional features. Additionally, our Enterprise plan customers get a dedicated QA consultant who works closely with them long-term to develop a QA strategy and implementation plan.
With Rainforest QA, you can get started right away and execute your first test within minutes—rather than waiting to complete an onboarding process.
Some types of testing, such as exploratory testing, rely heavily on the tester’s ability to be creative in finding new user paths. Other types of testing, such as regression testing, need to be run exactly the same way every time. One common problem with manual testing is that there’s always the potential for the tester to misunderstand the test steps or criteria, leading them to incorrectly pass or fail some tests.
Without a clear method of communication, many teams find that they don’t trust testers outside their organization to perform tests for unique or complex areas of their application. With this in mind, we designed our manual testing platform in a way that makes the test steps and pass/fail criteria clear and unambiguous.
There are two ways to write test scripts in Rainforest QA: In the Plain-Text Editor and in the Visual Editor.
In the Plain-Text Editor, you can write out test instructions in plain English.
The tester confirmation should always consist of a simple “yes” or “no” question to validate the element being tested. Because this method is more freeform than our Visual Editor, we provide additional guidance and tips for writing tester instructions to remove ambiguity.
If any of the steps are unclear, our testers will ask you to clarify your intentions rather than just make a guess. These policies allow you to have total confidence in the accuracy of the test results.
The no-code Visual Editor eliminates ambiguity by requiring clearly-defined variables for each test step:
Whenever you write a test with the Visual Editor, you can choose to run it using automation or human testers. The latter is useful for features that are still in the development stage and are experiencing frequent changes but will eventually be a good fit for automated testing.
Any test scripts written in the Visual Editor that get sent to our tester community will be automatically converted into plain English instructions for manual testers to follow.
The advantage of writing manual test scripts using our Visual Editor is that once the application is stable and ready for test automation, you can simply make tweaks to your existing tests, as needed. Updating tests written in the Visual Editor will generally be faster than re-writing all of your tests for automation from scratch.
Whether you use the Plain-Text Editor or the Visual Editor, no matter how many tests you submit to our crowd of QA specialists at a time, all of your tests will get executed simultaneously (i..e, “in parallel”). That allows us to return manual test results in an average of just 17 minutes after submission.
While many manual testing services claim you get results within minutes, this usually means within minutes after the tester begins the test—not within minutes of you submitting the test.
At Rainforest QA, our specialists are available 24/7, even on holidays, so you get the fastest results possible right when you need them.
Most manual testing service providers (including the other manual testing companies in this list) offer ‘in the wild’ testing, meaning the manual testers are using their own devices to execute tests. This may sound useful at first—‘real users with real devices’—but this approach can affect the reliability of your software testing.
Functional software testing is like a bacteria culture test in a laboratory. Your sample has to be placed in a perfectly clean environment for you to be confident that any bacteria that grows was present in the sample and wasn’t introduced by outside factors. To prove those results through repetition, the same contamination-free environment has to be used every time.
In the same way, software testing needs to be done in the same clean environment every time to get consistent, reliable results and to make it easier to reproduce bugs.
All Rainforest QA testers use our network of cloud-based virtual machines to execute tests. This means every test is run in the same environment, free from any unpredictable outside factors, such as ad blockers, browser security settings, or outdated operating systems.
Through our virtual machines, all of our testers have access to all major browsers including the latest and older versions of Safari, Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer and the latest and older operating systems for Windows, macOS, iOS (on iPhone and iPad), and Android (on phones and tablets).
Note: Rainforest QA does not support testing of hardware features like GPS, recording, and playing back audio and video, etc. However, our customers have found they can easily cover these instances in-house because Rainforest QA makes all other types of testing much faster and more reliable.
Every test, whether it passes or fails, gets recorded, and test results also include HTTP logs, browser logs, mouse activity, time spent on each step, and more. This means you’ll have all the information to recreate failed test steps and understand why they failed.
As our testers execute your test scripts, they’ll also evaluate the software from the end-user’s perspective and note any unexpected or undesirable aspects of the application they encounter. These might not be bugs, per se, but could be things affecting the user experience that you’ll want to address.
While most manual testing services offer some form of scripted testing (such as regression testing) and unscripted testing (also called exploratory testing), the reliability of these tests will vary depending on whether the same set of testers are used each time.
At Rainforest QA, to give you the best results, we provide different testers for every set of scripted tests, but you get assigned a group of four dedicated testers for all your exploratory testing. (Note that exploratory testing is only available in our Enterprise plan.)
Getting a new set of testers for each scripted test run helps avoid inattentional blindness.
Inattentional blindness in software testing is when a tester has gone through the same repetitive test steps so many times that they expect to see particular patterns, which causes them to miss unexpected changes in the content or behavior of the app.
If a tester is seeing an application for the first time with fresh eyes, then they’ll be more likely to notice even small discrepancies in the user interface.
Exploratory testing is better suited for testers who are already familiar with your application. Because the goal of exploratory testing is to uncover bugs found along atypical user paths, the testers first need an understanding of what typical user paths look like. This takes time and familiarity with the application, which will be difficult to achieve if you get different testers for every exploratory test run.
Each test gets sent to at least two QA specialists. If there’s any disagreement between the testers, additional testers are assigned to the test (up to seven) until they can get consistent, meaningful results. You’ll only be charged for one tester regardless of how many testers are needed.
Much like Uber, Airbnb, and other crowdsourcing services, Rainforest testers get rated after each test run and must maintain a high-quality rating. If their rating isn’t high enough, they will be removed from the service until they complete more training. Additionally, the majority of our testers have been with Rainforest for at least five years and receive ongoing training.
Some user paths will always be better suited for manual testing because they require human interpretation (e.g., CAPTCHA). Other user paths may be in an unstable state where they experience significant changes between each test run because they’re still under development. If a user path eventually reaches a stable state where it doesn’t change very often, it would most likely be cheaper and quicker to use automation.
If you aren’t already using test automation, chances are you will eventually want to automate your regression testing in order to speed up each release. Adding test automation with the same software you use for crowdsourced testing can save you time and money—especially if you just adapt your existing test scripts to run with automation.
If you’re already using a test automation platform but are interested in learning about a more effective tool for testing the UI, read this article.
Unlike most crowdtesting services that make you sign a contract or pay a set subscription fee, with Rainforest’s Professional plan, you only pay for what you use, and there are no long-term contracts. At a rate of $25/hr (after a free 14-day trial), you can run as many or as few tests as you need.
Each of the following software testing services may sound similar, however, there are slight differences. We hope this guide will help you find the best fit for your QA team.
Applause offers a fully managed manual testing service that focuses heavily on in-the-wild, exploratory testing. The company also offers scripted testing for desktop and mobile applications.
Onboarding includes integrating a team of Applause testers (headed by a project manager) into your workflow before any testing starts. Although you have the option to author tests yourself, all test cycles have to be activated by the project manager. Then, results get returned in 1-3 days.
Although there is no pricing information on the Applause website, reviews suggest that you have to sign a contract that is based on a set amount of testing hours per quarter.
For a more detailed comparison of Applause vs. Rainforest QA, read this article.
Testlio offers the option for a managed or co-managed manual software testing service for web and mobile apps. If you choose the co-managed service, you’ll be given the option to create and run some of your own tests. Either way, a few people from Testlio sit in on your team meetings until they understand your software product and development process well enough to create and run tests for you.
Once onboarding is complete and you’re ready for testing, an average testing session for Testlio is 1-4 hours. They also advertise ‘overnight’ functional testing. Additionally, reviews suggest that you may need to submit your testing suite one or two days in advance if you want to run a full suite of tests (such as your regression suite).
Like most of the manual testing companies in this list, Testlio offers in-the-wild testing, and has no pricing information on their website.
Test IO advertises their ability to make use of non-business hours for testing by offering overnight and weekend testing. They start with a less-than-24-hour onboarding process to help you learn the platform and design your test cases, but the Test IO staff quickly move to a hands-off approach. For an extra fee, they will help you with long term test management.
If you opt-in for the Test IO Elite package, they will return results within two hours—which is their fastest testing.
With any package, their goal is to minimize the number of bugs your team rejects over time. If you choose to add on the managed service, the Team Lead assigned to you will preview all reported bugs and reject any they think are irrelevant on your behalf.
TestingXperts will create and execute an entire testing plan for you. They keep you apprised of their progress with daily, weekly, and monthly reports. The reports include details about which tests were executed and what bugs were found to help you monitor your product quality. All reports can be found on a customized dashboard.
Additionally, each test they create can be traced back to specific business requirements. This is how they keep the test plan accountable to your testing needs. Each test is run by testing experts from the United States, Europe, and India.
KiwiQA uses a specific template for writing each test case that is built on a preset selection of inputs, execution preconditions, and expected outcomes. This suggests that they have a very methodical testing approach.
Each of their QA engineers is trained in this approach, and they write all of the test cases for you by default. If you would like to learn more about their approach, they also offer one-on-one training courses.
While they do have a specific setup already in place, they say they value innovation and new trends. So, they may be open to hearing your ideas for a different methodology.
QAwerk is based entirely in Ukraine, however, they work with clients in the USA, Europe, and Asia. They prefer that you have a test plan already prepared, however, they’ll create a test plan for you, if needed.
QAwerk advertises the ability to complete functional testing, integration testing, acceptance testing, and compatibility testing—all done by manual testers. Depending on the pricing plan you choose, your testing plan can include up to two types of software, four devices, four operating systems, and five browsers.
Mindful QA boasts of being 100% located in the United States. They value sustainability and eco-friendly practices.
Mindful QA strives for full test coverage of your web application with the idea that it will result in a bug-free environment. They typically get started on testing within two days of beginning the onboarding process and keep you updated on when to expect results.
While you do have to sign a contract to use their service, you won’t be committed to using a specific amount of testing hours.
QATestLab advertises their ability to take on any test project no matter the size or complexity. Up to 30% of projects will start the same day you request them. You can request several projects at once, then not have requests for several weeks. They work with you to scale testing up or down.
Anytime a tester at QATestLab finds a bug, they attach a description of what they found, console logs, crash logs, and screenshots or video records. As soon as your team has fixed the bug, the QATestLab team will retest your web app to ensure the bug was fixed.
QASource onboarding includes a ten step process to develop your QA test strategy, define testing environments, and prioritize different test cases. Then tests are executed by testers located in California, Mexico, or India. These testers use whatever tool is best suited to your testing process.
One of their core objectives is to deliver all testing within the timeframe they promise. Several of the main types of manual testing they offer are usability testing, security testing, and user acceptance testing.
Belitsoft helps startups and large companies (including healthcare and e-commerce businesses) create high quality software. Their testing services include performance testing, API testing, and localization testing. They claim to have a 100% secure environment for all testing.
Belitsoft offers two different models for integrating their team into your software development team: manual testers that work with any QA testers already on your team or as an independent specialized QA testing service. On their manual testing information page, they claim to have 20 in-house test engineers for manual application testing with an average of four years of experience.
With Rainforest QA, quality assurance teams can quickly scale up their manual testing without adding headcount or creating a bottleneck in the software development life cycle. Our on-demand testing teams provide the fastest test results of any of the services available today—17 minutes on average. And when you’re ready for automation, it’s easy to convert your manual test scripts into automated test scripts.
It’s a scalable, all-in-one test automation solution that’s appropriate for small teams just getting started with automated testing or QA-mature teams regularly running 500+ software tests.
Understand the differences between four popular manual testing services: Rainforest QA, Applause, Testlio, & Test.io.
Crowdsourced testing is an emergent method of QA testing which leverages a dispersed, temporary workforce to test software applications quickly and effectively.
Exploratory testing is an unscripted QA testing technique used to discover unknown issues, write test scripts and learn about usability during and after the software development process.
Rainforest QA has learnt many hard-won lessons about how best to use crowdsourced work whilst building its QA platform, and we’d like to share some of the highs and lows that we discovered.