What is user acceptance testing?

7 min read
Jul 4, 2024

User Acceptance Testing (UAT), also known as user testing or end-user testing, is crucial for making sure a software system meets the needs and expectations of its intended users. It involves real-world testing of the software to see if it works correctly and effectively. During user acceptance testing, users perform various tasks and provide feedback on their experience with the software.

In this blog post you will learn more about the different phases of software acceptance and how you can apply those principles to introduce new software in your organisation.

Table of contents

  1. What is the purpose of UAT?
  2. How to perform UAT?
  3. The phases of software acceptance
  4. Challenges of UAT
  5. UAT test case outcomes
  6. Best practices for user acceptance testing

What is the purpose of UAT?

UAT is essential for validating the software after the development cycle. It usually comes after unit testing, quality assurance, system testing, and integration testing. Even if the software seems fully functional after these phases, it might still not meet user requirements if not thoroughly vetted by its intended users. This can happen due to unclear initial requirements, changes in project scope, or the software not being adequately prepared for real-world use. User acceptance testing helps prevent the release of faulty, ineffective, or incomplete software products.

To be effective, UAT should be thorough and aligned with user expectations, identifying issues not previously uncovered. Without user acceptance testing, the software might be launched with defects or without a clear understanding of its end-user goals, leading to costly errors and potential damage to the software vendor’s reputation.

How to perform UAT?

The steps involved in a User Acceptance Test can vary depending on the level of detail. Generally, the process includes:

  1. Plan: Outline the business requirements, time frame, and strategies for conducting user acceptance testing. This ensures clarity and sets expectations for the entire process.

  2. Identify and create real-world test scenarios: Develop test scenarios covering a wide range of functional cases that end users may encounter. These scenarios should be as realistic as possible to reflect actual usage conditions.

  3. Select the testing team: Decide whether to involve a small group of end users or a larger audience, such as offering a free trial online. The selected end users should understand the business and be able to identify and report issues effectively.

  4. Test and document: End users begin testing the software, meticulously logging any potential bugs or issues they encounter. All identified bugs should be documented in a bug tracker, with detailed notes on reproducing the errors.

  5. Update code, retest, and sign Off: The development team revises the code based on the test results, addressing any bugs or implementing suggested changes. The software is then retested. Once it meets the users' criteria, the testers formally sign off on the changes, indicating the software is ready for release.

The phases of software acceptance

Software acceptance is crucial for the success of any product or company. While developing a product may pose technical challenges, the adoption phase ultimately determines its fate. Navigating user adoption rates can be daunting, but scientific techniques are available to measure and analyse these rates effectively. By understanding and implementing these strategies, businesses can increase their chances of success in the competitive market. Adopting a customer-centric approach and continuously monitoring user feedback are key factors in achieving high adoption rates and ensuring the long-term success of a software product.

Think user-centric

When designing any product or service, it’s crucial to adopt a user-centric approach. This means putting the needs, preferences, and experiences of the users at the forefront of the design process. By understanding the goals and motivations of the target audience, we can create functional and delightful solutions. From intuitive user interfaces to personalised customer experiences, a user-centric approach leads to greater satisfaction and loyalty. By focusing on the needs of the users, we can create products that truly resonate with them and ultimately drive business success.

Different testing approaches

Alpha testing

Alpha testing is the initial phase of software testing. It involves a select group of users who test the software in a controlled environment to provide valuable feedback to the developers. This helps identify bugs and issues before the product reaches a wider audience, improving the quality of the software and leading to a more successful product launch.

Beta testing

Beta testing follows alpha testing and involves a larger group of users. It’s more about trying out new features or ideas in a live environment. Version 1.0 is released to end-users who validate the product. Development continues with regular updates to ensure compatibility with modern systems and meet user expectations.

Black box testing

Black Box Testing is a method where the tester examines the software's functionality without knowing the internal code structure. The tester inputs data and observes the output, ensuring the software behaves as expected. This type of testing is crucial for validating user requirements and identifying any functional discrepancies.

Operational Acceptance Testing

Operational Acceptance Testing (OAT) verifies that the software is ready for deployment and operational use. It involves testing predefined workflows, product compatibility, reliability, and stability. The goal is to ensure the software can handle day-to-day operations smoothly and is compatible with other systems and environments.

Contract acceptance testing

Contract Acceptance Testing ensures the software meets the specific criteria and specifications outlined in the project contract. This formal process involves detailed checks against the contract's requirements, ensuring the delivered product aligns with what was promised and agreed upon during the project's inception.

Regulation acceptance testing

Regulation Acceptance Testing ensures the software complies with all relevant legal rules and regulations. This is particularly important in industries with strict regulatory requirements, such as finance, healthcare, and government sectors. The testing process involves validating that the software adheres to legal standards, industry guidelines, and regulatory requirements.

Challenges of UAT

User Acceptance Testing can present various challenges. Here are some common ones:

  1. Poor test planning: Because UAT is the final stage in the software development lifecycle, any delays earlier on can squeeze the time available for user acceptance testing. This time pressure can lead to rushed and incomplete testing. Thorough planning is essential, including allocating adequate time for UAT and ensuring that each phase of the development process stays on schedule.

  2. Inadequate selection of UAT users: The effectiveness of user acceptance testing largely depends on the testers. If testers are not properly trained or familiar with the software, they might miss important bugs or fail to provide useful feedback. Selecting the right testers and providing them with proper training is crucial.

  3. Testing environment and deployment issues: Using the same environment for user acceptance testing that was used in previous testing phases can lead to issues if the software relies on specific configurations or dependencies that won't exist in the production environment. Conducting UAT in an environment that closely resembles the actual production setup is important.

  4. Communication gaps: Clear and effective communication between the user acceptance testing team and the development team is vital. Miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings, delayed bug fixes, and repeated issues. Establishing strong communication channels and ensuring regular updates can help keep everyone on the same page and address issues promptly.

UAT test case outcomes

Documenting user acceptance testing results is essential for ensuring traceability, clarity, and ease of use. Here are some key elements to include in your UAT outcome documentation:

  1. Acceptance criteria: Clearly define each test case's criteria for the software to be considered acceptable.

  2. Business impact: Assess and document the impact of each issue found during testing, categorising them as high, medium, or low.

  3. Business requirement: Link each test case to the specific business requirement it is testing.

  4. Comments: Include a section for any additional comments or observations made by the tester.

  5. Date executed: Record the date each test was executed.

  6. Expected outcomes: Clearly state the expected results for each test case.

  7. Name of tester: Document the name of the tester who conducted the test.

  8. Pass/fail: Indicate whether each test case passed or failed.

  9. Test case name and number: Assign a unique name and number to each test case for easy identification and reference.

  10. Test case steps defined: Provide a detailed description of the steps involved in each test case.

Measuring success

Success can be measured in many ways. It’s not just about the number of users or how much they like the software. You have to look at the whole picture, including how productive users are and their overall satisfaction. In a UAT environment, you might track metrics like hours logged with the application or data transferred per user. But one of the best measures is user stories. These describe how users interact with the software and how they feel about each step of that process. Listening to user stories gives you the best insights into how well your software meets user needs.

A provably optimal product

Once a software developer has committed to thorough testing, the end result is users actually using and enjoying the software enough to incorporate it into their regular habits. Performance metrics can prove that it is optimal for its desired application. Test automation services can play a crucial role in ensuring the software meets user expectations and functions flawlessly.

Best practices for user acceptance testing

User Acceptance Testing is critical for ensuring software meets user expectations and business requirements. Here are some best practices:

  1. Gather comprehensive information: Collect all necessary data related to the process being tested. This includes understanding the actions required for each test and setting clear guidelines for selecting test data.

  2. Properly identify the target audience: Select user acceptance testing users who have a deep understanding of the business processes and can provide valuable feedback.

  3. Understand the project scope: Clearly define which processes need to be tested and collect data accordingly. Focus on the critical areas that impact the overall functionality and user experience.

  4. Design detailed test cases: Develop comprehensive test scenarios that outline specific procedures, expected results, and conditions that need to be verified.

  5. Confirm business objectives: Once testing is completed and all identified bugs are resolved, obtain a formal sign-off from stakeholders. This confirms that the changes meet business requirements and that the software is ready for deployment.

By following these best practices, organisations can enhance the effectiveness of their user acceptance testing processes, ensuring the software meets user needs and business goals before it is released.

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