What is UAT Testing (User Acceptance Testing)?

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Quick Hits: 
  • User acceptance testing (UAT) enables developers to test their software and obtain end-user feedback before their product goes live. 
  • UAT success is based on a clear understanding of the scope and requirements of the test, as well as careful planning and test design. 
  • A UAT checklist (like the one included below) can keep a user acceptance test on track to meet its outlined objectives quickly and efficiently.
User Acceptance Testing (UAT) Meaning 

Software products, especially complex technical ones, need to be tested before they’re released into the world. Having fresh eyes on a project is important, especially when developers are so familiar with a product that they cannot conceptualize how a new user would approach it.  

User acceptance testing, also known as beta testing, is software testing done by an end user (or the closest approximation to an end user as possible) to see if the product can be accepted by a new user. Unlike white box testing, testers will not be able to see every part of the system. UAT testing is also not for small errors or cosmetics, rather it should test the core functionality of a product or feature. 

User acceptance testing puts a product through real-world applications to assess whether it is ready to be used by target consumers. It is essential for UAT to mimic real life as much as possible, testing the entire product for issues before it is released. 

User acceptance testing is one of the final steps in the software development process before a product goes onto the market. Executing this step well is crucial to the success of the product after its release. If you do not properly utilize UAT, issues that could have been fixed in development will reach consumers and hinder the product’s success. In this article, we’ll both provide insight into the UAT process and offer advice to help you avoid common catastrophic UAT design mistakes.

UAT Tester Requirements 

Choosing user acceptance testers is arguably the most important part of the UAT process. It’s essential to choose testers who have not been any part of the development process and are brand new to the software. Testers should fit your target customer profile in as many ways as possible. If you have multiple user roles within your software, each of these levels of access should be tested.  

The right UAT tester will be able to provide valuable insights into how your customers think and what they will expect from your software. UAT testers who would not use your software in their everyday life will not have relevant insights, and may even provide detrimental insights that derail the project.  

Additionally, a UAT tester should be able to think analytically and communicate clearly about issues they experience. Testers that can provide comments beyond “I didn’t like that,” or “It didn’t work” bring a particularly valuable perspective. 

Choosing the right testers is the most important part of the user acceptance process. We’ll go over the rest of the UAT process and other best practices later in this article, but choosing the right testers is the foundation of a successful user acceptance test. 

Benefits of UAT Testing 

Even if a piece of software runs without breaking from a technical point of view, that doesn’t mean the technology will function for a brand-new user. UAT doesn’t answer the question “Does it work?” as much as it answers the question “Does this meet customer needs?” User acceptance testing helps identify the gaps between a technically functional piece of software and a user friendly piece of software. 

UAT testing can also bridge the gap between requirements communicated to developers and requirements for the software as a whole. Especially for more complicated projects, the intended use of the software can get lost in the minutia that developers have to work through. User acceptance testing gives the whole team time to examine the project and spot deficiencies or miscommunications before they cause larger issues down the road.  

User Acceptance Testing Checklist 

You know your product needs user tested, but you have no idea what this stage of the process should look like. This checklist should help you identify what stage you’re at in the process, and what needs to be done before you can move on to polishing the product before launch.  

UAT Planning 

Taking the time to plan the User Acceptance Test beforehand not only ensures this stage runs smoothly, but also that your team receives the most benefits from the process possible. In this planning stage, make sure you check the following tasks off your checklist: 

  • Knowledge gathering – Take time to gather all the information about the expectations for this UAT. Outline what parts of the software need to be tested, the intended functionality of these elements, and what the end-user experience should be. Now is also the time to figure out which members of the team are going to contribute to this project. Clearly define the scope and goal of the project before moving forward.  
  • Design the Test – With the parameters discovered above, it’s time to design the test scenarios. Also set a timeline for the testing, how and where it will be executed, as well as the amount and kind of testers being used.  

UAT Execution 

You have a clear understanding of the test, the testers, and the information you’re looking for. Now it’s time to run the test.  

  • Execute – Run the test scenario, or test scenarios, with the testers you’ve acquired. If bugs are found, pause testing and fix the bugs before rerunning.
  • Problem Solve – If larger issues are found, the test may be paused for a prolonged period of time to fix them. If there’s a particularly large gap in functionality, consider an ISO or ISV to help fill that gap.
  • Document – Keep a close and organized record of the test results, comments, and all of the other data you’re collecting. If data is collected before certain issues are fixed, make sure to include notes about the version tested.

UAT Review 

Once the tests are finished, it’s time to analyze the final results. If there are clear large issues that the test discovered, it’s likely you’ll rerun the tests again before pushing the software out into production. Make sure you answer the following questions, and resolve the attached issues, before letting the product move forward. 

  • Are there any critical defects in the product? 
  • Are there any bugs that need to be solved before the product moves forward? 
  • Does the product meet internal requirements? 
  • Does the product meet customer expectations? 

If all these questions are answered to your satisfaction, it’s time to generate a report on the test, and then get the appropriate sign-off. 

User Acceptance Testing Best Practices 

User acceptance testing can be an incredibly complicated project, especially if the project has a large scope or multiple end users to test against.  Use these best practices to make sure the project doesn’t go off the rails:

  • Prepare a detailed UAT plan early in the process – if you don’t know the objectives and requirements for the user acceptance test early on, you may have to redo work later.
  • Set clear expectations – Everyone, from the test designers to the testers, should have a clear understanding of the scope and objectives of the project. Communicate clear expectations before work or testing begins to get the most out of the test.  
  • Choose the right testers – We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, testers can make or break the UAT process. Choose subject matter experts who fill all the requirements for the project.  
  • Test real-world applications of the software – Design the test to explore the real end-user experience, don’t go scan through the whole system piece by piece. UAT is not testing whether the software is technically functional, but whether the software has a good user experience. 
  • Evaluate Critically – You’ve chosen your testers carefully, listen to their feedback and monitor their experience closely. This process isn’t just another checkbox to tick before the software moves on, it’s a critical point that can either make or break the product’s eventual launch.  

Take note of these tips, and if you’re struggling, put them somewhere easy to reference throughout the project. In a process like user acceptance testing, it can be easy to lose the forest for the trees. Keeping the overall goals of the software, and the ideal user experience, in mind can help you navigate all the details with clarity. 

After this article, you should be ready to move forward and start planning your user acceptance test. Software development can be tricky, but UAT can help identify issues early on. If you still feel like you’re missing something related to data security or privacy, we’d suggest looking into tokenization tools. Tokenization can secure your data and enable you to continue doing what you do best.