User acceptance testing (UAT) is a form of product testing that evaluates a product’s ability to meet top level business requirements and expectations. In ideal development processes, UAT is performed on a frequent, ongoing basis to ensure the project remains in line with the initial scope.
UAT is usually performed in a controlled environment with a panel of users who are guided through real-world test cases. UAT can also include alpha and beta testing stages, where a product is widely released (sometimes to the general public) with the goal of identifying bugs in more nuanced use cases. Alpha and beta tests are typically self-paced by the users and reserved for the very end of the project development timeline.
The goal of UAT is to test a product’s completion and consistency so that any necessary adjustments can be made while it is still in development, rather than realizing the software is incapable of supporting day-to-day operations after it has already been released. Thorough UAT can save a significant amount of money in costly post-release updates.
- Design and planning: The design for a product’s UAT should prioritize top level expectations. In-house UAT assignments are structured in a way that gets to the heart of a specific scenario so the product’s usability can be measured accordingly. Similarly, an effective UAT has clear standards and metrics that will determine when the testing is complete.
- Test subject selection: Depending on the project, UAT test subjects are usually the client or end users. While professional testers and product team members are valuable subjects for other test environments, the goals of UAT are best evaluated when the subject is both unfamiliar with the product and uncompensated for their responses. Ideal UAT subjects are able to give feedback that is objective and thorough.
- Documentation and fixes: Aside from documenting the framework for the testing (the scope, owner, participants, etc.), successful UAT methodology will keep track of expected outcomes, results of the tests, task prioritization, and real-time updates as changes are implemented. Clear documentation makes bug fixes and the causal relationship between subsequent updates easier to track.
- Sign-off: The criteria for UAT sign-off (as determined in the design and planning stage) will indicate when a product is ready for general consumption. Sign-off indicates that all of the high- and medium-priority bugs have been addressed and production is ready to begin. Not only does this make for efficient testing, but it also gives developers a clear vision of what will (or, more appropriately, what will not) happen during product launch.