The CEO and founder of Zoom Video Communications Eric Yuan once said, “My philosophy is, if I can provide a solution that the end user truly enjoys, then I think I have a chance.” With how ubiquitous Zoom has become in the age of COVID-19, it’s safe to say that Mr. Yuan was successful in implementing his philosophy.

Products like Apple’s iPhone have been wildly successful not just because their product looks sleek and possesses powerful software, but because its interface is very user-friendly. There are several ways to gauge user accessibility before sending a product to market. This process is best known as User Acceptance Testing, or UAT.
In this article, we will delve deeply into user acceptance testing, including what it is, why it’s important, how to prepare for it, how it works, and some common mistakes to avoid.

What Is User Acceptance Testing?

User acceptance testing (also known as beta testing or end-user testing) is a type of testing conducted by the end user or the client to verify and accept the software system, ensuring that it works as intended before the software application is sent to production. UAT is performed in the final phase of testing and follows the processes of functional, integration and system testing.

Why is User Acceptance Testing Important?

User acceptance testing allows people in a given target audience to test out the software and record any defects they come across. It provides users a unique opportunity to interact with the software and see if everything works as intended and to see if features have been overlooked, miscommunicated, or not communicated at all.
User acceptance testing in turn allows the development team to go back and address any issues identified (bugs, abnormalities, or anomalies). This crucial process serves as a final check to ensure the finished product is constructed well and ready to be launched to a broader audience.

What Are 5 Advantageous Benefits of User Acceptance Testing?

  • Keeps maintenance costs down
    As touched on above, it is quicker and less costly to repair functionality and usability issues early-on. When you have more people testing the program for these features, they are much more likely to be identified very quickly.
  • Provides chances to identify and repair broken features/usability issues
    Quality assurance professionals are trained in the art of testing software, and their knowledge and presence can assure that the software is up to snuff before it goes to market.
  • Increases software functionality and usability
    Anything that the QA professionals catch can only help developers and their customers.
  • Increases end-user happiness
    A better product for consumers means they are happier with it, which fosters greater customer satisfaction, and could lead to further business in the future.

How Should You Prepare for User Acceptance Testing?

  • Before performing UAT testing, you should:
  • Ensure that all business requirements are available.
  • Ensure that the application code has been fully developed. It should be functional.
  • Ensure that all unit testing, integration testing & system testing is completed.
  • Ensure that high to medium defects are absent in the system integration test phase.
  • Ensure that any reported defects are addressed promptly.
  • Ensure that the user acceptance testing environment is stable
  • Ensure that it is made clear to all team members when UAT is ready to employed

How to Perform User Acceptance Testing

UAT is ideally performed by the very users who would regularly use the software. This form of software testing is also commonly known as beta testing. Once entry criteria for UAT are satisfied, the following tasks need to be performed by the testers:

  • Requirements analysis. When assessing requirements for any given project, you are considering what elements users expect to see in the application once it has been completed. For example, let’s say that you are creating an application that makes it easier for people to recommend music to friends. Users will expect to see a program designed to allow them to play music without endless buffering and with a capacity to sort through many different categories without confusion. It is worth noting that over 13% of software projects never take off due to incomplete requirements.
  • UAT plan creation. The UAT plan’s function is to outline a strategy that provides tangible criteria by which to measure how well the application meets its listed requirements. For example, you might include in your UAT plan: the designated roles and responsibilities of users, communication expectations, protocols that must be followed, dates by which certain conditions need to be met, and anything else that may be relevant.
  • Creation of UAT test cases. To put it simply, a test case is a list of actions performed to ensure that a software functions as intended. Test cases are most effective when they are worded as commands–for example, “Check the functionality of the user database.” That way, testers know exactly what task they need to perform, and there is no room for second guessing.
  • Test data preparation. In its rawest form, data can be a confusing, intimidated tangle of information that means very little to the average person. The data preparation stage forces developers to transform that raw data into something that can be more tangibly analyzed.
  • Test run. When you reach the test run stage of UAT, you are simply determining who will be testing certain cases and when they will be doing it.
  • Confirm that objectives have been met. At the final stage of the UAT, you are assessing whether or not the application meets the standards set out from the start. Specifically, does it serve its purpose? To expand upon the music sharing application from earlier: can users sort items freely, in a logical manner? Can they share materials smoothly, without running into any errors?

Step 1. Analyze Business Requirements

To ensure successful UAT, you must identify and develop various test scenarios. You will obtain these from the following sources:

  • Project charter
  • Business use cases
  • Process flow diagrams
  • Business requirements document (BRD)
  • System requirements specification (SRS)

Step 2. Come Up With a User Acceptance Test Plan

The UAT test plan lays out the strategy that will be used to verify and make sure an application meets its specified business requirements. It documents entry and exit criteria for UAT, test scenarios and test cases, as well as timelines of testing.

Step 3. Figure Out What You Are Testing

Identify the test scenarios with regards to high-level business processes and create test cases that have clear test steps. Test cases should be unique to each client and sufficiently cover most of the UAT scenarios. Business use cases can function as input for creating said test cases.

Step 4. Preparation of Testing Data

It is strongly recommended that you use live data for UAT. Any sensitive data should be scrambled to alleviate any security and privacy concerns. The tester should be familiar with the standard database flow.

Step 5. Run the Test and Record the Results

The tester is now free to execute test cases and report any bugs that they find. Once the bugs are fixed, they should be retested. Test management tools can be utilized for execution.

Step 6. Confirm That Business Objectives Have Been Met

Business analysts or UAT testers are required to send a sign-off email after the UAT testing process is complete. Following said sign-off, the product is considered ready for production. Deliverables for UAT testing are the test plan, UAT scenarios and test cases, test results and the defect log.

After User Acceptance Testing

Before moving into the production stage, the following must be considered:

  • No critical defects have been left unrepaired.
  • The business process works satisfactorily.
  • A User acceptance testing sign-off meeting involving all stakeholders has taken place.

Four Major Errors That Developers Make During UAT

Up to this point, we have covered the benefits, the preparation, and the steps of user acceptance testing, so now we will look at some common mistakes that are made when performing UAT.

  • Ill-Equipped Users
    A test like this is only as good as the people who perform it. It would be wise to take the necessary time to find the right testers for your UAT. They need to be sharp and detail-oriented for you to get the most out of the test.
  • Lack of Adequate Test Planning
    There is a reason we spent a whole section up above underscoring how important it is to carefully plan your user acceptance test. This cuts both ways, as you are not only preparing your own developers, but making sure your testers are prepared as well, by presenting them with a set of guidelines to work off of.
  • Insufficient Data
    It is paramount that you support your participants as much as possible. This can mean allowing your participants to use live data; that way, you can see the data in action for yourself. This will also enhance the integrity of the test and ensure that the experience is as close to using the live product as possible.
  • Avoiding Negative Results
    Frequently, user acceptance tests are designed to produce positive results, even though doing that defeats the purpose of the test. You should include scenarios where the product will more likely fail to get the most out of the test and to paint a fuller and more realistic picture of how the product performs.

Why Shouldn’t Developers Perform the Testing?

That said, for the same reason an editor looks over a writer’s articles before publishing it, user acceptance testing works best if they are overseen by a third party. A neutral third party makes sure that the test results are objective, while quality assurance professionals bring an important, unbiased, and fresh set of eyes to the test object. Failing to implement third-party user acceptance testing can place an unnecessarily heavy workload on system developers. Many developers already work under tight deadlines and juggle numerous projects and assignments at once. They typically do not have the time or the objective perspective to test their work effectively. Put plainly, developers and quality assurance professionals have different titles and different duties for a reason.

The developers should develop, and the quality assurance professionals should test the product. Not to mention, developers tend to be accustomed to their own work and may struggle to remain impartial when reviewing it. Repairing bugs after the software has gone live is significantly more time-consuming to fix and can interfere with other projects and assignments that developers would have already begun to work on after they finished the original project.

Lastly, it has been proven that software is often more likely to be released with bugs when it is tested by developers. Sometimes this is due to a lack of experience; the developer simply has not worked on enough projects of this nature to know how to avoid common bugs. In other cases, however, developers simply cannot tell during the development process that they are making a grave error. There may be no glaring alert or error message that tells them what they should be doing instead. That’s where users come in to sniff out the issues during UAT so that these bugs don’t make it to production. Skipping the UAT step makes that reality much more likely.

Conclusion

Though it often occurs near the end of a product’s life cycle, user acceptance testing is vital to how a product will fare once it gets to market. In this article we have covered what user acceptance testing is, why developers can’t perform it, some of its benefits, how to prepare for it, how to conduct the process itself, and some pitfalls to avoid. If the product you are making is for the user, then it only makes sense that the user, via the testing process, should have some influence over its creation.