User Acceptance Testing (UAT) And 10 Best Practices

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

For the most part, UAT or user acceptance testing is considered a quality assurance step that ensures that all the buttons, visual elements, and attributes work, and there are no technical bugs in the software. 

The main purpose of UAT is to check the software against the business requirements. The ‘user’ in this context is usually referring to the business user or client or person who is familiar with the business requirement. 

It is also common for business users to invest in a specialist testing team to help them conduct the UAT and present the UAT result to them to see if it is in accordance with their expectations for acceptance.

As a matter of fact, it differs from usability testing in that a piece of software can pass all UAT tests but still demonstrate poor usability. 

What is User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?

Generally speaking, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is where a website or mobile application is iteratively checked to ascertain if it performs the functions it was set out to conduct, according to defined expectations. 

That being said, UAT is typically the last phase of the software testing process before rollout and involves actual software users testing the software to ensure it can handle required tasks in real-world scenarios, according to defined specifications. 

What is the objective of User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?

The primary goal of User Acceptance Tests is to validate that software does what it was supposed to do. However, to achieve this, all functional requirements are typically extensively checked, and use cases are covered while dealing with real scenarios and real data.

So, UAT tests generally revolve around verifying that a system’s behaviour is consistent with its specified requirements to reveal defects within the system. The UAT process begins after acceptance requirements are written and continues through the final stage of testing. 

Overall, UAT testing is based on three elements:

  • Business requirements
  • Business processes
  • User expectations

What is the scope of UAT?

Most UAT operations focus on ensuring that data capture, data processing, data distribution and data archiving activities on a website are fully operational. 

They also ensure all business functions are performed, as per prescribed business rules, and that all business systems connected to the software system in UAT, pass and receive data or control as defined in the requirements specification.

Levels of user acceptance testing

  • Unit testing
  • Integration testing
  • System testing
  • Acceptance testing or UAT.

Types of user acceptance testing techniques

The main types of User Acceptance Testing methods are:

  • Alpha & Beta Testing
  • Black Box Testing
  • Contract Acceptance Testing
  • Regulation Acceptance Testing
  • Operational Acceptance Testing

What are the key deliverables in user acceptance testing?

The key deliverables of the UAT phase are:

  • Test Plan: This mainly outlines the Testing Strategy
  • UAT Test cases: The Test cases help the team effectively test the application in the UAT environment.
  • Test Results and Error Reports: This is essentially a log of all the test cases executed and the actual results.
  • Installation Instructions: This document helps to install the system in a production environment.
  • UAT Sign-off: This ensures that the system, documentation, and training materials have passed all tests within defined acceptable margins.
  • Documentation Materials: Here, tested and updated user documentation and training materials are finalised during UAT.

Stages at which user acceptance testing is performed

UAT is mainly performed at two stages:

  1. Sequential development: This stage employs a sequence of development stages that usually follow a V-shape. UAT is the final test level that tests the completed system with respect to the business requirements.
  2. Iterative Development: This approach entails the design and testing occurring during short sprints. As a result, the system functionality becomes available incrementally at the end of each sprint. Typically, UAT is required before rolling out each sprint.

10 best practices for user acceptance testing 

  1. Set up the right environment: A production-like test environment is imperative as accurate UAT cannot be carried out in generic test environments.

    Ensure that users identified for UAT have proper credentials and data relevant to them to test with. Also extensively run through the test cases to ensure they make sense, data is completely set up, and the system functions as expected.
  2. Identify users:  Generally, user selection is critical to the success of UAT. This means that it is imperative to have those who are familiar with the business requirements for the software that is being developed.

    In practice, these users can be experienced or inexperienced, internal or external, with varying job roles. As mentioned earlier, it is also common for businesses to hire a specialist testing team to help them to conduct independent UAT in order to save time.
  3. Identify appropriate test cases and document them: UAT testers require a step-by-step plan for guidance during testing as this will be the first time they’ll see new features and need a roadmap to concentrate their attention in the right places. So, ensure that these steps are clearly laid out and easy to follow.
  4. Carefully plan your tests: Typically, UAT is conducted before the launch of the software. Unfortunately, at this stage, you are already under excessive pressure to meet deadlines. So, performing UAT at this stage could result in the missing of some real-life use cases which are frequent.

    While it might seem obvious, designing a clear test acceptance plan is critical during the requirement analysis and design phase as planning reduces pressure to meet deadlines.
  5. Don’t employ the functional testing team as functional testers aren’t meant to perform UAT. This is because functional testers may not test all real-world scenarios, which could lead to end-users discovering issues when the software is in production.

  6. Employ user stories as a way of defining your tests to keep the right level of detail.

  7. Do not be biased: Ensure that you give total authority to people who are testing your software product. Don’t interfere or project your thoughts or inherent biases onto them.

  8. Always create scenarios based on business requirements.

  9. Bug triage and prioritisation: Whenever challenges in UAT are encountered, ensure to have a solid triage plan to address them. It’s a good practice to triage the problem by having the UAT tester show you how it was discovered and extensively document the underworkings of the problem (for example, the browser they were using, their user ID, and what they were trying to accomplish).

    In simple terms, the easier you can make it for the development team to recreate and ultimately fix the problem, the better.

    Also, if the UAT tester is stuck, ensure to help them move on with their testing with another approach or change the course of their testing to move away from the problem.  This will probably mean having a standard template to record issues discovered and recap them at the end of the day.

  10. Respect UAT tester feedback: Always solicit UAT testers’’ opinions on the severity of the elements discovered so you can have a basis to discuss any known workarounds. Utilise their thoughts to help prioritise the fixes as problems not immediately addressed can go into one’s backlog for future consideration.

Characteristics of a good user acceptance test

  • They are based on the user roles and business processes that are needed to support the business. 
  • They are written so that different users will execute scenarios slightly differently. 
  • They clearly describe the expected results. 
  • They are typically written in a way that business users can easily understand.
  • They specify the data to be utilised as this is essential to the outcome of the test. 
  • They are verified by the business users before test execution starts.

Key takeaways

As has been noted, UAT is one of the most crucial phases of quality assurance, because when executed correctly, it is highly effective in reducing both time and cost while also increasing customer satisfaction. 

Furthermore, it reduces the probability of development issues being raised, which, in turn, reduces the amount of work required in long-term development and maintenance. 

It’s important to remember that UAT largely depends on the perspective of the business user and isn’t a highly predictable process. So, when conducting user acceptance testing ensure to:

  • Extensively test on multiple devices and operating systems that target users use 
  • Ensure traceability to requirements
  • Test business rules 
  • Document test evidence and record test parameters
  • Generate a test report or summary for sign off