Getting started with User Acceptance Testing (UAT)

Quality assurance is key when it comes to identifying bugs and logical mistakes. It does however not suffice because quality assurance will never actually tell you if the product you’re building works for the intended end user. That’s exactly where user acceptance tests, short UATs, come in. Generally speaking, UATs validate software against business requirements. In that sense a user acceptance test is one way to perform a beta test. Read all about alpha and beta testing in one of my previous blog posts.


Why run user acceptance tests?


The main purpose of UATs is to test the product in a real-world environment with actual users. The whole process centers around the question if the team has developed a product that users want and understand. Besides making sure that the product actually meets the users’ needs, UATs are carried out to get further feedback from end users. Sometimes users provide insights as to how the product could be improved even further to get a result that is even more useful to people. In that case, UATs can also be used to adjust initial requirements. 

Other than that there’s a very rational reason to run user acceptance tests: it will save you a lot of time and money. Improving a product early on, is much more efficient for your development team and will most likely save you a whole lot of money in the long run. We all know the stories of what happens to products with poor usability and functionality. Accordingly, both the losses in realization or bug fixing time and the losses of an unsuccessful product launch will be kept at a minimum with UATs. Carrying out strong UATs does require a lot of preparation. So here are some inputs on how to run them effectively. 


How to run user acceptance tests?


Once the alpha testing is complete and the developed system is free of logical errors and bugs, a user acceptance testing process can be initialized. Coming prepared and following the right steps is key when it comes to UAT. Here are the key stages for optimal results. 


1. Define acceptance criteria


Acceptance or exit criteria are the factors that define whether your software is fit for the end users or not. Most of the bigger software projects come with product requirements or more specifically with software requirement specifications. So the first step when it comes to defining the acceptance criteria for the planned UAT is to check these specifications. There you’ll find a list of all the functionalities, which will tell you exactly what to test for. These establish the test cases and scope for your UATs and therefore form the UAT test plan. 


2. Train your team


Training both your team and the testers is essential for a successful UAT. Even though QA teams should not run UATs, it is clever to involve QA professionals in the process. Of course, training your testers and the UAT process as a whole should be done in close collaboration with the project management and development team. 

Most of the time, and this does of course depend on the size of your team, QA engineers are responsible for handling the incoming user feedback. Bug reports and errors are then handed over to developers. Therefore, constant interdisciplinary communication is essential at this stage.


3. Set up the testing environment


It is super important that the tests are not carried out in a test but in a production environment. Also, to make the testing and fixing process more efficient for both the development team and the users, you might want to consider using a customer feedback tool. Gleap for example makes it super easy to onboard testers, works for both apps and websites, testers can report bugs with a click of a button and developers get complete, visual bug reports with annotated screenshots and all the metadata needed to fix them immediately. In case your test users have further feedback or ideas for improving your product, this can also be managed through Gleap’s feature requests. You can also work with traditional solutions such as Jira or Trello


4. Onboard testers


If you already have a user base from an existing product, it might be super useful to recruit those people for UATs. Ideally, testers should be real-life users, product owners or customers. To find testers, you could also make use of crowd-sourcing platforms.

Once you’ve recruited testers, make sure to onboard them and provide them with all the information they need to carry out tests successfully. Inform your testers about the business requirements, equip them with the testing guidelines and of course provide them with access to your chosen testing environment.


5. Run tests


After you’ve set the requirements, come up with a test plan, set up a testing environment, onboarded your testers and completed some training, you’re good to go and run your tests. 


6. Evaluate and monitor


During this stage all the data from your testers will come in. This is where an efficient feedback tool comes in really handy because your QA team will go through all the incoming reports, analyze them and assign them to the responsible team members. For the purpose of evaluating the readiness of your software, you should measure how many reports have been fixed and how many tests have been passed. Again, we’d recommend using a real-time dashboard to track all the important figures. Check out Panaya for example.


7. Fix bugs, integrate feedback and retest


After the tests all the feedback needs to be taken into account and the bugs need to be fixed by the development department. Once your software meets all the product requirements, you can sign your UAT off and set the system live.


TLDR; some pro tips


I want to leave you with some UAT pro tips – the most important things to consider when running UATs.


  • Have the right tools: UAT involves cross-departmental communication and organization. Therefore, we recommend you use a feedback tool that lets you send different issues to different third-party integrations. Most of all, you should however use a tool that empowers you to communicate with testers and teammates directly.  
  • Get the environment setup right: Text environments are a no-go when it comes to UAT. Set up a production environment for accurate results. 
  • Plan your test: If you skipped the long read, we have bad news for you. To get UATs right, you should definitely read into the planning of such tests. Hence, you might want to take a more detailed look at the “How to run user acceptance tests” section of this blog. 

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