Anyone involved in software development knows how important it is to ensure a positive end-user experience. One way to do that is through the use of user acceptance testing (UAT).
UAT is one of the types of testing that you can execute as part of your overall quality assurance process.
It’s essential in helping you determine if your product is market-ready and if it can perform effectively when used by real end-users.
UAT helps you avoid implementing software, iterations, upgrades, or customizations that are filled with pesky bugs that can destroy the user experience and render your software unusable (not to mention the damage done to your business’s reputation).
When the stakes are so high, it’s clear to see why businesses need a process such as this. In this article, we take a look at user acceptance testing, why it’s so important, and six ways brands can use it to their benefit.
What is User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?
User acceptance testing (sometimes known as end-user testing, user acceptability testing or beta testing) is the last step in the entire testing process of any software.
In product management terminology, acceptance testing takes place as beta testing whereby a small group of early adopters test out the platform and provide user feedback to let you know if the solution meets user expectations and business requirements.
It’s done after the system, functionality and all other tests are completed and before the product is launched.
The image below shows some of the quality assurance (QA) tests that precede user acceptance testing.
As you can see from the image, as development work moves forward, UAT progresses from unit testing to integration testing, then system testing and, finally, acceptance testing.
This final stage is arguably the most crucial element of software development because it ensures a positive end-user experience.
As its name implies, it helps you determine if your platform will be accepted by end-users.
Testers (end users) work from a checklist of expected outcomes from the test platform and then record what happens when they attempt to execute the different tasks, such as:
- Logging into the user’s account
- Placing an item into a shopping cart
- Checking out
- Buying multiple items that qualify for free shipping
… and so on.
If the expected outcomes are achieved when each task is executed, then the software is approved for release. If not, it’s sent back to the developers.
This testing process requires collaboration between different stakeholders including project sponsors, business owners, analysts, QA teams and developers.
Why is UAT Important to Software Development?
Although there are many ways projects can benefit from UAT (some of which we’ll look at below), this process is often overlooked by developers.
Many see it as a time-consuming and unnecessary process, which is unfortunate because acceptance testing can actually help improve software quality as well as the overall acceptance rate of any newly implemented software.
Think about it: You would never drive an untested car, would you? Similarly, businesses should not take risks by implementing software that has not been tested.
Considering the time and money you stand to save by ensuring that your software works in accordance with a predetermined test plan, it’s clear that this is something developers need to take more seriously.
In fact, far from being the time drain that many developers think it is, UAT can actually gain you a lot of time. How? By preventing unnecessary waste.
And far from being a one-off when you come to the end of the project, user acceptance testing extends beyond business application projects because of factors like additional phases, hotfixes, releases/further modifications or customizations and upgrades.
Take a look:
- Additional Phases: If you choose to roll out at this stage or upgrade an existing application in a phased approach, each phase can have different types of users, different companies (for parent companies, acquisitions, mergers, etc.), additional locations, etc., and you’ll need to plan and conduct separate additional acceptance tests for each individual phase.
- Hot Fixes: Bug reporting or developer testing during regular day-to-day operations can lead to hotfixes. However, these bug fixes will have to be tested by end-users to make sure that they actually solve the problems originally reported.
- Further Modifications: Software creators regularly release updates, including limited distribution releases (LTR) and general distribution releases (GDR). LTR releases usually fix issues in a specific problem area, whereas GDR releases are typically heavily tested before release. Both need to be tested to ensure that they fit users’ real-life scenarios so you can achieve your business objectives.
- Upgrades: Everyone wants to offer their customers the best and most advanced experience. That’s why, for the most part, brands update software regularly to follow industry trends and keep up with the latest innovative technology. Regardless of the upgrade approach you take, whether it’s a little or a lot of customization, it’s crucial that your plan is completed according to business requirements. This will help ensure that the project’s end result is in line with the original business requirements.
Now that you understand what UAT is and why it’s so important, let’s look at some of the benefits of user acceptance testing to give you a better idea of all the different ways you can leverage it in your own business.
Benefits of User Acceptance Testing
At its core, user acceptance testing will be pivotal in the successful launch and/or maintenance of any type of online platform, whether it’s a simple mobile app or something more complex, such as an eCommerce website.
If the test object doesn’t work as desired, the faulty business functions are documented and the item is sent back to developers for repair.
Going through this final check ensures that your platform is well-built and performs as expected and that users accept the finished product.
Listed below is a summary of the top benefits of UAT:
- Benefit: The UAT process allows you to demonstrate that the software’s required functions are operating in a way that’s suited to real-world use and circumstances. As such, acceptance testing focuses on software performance and user behavior to ensure that interactions between the test software’s functionality and the end user’s thought process are aligned.
- Benefit: Furthermore, you’ll be getting a much better piece of software because it will be tested and verified by the same people who will be working with it every day. You’ll get optimal opportunities to quickly identify and repair any broken features. So, it’s easy to see how the time you invest in these beta testing cycles will lead to significant improvements in the quality of your software.
- Benefit: Not only that, but the quality review provided by UAT is also a great way for stakeholders to secure a healthy return on investment (ROI) out of projects. Also, it keeps maintenance costs low and it’s cheaper and faster to fix usability/functionality issues early on.
- Benefit: You’ll also be able to ensure that your software integrates with third-party platforms including various website builders, email marketing software, project management tools, communication apps and everything else you or your end-users might need to effectively use the software. If your software is supposed to allow for social media sharing, for example, you want to ensure that end-users are able to easily share without going through multiple steps that decrease an otherwise positive experience with the software.
As you can see, user acceptance testing is vital to the successful deployment of new business applications and software enhancements, as well as to ensure organizational efficiency and success.
The process helps you to mitigate risk and boost the ROI of your project. But most importantly, UAT ensures that your customers don’t end up being acceptance testers by default, which would have a negative impact effect on your business.
6 Ways to Use UAT
Here are six ways you can use this process to achieve better outcomes.
- Use user acceptance testing for internal development.
- Use the testing process to review new features.
- Invite users to take part in the tests to help them become more invested in the brand and become brand ambassadors.
- Use beta tests as a premium feature to convert subscribers to higher tier packages, increasing sales for the company.
- Share information about UAT and its results on social media platforms, email and other channels as part of your digital marketing campaigns.
These are just a few of the different ways your organization can benefit from UAT far beyond the initial goal of the testing process.
And remember, it’s all about the users.
UAT isn’t just another testing technique. This test puts the user at the center of the discussion to answer questions such as:
- Are users able to use the software without error(s)?
- Does the solution meet promised specs? Does it behave in an expected way?
- Does the software continue to work when users take unexpected actions?
…and so on.
Whether the platform is constructed in-house or by a third-party company, all solutions must go through user acceptance testing because your users are the ultimate audience who will pay for your solutions. For this reason, it’s worth taking the time to ensure that your software solution meets both user expectations and business requirements.
Planning and Managing the UAT Process
The key to a successful UAT testing process is to understand the needs of your target users and their expected behavior. This way, you’ll be able to develop defined acceptance criteria so you can come up with efficient tests to complete the testing process fast.
Also, since the goal is to assess the market readiness of the product, it’s important to record all evidence and track progress with the dev team as well as report to stakeholders so everyone is on the same page.
With that said, here are five steps to help you plan and manage the user testing process:
Step One: Planning. The user acceptance testing strategy mainly includes a time frame outlined during the planning step.
Step Two: Designing Test Cases. Test cases cover the core functional frameworks of the platform in real-world usage. When designing test cases, you need to do the following:
- Determine the needs of target users and stakeholders
- Design test cases according to the user journey and product specifications
- Summarize test runbook, acceptance criteria, etc.
- Prepare test data, e.g. registration, three days in use, one week in use, etc.
Step Three: Setting Up Your UAT Team. The acceptance testing team is comprised of real-world end-users or users who are not part of the development or testing phases to ensure objectivity. You should never use developers to test their own software as they may bring bias (albeit unintentionally) into the testing process.
Step Four: Executing and Documenting Test Cases. The UAT team executes the test cases, together with relevant random exploratory tests, after which all bugs are logged into the bug tracker along with steps to reproduce.
Step Five: Bug Fixing. Once you’ve executed the test cases, you need to keep track of the tickets and user feedback. The development team can account for all the bugs found by the testers and start fixing bugs depending on severity.
Step Six: Confirm Fixes and Get Stakeholders to Sign Off. Once all UAT tests have been run and the results are in hand, the acceptance decision can be made. If all users are satisfied, then it’s a go. If not, it’s a no-go.
Last But Not Least
UAT is the last stage in the software development life cycle. But, it’s also one of the most important things you can do to ensure the success of your software. Just keep in mind that for this process to be effective, it should be viewed as validation and not verification. Use your test procedures to validate functionality in both smaller scope (as a way to test functionality) and in a larger context (to simulate real-world processes) so you can get an end-user vision of your product which will ultimately help you increase the robustness and usability of your software.
Are you ready to use UAT to get feedback on your software so you can increase end-user happiness? Share your thoughts below!