What Is User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?

After a software application is developed but before it’s released to users, it goes through a series of tests to ensure quality and reveal any bugs.

The final step of this testing phase is user acceptance testing (UAT).

UAT is the software’s acid test. No matter how stringent internal testing is, users are guaranteed to find any hidden or edge-case bugs.

In this article, we look at the UAT process and its challenges.

What is UAT?

In the UAT phase of the software development lifecycle, a representative group of real-world users tests the application. UAT testing, as it’s often (and redundantly) called, occurs at the end of the QA process as the last quality check before the application goes live. The goal is to make sure the app performs optimally in the hands of actual users in the real world.

That’s not to say you can’t do UAT in-house. If you want to control the UAT environment, you can use volunteers from within, but it’s best if they aren’t involved in developing the application. You can also pay people to test the app or make it available as a free trial.

Regardless of how you find your UAT testers, their feedback is fed to the development team. Once they address any issues and bugs found during UAT, the software is ready for prime time.

What is the purpose of UAT?

Why do you need UAT testing if you’ve already done unit testing, QA testing, system testing, and integration testing? Surely, all that testing surfaced any issues that need to be addressed, right?

Not exactly. Your app can make it past all those other testing phases and still not meet the most critical requirement: being well received by the user. There are any number of reasons why this might be the case—key requirements lack clear definition, alterations during development changed the scope, or the app just isn’t ready for the real world.

UAT protects your company’s reputation and bottom line by preventing flawed, ineffectual, or incomplete software products from reaching the market. Following a structured UAT process and involving users increases the chances of delivering a successful software product that meets both user and business requirements.

UAT Ensures User Satisfaction

User acceptance testing involves users in the testing process, ensuring that the application meets their expectations and requirements. This leads to higher user satisfaction and adoption rates when the finished app is released. Involving users in the UAT process promotes a sense of ownership and buy-in, increasing the likelihood of successful adoption and implementation.

In a business context, UAT verifies that the application fulfills the business requirements and supports the intended processes and workflows.

UAT Testing Identifies Usability Issues

UAT testing helps identify usability issues, navigation problems, and user interface inconsistencies that earlier testing phases may have missed. By thoroughly testing the application before release, UAT minimizes the risk of encountering critical defects or issues in the production environment, reducing the cost and effort required for post-release fixes.

UAT helps ensure that the application is high-quality, reliable, and meets your standards before you release it to the market.

Stages of User Acceptance Testing

The exact steps in the UAT testing process vary from organization to organization, but they typically involve the following five stages.

1. Planning

In the planning stage, you define the objectives, scope, test scenarios, test data, roles and responsibilities, timelines, and acceptance criteria. It involves reviewing business requirements and user stories and identifying the key functionalities and workflows you want to test.

It is also the point to determine the UAT environment setup and define who will be a UAT tester—internal test users, customers, early adopters, paid external testers, etc.

2. Preparation

This step involves setting up the UAT environment and preparing test data. It means configuring the UAT environment to mirror the production environment and creating or importing realistic test data. You must also determine how the test users will provide feedback and report issues.

3. Execution

This stage is when the actual testing occurs. The test users begin using your product and report issues, defects, or deviations from expected behavior. Your team captures their feedback, adding bugs to a bug tracker and looking for themes and common frustrations in non-bug feedback. If several users report that they “couldn’t figure out how to do X,” that feature or function may need improvement.

4. Evaluation

After testing is complete, the UAT team evaluates the results and determines whether the application meets the acceptance criteria. This stage involves reviewing and prioritizing the identified bugs and user issues and assessing the overall user experience and satisfaction.

After weighing all this information, the UAT team decides whether to accept, reject, or conditionally accept the application.

5. Reporting and Closure

In this final step, the UAT team documents and communicates the testing results, recommendations, and next steps to relevant stakeholders. They’ll prepare a comprehensive UAT report and conduct a debrief meeting to discuss findings and lessons learned.

Next, they’ll seek a formal sign-off or approval from the stakeholders. If approved, the app will go to production to prepare for release. If rejected, it will return to the development team to fix the bugs and issues.

Throughout the UAT process, it’s essential to maintain clear communication, collaboration, and documentation to ensure a smooth and effective testing experience for everyone involved.

Common UAT Challenges

UAT testing can be challenging at times. To be prepared for them, keep in mind these common challenges.

Defining clear objectives and acceptance criteria: One of the main challenges is establishing a clear scope, purpose, and measurable acceptance criteria. UAT can become vague, inconsistent, and subjective without well-defined objectives and criteria, leading to confusion and missed requirements.

Ensuring user engagement and commitment: It can be tough to get users actively engaged and committed to the UAT process. A UAT tester may lack the time, interest, motivation, or skills required for effective testing, resulting in low-quality testing and incomplete coverage.

Setting up a realistic test environment: Creating a test environment that accurately replicates the production environment, including realistic data, integrations, and configurations, is crucial but can be challenging. If you don’t get it right, you get inaccurate or unreliable testing results.

Managing and documenting testing activities: Some UAT teams struggle to manage and document their testing activities, progress, issues, and results systematically and transparently. Poor test management and documentation can lead to chaos, inefficiency, and lack of accountability.

Setting and adhering to testing schedules: Software development projects often face slipping schedules, and it can be tempting to cut corners during UAT.

Defining and tracking requirements: Without the proper tools and processes, it can be difficult to ensure that functional and business requirements are clearly defined, tracked, and met throughout the UAT process.

Getting UAT Right

User acceptance testing helps you release a high-quality app that meets your users’ needs and expectations. That makes it a critical step in the software development process, and one you want to get right.

If you’re working with a software product engineering services partner, they’ve been through the UAT process many times. They’ve made all the mistakes in the past, so they know how to get it right when they build your app.

If you’re going it alone and find yourself struggling with UAT, here are some quick tips:

  • Establish the process. To ensure you’re collecting the right data, plan out what you’re testing, the actions UAT testers need to take, and the guidelines for selecting test data.
  • Identify your target audience. Knowing who the users will be helps you select representative UAT users.
  • Know what you need to test. You may not need to test every feature and function, so focus the testing on the processes that need it.
  • Confirm all goals have been reached. After UAT is complete and you’ve addressed all bugs and issues, plan for a sign-off to confirm that the post-UAT changes meet the business requirements.

Bugs will always surface after the product hits the market, but an efficient testing process and effective UAT testing will help keep your app free from any significant problems.

Sandeep Raheja

Sandeep is Chief Technical Officer at Taazaa. He strives to keep our engineers at the forefront of technology, enabling Taazaa to deliver the most advanced solutions to our clients. Sandeep enjoys being a solution provider, a programmer, and an architect. He also likes nurturing fresh talent.