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Tips for Better User Acceptance Testing

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Long-time tester Karen N. Johnson offers some wise words on how to improve the user acceptance testing (UAT) cycle for your organization. Following her straightforward advice can help you to avoid some common pitfalls of UAT while taking full advantage of your testers' time and expertise.
UAT Theory Versus Reality

UAT Theory Versus Reality

The theory of user acceptance testing (UAT) is straightforward: User acceptance testing is conducted by users of the product. Users test a product to determine whether the product meets their needs, expectations, and/or requirements. But the distance between the theory of UAT and the reality of what takes place in UAT can be a mighty big gap.

The user acceptance test cycle can be one of the vaguest and most poorly planned segments of the whole product development lifecycle. Confusion may abound about exactly what UAT is and who is responsible for running it. One of the larger pain points of UAT is how late in the cycle this testing takes place. Typically UAT is one of the last efforts before product launch. The late timeframe of the testing adds to frustration, leaving some users and product team members wondering, "What's the point of UAT?"

UAT can provide valuable product feedback. But the value (or the perceived value) of UAT varies greatly. I've seen UAT test results prevent a product from shipping. I've also seen UAT conducted solely for political reasons—no testing was executed at all, but user signoff was needed in order to launch the product. And I've worked with many products that never had any user acceptance testing. So the range of UAT is large.

Before UAT planning continues, a grounded, honest assessment of the perceived value of the UAT cycle versus its political reality can help. Whether you've taken on the responsibility of running user acceptance testing for a product (or you've been drafted to do it) or you'll have some involvement in or influence on the process, this article will give you some ideas to help you understand the users involved, build the test materials, and host the UAT sessions.

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