Who are your testers for UAT? The people who are selected, sign up, or are drafted as your testers are worth a close look. Sometimes high-level executive stakeholders choose to have a role; sometimes customers are selected based on company surveys. For some products, the UAT testers consist of the same group of people through many releases over several years; in other cases, the testers change for each product release, based on the features being developed.
When you understand who your testers will be, your materials and test sessions can be made more effective. When creating any kind of written documents, knowing the audience affects the materials to be prepared as well as the tone and detail of the information provided. Consider two basic questions:
- Who is the audience?
- What does this audience need?
You might be given a list of names of people who will function as testers during UAT, or you might have to build the list yourself. When you're working with a group of people with varied backgrounds, it can be tempting to think of them in a single category; for example, "non-technical end users." But often the people in such a group have diverse backgrounds in areas such as work experience, subject matter expertise, and previous software use. Think of each person as an individual, avoiding the temptation to group the users in your mind. Conduct a little investigation to find out who each person is: What is her background? How might his product expertise factor into UAT? Try to find out more than just someone's job title or positionwhat does he or she care about most, with regard to the product?
If possible, have a conversation with each tester as soon as possible. Even a short conversation can help you to gauge technical expertise, learn expectations, and determine whether each tester needs or expects support or training in order to complete the testing.
In a recent situation where I was responsible for planning and hosting UAT, I wasn't able to talk with each tester. The testers consisted of a group of high-level executives who were not accessible to me. To gather some useful information, I talked with a long-time employee, asking for each tester's title and position, years of experience with the company, and background with the product. From this conversation, I was able to glean some detailed (and very constructive) details that proved to be on target, helping me to plan the materials and the testing sessions successfully.