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How is User Acceptance Testing Performed?

Software testing can be a daunting task if proper measures are not taken to conduct it correctly. Among all forms of software testing, User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is, arguably, the most important. Proper UAT helps ensure that the software being delivered to the business is ‘fit for purpose’.

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Definition of UAT

UAT is a process through which an application’s suitability is confirmed by the people who will use the application. It ensures that the application is able to support all end-user tasks by validating the software against real-world scenarios. It is the final phase in the application delivery lifecycle and can be carried out in both controlled and uncontrolled environments.

Involvement

As the name suggests, users who will be using the software or application are the primary group involved in the process. They are the real process owners and can provide genuine feedback. UAT should never be performed by developers.

Methods

UAT is not a trivial undertaking. In order for UAT to be effective and valuable, a good deal of planning and organisation is required.

UAT testing can be performed using well designed and scripted test scenarios or may be undertaken using an ‘exploratory’ approach, where users explore the application’s capabilities. Often a mixture of these two methods may be used.

Scripted Testing

User are provided with a detailed test plan which they must follow. Individual test cases may be described at a high level or more detailed instructions may be provided. This method delivers a structured approach to testing with known effort and goals. However, it does not provide for any testing outside of the defined test cases.

Exploratory Testing

Exploratory testing enables a user to explore the application and to use their business knowledge to predict where faults in the application may be present. This method means that users are free to test the application with scenarios that may not have been considered. However, there is no defined effort or goal and it is difficult to decide when UAT has been completed.

Depending on the target audience for the software, it may be necessary to perform two phases of UAT, often referred to as Alpha and Beta testing.

Alpha Testing

In Alpha testing, a targeted group of users or user representatives conduct UAT in a development environment. Often, end-users are not used during Alpha testing, particularly where those users are external to the company and user representatives, such as Customer Care staff and Business analysts are used in their place. The goal with Alpha testing is to ensure that the application is in a suitable state to be released to a wider audience for Beta testing.

Beta Testing

Beta testing is performed by a wider audience, often by a customer or group of customers, who express a willingness to do so. The testing environment is not controlled and users are asked to use the software extensively. Alternatively know as Field Testing, Beta testing is used to gather feedback from the real target audience.

Acceptance Decision

UAT provides the ‘Go / No-Go’ decision for the software release. Acceptance decisions should be made once the final phase has been completed and the results thoroughly reviewed.

UAT is always about verifying that the core business requirements have been fulfilled and that the software is ‘fit for purpose’. It is never about buttons, tabs, colours and presentation. The ‘Go’ decision should only be made if the application will support the business needs.

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