User Acceptance Testing is the phase of software testing where the near final version of the software is tested in the real world by the intended users of the software. It seeks to confirm that the software meets its specification and more importantly does the job that the customer expects.

For a successful software launch the UAT phase requires effective planning and execution. What steps can we take to achieve this? Here are our five tips for success:

1. Have Clearly Defined Acceptance Criteria

The foundation of a successful UAT lies in the clear definition of acceptance criteria. These are the conditions that a software product must meet to be accepted by the user, customer, or other stakeholders. These criteria act as a checklist that delineates the required functionality, performance, and usability requirements of the application.

A collaborative approach between all key stakeholders to define and agree exactly what the acceptance criteria should be ensures all perspectives are captured. These should be clearly documented such that the criteria are measurable and testable. It should be born in mind that a rigid mindset should be avoided and a degree of flexibility allowed to accommodate any changes as the project evolves.

2. Select the Right Participants

It goes without saying that the participants in the User Acceptance Testing should be actual end users or individuals who closely represent them. These are the people who ultimately will use the software on a regular basis. They are best positioned to offer any feedback on the software, whether it meets the requirements and is user friendly.

Participants should be from a range of roles, with differing levels of seniority, experience and familiarity with similar systems. This diverse base helps ensure that the feedback covers as broad a range of user types as possible.

3. Create a Realistic Testing Environment

The test environment should mirror the production environment as closely as possible. Users should experience the software exactly as it will function in the deployed version. This also includes the same hardware, networking and database infrastructure so that any performance issues can be identified.

4. Provide Comprehensive Training and Support

User Acceptance Testing stands alone in the software testing arena in that it is the only part of the process not undertaken by experts. The user acceptance testers may well be experts in their own arena, but most likely will be novices in the testing world. It is therefore essential that they be properly trained and supported to enable them to effectively contribute to the process.

Clear communication channels should be established to ensure that a member of the support team is always available to respond to queries and provide assistance.

5. Establish a Feedback Loop

The User Acceptance Testing process should clearly define a robust and continuous process of result collection, analysis and feedback. All participants in the process should adhere to this process. This ensures that the whole UAT stage is effective and garners worthwhile results ultimately leading to the refinement and deployment of software that works to spec.

Participants should be encouraged to provide as much information as they feel is appropriate. Alongside the routine defect reporting process there should be regular catch-up meetings to discuss and prioritise issues and plan for any forthcoming changes.

Finally once the process is complete a wrap up meeting should take place to discuss what went well, what could be improved and any lesson learned. This not only helps close off the project with the customer but provides valuable insights for use in future projects.

Which tip do you think is the most important?