5 Best Practices for Effective User Acceptance Testing
Even in challenging times, UAT can deliver the certainty you need to move forward
Requirements have been gathered, sprints were organized and completed, development has almost concluded, testing has taken place, and the system has matured into a product that is ready for launch. It is at this time that user acceptance testing, or UAT, takes place.
In an agile project, business users are testing throughout development, but this is not UAT. Business partners on your project can be end users, but they are normally heavily involved in the project, so a bias can be created in their view of what has been developed. UAT is a chance to expose uninvolved, new users to the product with the guidance of the business team and with the support of the technical team to ensure the system fits their needs and functions in real-world scenarios.
The goal of UAT is to assess if the system can support day-to-day business and user scenarios and ensure the system is sufficient and correct for business usage. UAT can take many forms: virtual; in-person, as circumstances allow; focused time; or fit-in as time allows.
To help your UAT cycle become the most effective, I’ve put together five best practices:
1. IDENTIFY USERS
Who is doing the testing? User selection is crucial to the success of UAT. It’s important to choose users who will actually be end users of the product. These users can be internal or external or both, experienced or inexperienced or both, and of varying job roles.
If the system is customer-facing, ensure you choose customers to test it (this seems obvious, but I’ve been part of a UAT of a customer-facing system with no customers participating). The feedback gathered from these customers is extremely insightful and can not only help you find issues in the current system; it can also be a great way to gather requirement requests for future enhancements.
2. IDENTIFY TEST CASES AND DOCUMENT THEM
UAT testers need a step-by-step plan to help guide them through the testing. This will be the first time they see the new features and need a roadmap to focus their attention in the right places with some instruction on how you’d like them to function. Ensure these steps are clearly laid out and easy to follow.
Before our current new normal of remote teamwork and operations, in-person testing itself was the norm. During in-person testing, it’s recommended to have a document printed out for the users to follow so they are not trying to navigate an unfamiliar system while also flipping back to the application with the steps to complete their work. Ensure to include testing around improvements that the users will be excited to try.
Anything that makes their current job easier or automates a manual process is a great candidate for UAT. A workflow that could be complex or new is another area for focus. UAT gives users a chance to see the system in action, which will get them excited about the platform and, in turn, market it to other users.
3. ENVIRONMENT PREPARATION
Prepare, prepare, prepare. I can’t stress it enough.
Prepare the testing environment for UAT. Ensure users identified for UAT have proper credentials and data relevant to them to test with. Try out these credentials ahead of time to ensure they work. Run through the test cases to ensure they make sense, the data is completely set up, and the system functions as expected.
This is the users’ first chance to interact with your awesome new features and you don’t want a mishap with their login to ruin their experience. Reduce as many barriers to an unpleasant interaction as possible — this is especially relevant in today’s ever-evolving environment. Remember, these testers are going to market your system and you want them to give you a good review.
4. SCHEDULE AND LOGISTICS FOR REMOTE TESTING
Schedule time for the users to test. Today, your users are most likely remote, so block out their calendars with a meeting invitation. Having users remotely test can be difficult — but, as we all currently realize, necessary — if they encounter problems that are not easily solvable. However, with proper planning and a process in place beforehand for anticipating and resolving any issues, remote testing does not have to pose a challenge.
Remote users need a conference line to dial into while testing so they can get real-time help if they have questions or run into any snags. While testers are in the room, make yourself available to them. Be present and listen to any and all of their questions and suggestions. If they have an issue, quickly address it to allow the user to continue testing.
It’s also a good idea to have your technology partners readily available to make system updates or provide troubleshooting required to efficiently resolve an issue.
Make the testing experience fun for the users. Especially in a remote setting, it’s important to try and promote a sense of community and team for all involved.
5. BUG TRIAGE AND PRIORITIZATION
When issues in testing are encountered — and inevitably they will be encountered — have a solid plan to address them. Triage the issue by having the user show you how it was discovered and document as much as possible about the problem (e.g., what browser they are using, what is their user ID, what were they trying to accomplish). The easier you can make it for the technology team to recreate and eventually fix the problem, the better.
If the user is stuck, help them move on with their testing in another way or change the course of their testing to move away from the issue.
Have a standard template in one location to record issues discovered and recap them at the end of the day. Get the users’ opinions on the severity of the items discovered and discuss any known workarounds. Use their thoughts to help prioritize the fixes. Issues not immediately addressed can go into your backlog for future consideration.
User acceptance testing is often thought to be the most essential phase of quality assurance, because, when implemented correctly, it’s the most effective in reducing both time and cost, while increasing customer satisfaction. It reduces the probability of production issues being raised, which in turn reduces the amount of work required in development and maintenance.
Although it is another process to be managed, the reduction in overall development cost and a higher level of user satisfaction more than offsets the associated costs.