"Testing, Testing" - EngageUAT Blog

How to Plan a User Acceptance Test

Colin Robertson on Jul 2, 2014


We see this problem all of the time. Companies and teams want to do the User Acceptance Testing process right, but they just don’t know where to start. The problem is that the starting point is usually to hand the product over to the users and allow them to check the product against their own business requirements. This informal testing process can be extremely costly if the users miss something.

So how do you conduct a user-acceptance test the right way? The first step is to get the planning done right. So before you and your team put anything in front of your users, follow these 4 steps to ensure the proper UAT plan is in place.

1. Set up tests for real-world conditions, not user requirements

This is one of the biggest mistakes teams make when setting up user-acceptance tests. Many just look back at the user requirements from the beginning of the project and create the tests based on that information. This is faulty because it misses the whole point of going through a UAT process. UAT is about ensuring that the system meets the business requirements of the user.

An easy way to set up tests for the real world is to bring people in who haven’t been involved in the testing up to that point. Using the functional testing team seems like a good idea, but they will likely create tests based on what the system does rather than what it’s supposed to do. Let people from the outside create the tests for the users based on the intentions of what the system should be doing.

2. Know thy user

Too often project teams set up tests thinking that users will have the same technical expertise as they do. Nine times out of ten, these teams are completely wrong. Most users need highly detailed, yet also simple, steps in order to go through the testing process. Otherwise, they’re going to get stuck, they’re going to get frustrated, and the test is going to suffer.

Ensure that the tests you set up are customized for the users you’re creating them for. There will likely be a wide spectrum of users that you work with in terms of skill-level with using your system, as well as motivation to go through the process. Tailor the tests to meet the level of expertise and motivation of the user.

3. Be as detailed as the system allows for, but no more

Not all projects require the same level of detail in a user-acceptance test. It doesn’t make sense to go extremely granular on detail for a test that garners little to no risk. In these cases, simply guide the users well enough to ensure their business requirements are met and the project can be signed off on.

In cases where there is a large amount of risk however - such as a bank level security - you will want to be very detailed in order to manage the high risks associated with the project.

4. Plan the plan

As mentioned in the last point, not all planning will be equal. In cases where it is a big project and there are lots of detailed business requirements to be met, you want to ensure that you have the necessary time to devote to UAT. This can also give you the time to make sure that you have the right tools , systems and personnel in place to have a smooth and effective UAT process. Always make sure that you have all of your bases covered in UAT, because an informal UAT process will cost you dearly in the end.