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12th February 2018

User Acceptance Testing? Not Acceptable.

When you commission a company to build you a new website, those projects often include a User Acceptance Testing phase. At Space Indent, we’re of the opinion that UAT is not acceptable and here is why. 

How UAT works

Typically, at the end of a project, the web agency delivers the software and gives the client a number of weeks to fully test it. Any bugs found will be fixed under warranty. Bugs that are found after UAT are often fixed in chargeable time.

Now, we’re big fans of economics. The above suggests an obvious economic advantage. If the agency doesn’t try very hard to fix bugs as it develops, then a bunch of obvious, easy bugs will present themselves in UAT. They will often make it impossible to discover more complex minor bugs, which end up getting through UAT and into business-as-usual maintenance.

Or to put it another way: it is in the agency’s interest to not bother fixing bugs during the build phase of the project.

User Acceptance Testing is not acceptable.

How it should work

A better way is to use Test-Driven Development to build software: the developer writes a test - a few simple lines of code that describe a feature. Then they can then work on the actual software until it meets the requirements defined by the test, at which point the feature is finished and ready to go.

In the case of websites, we can write tests that allow us to emulate a web browser. The test can be run in a fraction of a second, so it’s very easy to run hundreds or thousands of these tests to make sure all the features we finished previously still work.

TDD is the gold standard in producing high-quality code. It vastly reduces the chances that later work will break existing features, and the overall result is to speed up the development of a product.

Some companies charge extra to write these kinds of tests. For us, it’s the only way to write software and we would never charge extra for it.  

We encourage our clients to build their new websites on a beta subdomain (ours would be, and suggest that these should be made public as soon as practically possible. Day one of the beta phase is a good time. This allows the client to share their new site widely within their organisation and even wider community of their own customers. As new features are added, interested parties should be encouraged to take a look and provide feedback.

For example, imagine creating a new product catalogue with technical data sheets. If you share these new pages with the customers that use them right away, they will probably offer you feedback on how userful they are. Maybe you missed an important item of data or included unnecessary information that creates clutter. By sharing this early, you can get feedback right away and work with the agency to fix any bugs or layout issues.

You have to be brave and you don’t get the big launch-day for the new site. But you’ll get a better-quality product.

If you’d like some help with an existing project that has a UAT phase, drop us a line.