What Is Acceptance Testing?

Acceptance testing, in the context of the engineering and software industries, is a functional trial performed on a product or prototype before it is put on the market or delivered, to decide whether the specifications or contract have been met. It also makes sure the quality and design of the product meet both contractual and regulatory obligations in terms of functionality, usability, durability, and safety.

If a product is found to be unacceptable at this stage, it can be sent back for modification, debugging, repair, or re-design before it can become a costly undertaking for the producer, as would be the case in a product recall.

Key Takeaways

  • Acceptance testing evaluates a product, prototype, or software application to make sure it is up to specifications and quality before putting into production.
  • By trialing a product or piece of software before it is mass produced, bug fixes or other modifications can be carried out in a more cost-effective manner.
  • There are several methods for acceptance testing including alpha/beta testing, which rolls out a product in an initial alpha phase to spot obvious errors followed by introducing it to beta testers to identify more nuanced or minor mistakes.

Understanding Acceptance Testing

The acceptance testing process, which is also known as end-user testing, operational acceptance testing, or field testing acts as a form of initial quality control to identify problems and defects while they can still be corrected relatively painlessly and inexpensively.

It often involves trialing a prototype product or one which has not yet been mass produced for the consumer market. It is also one of the final stages of a piece of software’s testing cycle and often occurs before a client or customer accepts the new application — and encourages close collaboration between developers and customers.

Acceptance tests are designed to replicate the anticipated real-life use of the product to verify that it is fully functional and complies with the specifications agreed between customer and manufacturer. These may involve chemical tests, physical tests, or performance tests, which may be refined and iterated if needed. If the actual results match the expected results for each test case, the product will pass and be considered adequate. It will then either be rejected or accepted by the customer. If it is rejected, it may be fixed or abandoned entirely if the required fixes will prove too expensive or time-consuming.

Examples of Acceptance Testing

Types of acceptance testing include:

  • Alpha & Beta Testing
  • Contract Acceptance Testing
  • Regulation Acceptance Testing
  • Operational Acceptance testing

Alpha and beta testing are examples of acceptance testing. Alpha tests are internal and aim to spot any glaring defects, while beta testing is an external pilot-test of a product before it goes into commercial production.

Contact testing ensures that the specifications of a product have been met by suppliers, vendors, or manufacturers who have signed on as contractors to the production process. If something does not live up to the obligations spelled out in the contract, it must be rectified or legal action can be pursued.

Similarly, the government or some other regulatory body may mandate certain safety features or quality controls that must be met before it can be sold to the public. Failure to meet regulatory guidelines can result in fines, recalls, or other legal action.