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Acceptance testing for websites

Conducting acceptance testing for websites is aided by a number of tools available. Expert Scott Barber explains how to access these tools and methods and approaches for acceptance testing.

I am the manager of a client acceptance testing team. We test internal desktop applications used by our employees, as well as websites that are used by our clients to look up account information and process transactions. For our internal applications, we follow a pretty strict testing methodology to avoid overlap with system testing. We test workflows and procedures to ensure that the product meets the users' needs. However, when it comes to testing our websites, we are probably doing a mini version of system testing because we don't really know exactly how our clients are using our website. For example, we know clients would not logically go the Web to look up one piece of information or process one transaction and logoff. I think that a true acceptance test would be replicating some of the scenarios. So that might be: Look up a price of a fund, look up past performance, look up stocks in the fund and then process a transaction. How would you differentiate system versus acceptance testing for a website? And when the website offers many possibilities, how does one really know how to replicate that behavior? Thanks for your time.

As far as I'm concerned, acceptance testing should be conducted by the people who you'd like to find the application...

acceptable -- without scripts or detailed instructions. I recognize this isn't always possible, but it is the only way to really know.

Lucky for you, it sounds like you have websites in production that you are regularly updating/enhancing. This gives you a *huge* advantage in that it is quite easy to find out what users actually do on your site. In fact, your IT or production support team probably already has weblogs that track (hopefully anonymously) user activities that you (or someone else) could parse to give you some insight into how your users are using the system.

Software testing resources:
Don't mistake user acceptance testing for acceptance testing

User acceptance testing that satisfies users and requirements

Usability testing vs. user acceptance testing

If these things are not being logged, it's simply a matter of setting that on the Web server. You may even have tools in house that parse the log files already. Again, your IT or production support staff will know. I recommend asking them what usage information they can provide for you, and if that information isn't adequate, see what you can do about getting a monitoring tool in place. If you need a tool, once again, you're lucky. Many are free. One of the most popular is Google Analytics, all you'll need is for developers to add a short snippet of code to the bottom of each Web page, then you can access analytics from anyplace you have an Internet connection and browse site usage data in near real time.

Good luck!

This was last published in June 2008

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