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Acceptance Criteria Document: Why Is It So Important?

By Arooj Shakeel
September 17, 2023
Acceptance criteria must be simple for teams and users to understand to be effective. They must be easy to read, concise, and clear when used in various tests.

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The set of requirements that a given software must meet in order for the end-user, consumer, or other stakeholders to accept it is known as the acceptance criteria. These statements indicate whether a project meets the functional requirements and standards put forth by users. Simply put, they show whether a customer is satisfied with a set of requirements.

These criteria establish quantifiable margins for user stories, reinforcing the team’s work. It assists both parties in determining when a project is finished and operating effectively. Acceptance criteria must be simple for teams and users to understand to be effective. They must be easy to read, concise, and clear when used in various tests. Remember that the acceptance criterion should be something other than a carbon copy of the required documents. They are distinct from one another. The goal of the criteria should be to clearly define a user story’s boundaries while assisting the entire team in comprehending the requirements of the stakeholders or product owners.


When Should They Be Written?

It is customary to write the acceptance criteria as the user story is being discussed because doing so typically helps a team in estimation. They can, however, also be noted when the story is selected.

Acceptance criteria frequently spark many developer conversations, especially when the story enters their meeting space. The issues and ideas raised during these discussions are usually added to the acceptance criteria. As long as they are established before project developers start working on it, there is no deadline by which these criteria are put in writing.

After finishing a user story, developers must present the finished product to the product owner and demonstrate how each need was met. It pushes a team to focus on how features work from the client’s perspective and prevents developers from including unnecessary functions in a project.


Principal Goals of Acceptance Criteria

A high-level objective is to make the stakeholder’s requirements clear. 

Let’s analyze the goals of AC to understand them better.

Adding greater specificity to the feature scope. 

AC sets user story parameters. They give the team accurate functionality information that helps determine whether the story is completed and functions as expected.

Describing adverse situations.

When a user makes incorrect inputs or behaves unexpectedly, one negative scenario is an example of an invalid password format. These scenarios are defined by AC, which also explains the required system responses. Depending on your AC, the system could need to detect questionable password entries and prevent the user from continuing.

Establishing communication.

The acceptance criteria coordinate the goals of the client and the development team. They guarantee that everyone agrees on the demands: Developers are fully aware of the behavior that the feature must exhibit, and stakeholders and the client are also aware of their expectations.

Speeding up acceptance testing. 

The user story acceptance testing is built on AC. Each acceptance criterion must have a different pass or fail situation and be independently testable. Automated tests can be used to utilize them to validate the story.

Evaluating the features of a product. 

Acceptance criteria outline the precise requirements that the team must design. The team can divide user stories into tasks that are accurately estimated once they have detailed requirements. 

Developing a shared understanding of how the functionality is executed is essential because various people may have different perspectives and solutions for the same issue. Clear approval criteria accomplish this exact goal.


How to Create a Document Outlining Effective Acceptance Criteria

Finally, the following advice can help you create successful acceptance criteria.

  1. Starting early is especially important before you begin the development process.
  2. Make acceptance criteria clear enough to allow for easy evaluation while leaving room for a range of development philosophies.
  3. Use plain words without using any jargon. Keep in mind that the paper will be seen by various stakeholders, including managers and investors, who may need to become more familiar with the terminology.
  4. Utilize the INVEST model, which states that every story should be distinct, negotiable, valuable, estimable, modest, and testable.
  5. Ensure that there are appropriate acceptance criteria for each item in the product backlog or user story.


Example of clearly stated acceptance criteria

As was already noted, user stories are utilized in conjunction with acceptance criteria. For example, I want to view my shopping cart as an online shopper so that I may complete the transaction.

This story’s acceptance standards could be as follows:

  • The cart appears in a new tab when clicking the “view cart” button.
  • There are displayed and editable numbers for each item.
  • The total invoice amount is shown.
  • The “checkout” tab allows you to choose the delivery time and address.
  • Several payment alternatives are shown when clicking the “continue to payment” button.
  • Pick from a variety of payment methods.
  • If necessary, make the selected option the default option.
  • You can enter account information and be directed to the bank’s website to complete the transaction by clicking “place order and pay.”


Final Words

Remember to pay attention to the acceptance criteria because they handle numerous problems simultaneously because they are basic and approachable. They describe customer expectations, provide an end-user perspective, clarify requirements, eliminate ambiguity, and finally assist quality assurance in determining whether the development goals were reached. Whether you employ Agile methods or not, select the optimal format or experiment with your own. Different sorts of user stories and, eventually, features may require other formats, and it is good practice to test new ones that work for you.

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