Writing Effective Acceptance Criteria: The Do’s and Don’ts

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If you’re in charge of writing acceptance criteria, then you know it can be a daunting task. There are so many things to consider, and it’s easy to make mistakes that can lead to misunderstandings and delays down the road. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of writing effective acceptance criteria. By following these guidelines, you’ll help ensure that everyone involved in the project understands what is expected of them and that your project proceeds smoothly from start to finish!


If you’re like most software professionals, you’ve probably been in a situation where you had to write some acceptance criteria for a new feature or enhancement. And if you’re like most software professionals, you may not have always been entirely sure how to write effective acceptance criteria. In fact, creating acceptance criteria can be a tricky process, with many potential pitfalls along the way.


So what are some of the key do’s and don’ts of writing acceptance criteria? Here are a few general guidelines to keep in mind:


– DO start by defining exactly what you want your users to be able to accomplish with the new feature or enhancement. When designing a new feature or enhancement for a software application, it is essential to start by defining exactly what you want your users to be able to accomplish with the new feature. This process is often referred to as “user story mapping” or “user story definition”, and it involves thinking critically about the problem you are trying to solve with your code. By taking the time to clearly articulate what the user needs and outlining a structured plan for delivering that functionality, you can ensure that your new feature is aligned with real user needs and will be successful in achieving its intended purpose. With this approach, you can create software that truly makes a difference in people’s lives.


– DON’T just include a list of tasks that need to be completed, as this can be confusing for developers who may not fully understand how they fit into the bigger picture. When it comes to software development, it’s important to keep the end user in mind at all times. After all, it’s their needs and wants that should guide our work. In this context, one important consideration is how our software will help users to complete their tasks more efficiently or effectively. For example, when designing a new feature or enhancement, we must consider what users will be able to accomplish with it once it’s complete. Rather than just listing a long list of tasks that need to be completed as part of a project, we should instead focus on outlining the concrete benefits that users will experience as a result of our work. By doing so, we set ourselves up for success by ensuring that our efforts meet our users’ needs and expectations. And isn’t delivering value and improving people’s lives at the core of what we do as developers? I think so!


– DO strive for clarity and specificity when writing acceptance criteria.When writing acceptance criteria, it is crucial to be clear and specific in your language. This means avoiding vague or general phrases like “as needed” or “in a reasonable amount of time”, and instead being as detailed as possible about what you expect to happen in order for your acceptance criteria to be considered successful. Using precise language will help ensure that the conditions for success are clearly defined, making it easier for both developers and testers to understand your expectations and accurately assess whether or not these expectations have been met. Ultimately, by striving for clarity and specificity when writing acceptance criteria, you can help create an environment of collaboration and mutual understanding that leads to better outcomes for everyone involved in the software development process.


– DON’T expect that every acceptance criterion you write will cover every single possibility. When writing acceptance criteria for a project, it is important to remember that no criteria can anticipate every possible outcome. At the same time, however, it is also important to ensure that your criteria are comprehensive enough that developers can easily meet them without worrying about how any unanticipated changes or challenges might impact their work. To strike this balance between over-specifying and under-specifying, it is critical to focus on clearly defining the goals and expectations of your project, as well as setting realistic and achievable criteria. By approaching acceptance criteria from this angle, you can create a framework that is both practical and flexible, thereby ensuring that your project runs smoothly from start to finish.


If you’re looking to brush up on your acceptance criteria writing skills, be sure to check out our Writing Effective Acceptance Criteria: A step-by-step guide. For more tips on acceptance criteria and other aspects of the software development process, be sure to check out our blog. With a little practice and some careful consideration, you’ll be well on your way to creating acceptance criteria that are clear, specific, and aligned with real user needs!


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