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How Do You Write Effective Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios for ATDD?

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Write Effective Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios

With the rapid technological evolution, there is a need for proper management of software development processes, as it has never been more important to know how efficient and effective one’s methods are. To capture the demands of modern-day customers, software teams need to focus more on delivering outstanding products that adequately address their demands and requirements.

This is where Acceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) and automated testing play their role. It involves the automation of various testing such as functional, performance, browser, visual regression testing, and many more.  This way, software teams ensure that the products meet specified requirements and undergo rigorous testing before release.

However, to fully reap the benefits of ATDD and automation testing, it is crucial to have well-written acceptance criteria and scenarios in place. These are the foundation for developing and executing successful tests and ultimately delivering a flawless product.

What Are Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios?

Acceptance criteria and scenarios are how a particular feature could be utilized from an end-user’s viewpoint. This feature prioritizes the value it brings to the business, sets clear boundaries of its scope, and serves as a guiding framework for development. These are specific to a user story and serve as the foundation for acceptance testing, determining the criteria for successful feature implementation.

Acceptance criteria and scenarios could establish a limitation that allows team members to understand what is included and excluded from the scope of the user story. The standard of user story acceptance illuminates the product behavior in happy path scenarios and guides the user experience when things do not work as expected. Acceptance criteria outline the specific criteria verified through the acceptance tests.

When the product owner validates the specified acceptance criteria for a user story and the developed feature meets them, the development of the user story is deemed successful. Using pass/fail results enables the creation of automated and executable tests, forming the foundation for AC.

What is the Purpose of Writing Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios?

A well-articulated acceptance criterion and scenarios remove ambiguity about the functionality to be developed. The development team will ensure a thorough understanding of the client’s requirements and a clear vision of the desired final deliverable. The purpose of writing acceptance criteria and scenarios are:

Defining Boundaries: Acceptance criteria and scenarios assist the development team in defining the boundaries of a user story. They confirm that the application is working as expected, which implies the user story is complete.

Streamlining Acceptance Testing: The testing is the foundation of user story acceptance testing. Each acceptance criterion must be thoroughly tested in isolation and equipped with unambiguous scenarios defining successful outcomes and failure conditions.

Reaching Consensus: Acceptance criteria and scenarios facilitate effective communication and alignment between the development team and the client. The development team is informed of the specific conditions that must be fulfilled, ensuring a clear understanding for the client regarding the expected functionalities and outcomes of the application.

Describing Negative Scenarios: Acceptance criteria and scenarios may require the system to pinpoint a weak password and stop a user from continuing. Entering an incorrect password format constitutes an unfavorable scenario wherein a user inputs inaccurate data or exhibits unexpected behavior. Acceptance criteria recognize these scenarios and describe how the system should respond.

Planning and Estimating: It permits you to broadcast user stories across tasks so they are adequately assessed and scheduled.

How to Write Effective Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios for ATDD?

Acceptance criteria and scenarios are not leisurely to write. Writing the text can be challenging despite its simple format. Here are a few key elements of writing effective acceptance criteria and scenarios for ATDD:

Communicate with the Entire Team

By having effective lines of communication, team members can effectively and seamlessly collaborate to share important and relevant information. This ensures that everyone is not left behind and on the same page.

Regular meetings, such as daily stand-ups or sprint review sessions, are amazing opportunities to truly sit down and dive deep into the project’s progress and tackle any challenges that may arise while aligning goals. Besides that, consider leveraging communication tools, such as project management software or even instant messaging platforms, as these tools will undoubtedly enable real-time communication while fostering transparency between and amongst the team members.

Document Criteria Before Starting the Development Process

By documenting the acceptance criteria and scenarios before kick-starting the development process, the team can efficiently catch the client’s needs in advance. To efficiently complete backlogs for two sprints, it is recommended to establish criteria for a limited number of user stories at the beginning. Developers then utilize the documented acceptance criteria and scenarios to strategize the technical process.

Focus on Specific User Needs

Understanding the target audience and their requirements guarantees that the product or feature fulfills their expectations and delivers value. This entangles conducting thorough user research, gathering feedback, and analyzing user behaviors and preferences. By empathizing with the end-users, the team can prioritize and define acceptance criteria that align with their needs, ensuring that the developed functionality addresses their pain points and goals.

Don’t Make Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios too Narrow

Acceptance criteria and scenarios that are too detailed leaves developers little room to work. To mitigate this issue, it is crucial to remember that acceptance criteria should indicate intent rather than a definitive verdict. Additionally, narrow acceptance criteria may not fully encompass all user actions.

Use Clear and Concise Language

The goal of writing effective acceptance and criteria is to communicate requirements and expectations in a readily understood manner for all stakeholders implicated in the development process. By refraining from unnecessary complexity, jargon, and ambiguity, teams can establish a shared understanding of goals and objectives. Ultimately enhancing overall productivity and success. This streamlines the testing process and minimizes the potential for misinterpretation or confusion.

Keep your Criteria Achievable

Effective acceptance criteria and scenarios illustrate a reasonable amount of functionality you can furnish. However, providing excessive descriptions of all the minor details may hinder your team’s progress as they may become preoccupied with numerous small tasks.

Coverage of the Cases

The more cases you consider in your acceptance criteria and scenarios upfront, the lower the likelihood you will encounter the follow-up enhancement task with your backlog items. There are instances where it is necessary to address the behavior of a feature when encountering empty inputs or errors.

Define Expected Outcomes Clearly

To ensure the success of a project and effective acceptance testing, it is paramount to define expected outcomes clearly. This implicates clearly articulating the desired results or objectives that must be achieved through the testing process. By clearly defining these outcomes, teams can align their efforts and work towards a common goal.

Clear expectations eliminate any ambiguity or confusion, authorizing testers to focus on validating that the system meets the specified requirements. Besides, clear expected outcomes furnish a benchmark for evaluating the success of the testing process and enable stakeholders to make informed decisions based on the test results.

Consider Different Edge Cases

Edge cases refer to scenarios outside the typical or expected range of inputs or conditions. These scenarios often entangle extreme values, unusual combinations, or rare situations that may not be encountered frequently but are still vital to test.

By considering different edge cases, teams can uncover potential vulnerabilities or issues unclear in regular test cases. This guarantees the system’s resilience and capability to handle multiple scenarios, enhancing its overall quality and dependability.

Avoid Technical Details

Acceptance criteria and scenarios should be written in simple and understandable language. The managers and stakeholders may not have technical backgrounds. That is why using plain language will make the criteria understandable for everyone.

Avoid Scope Creep

When an acceptance criterion and scenarios are articulated at the onset of a project, industry stakeholders and customers will not be able to add or change requirements midway through the project. The allocation of schedules and subjects will not be susceptible to overrides once appropriate measures are implemented to address scope creep.

Prioritize Critical Scenarios First

Prioritizing critical scenarios guarantees that the most important and high-impact functionalities are thoroughly tested and validated. By strategically identifying and prioritizing critical scenarios, you can efficiently allocate resources and time, directing your efforts towards areas with the highest potential for risks or issues. This strategy helps to minimize the chances of critical defects slipping through the testing process, leading to a more robust and reliable software product.

Collaborate with Developers Early On

By implicating developers from the beginning, you can gain insights into the technical aspects of the system and ensure that the acceptance criteria align with the software’s capabilities. This collaboration permits a deeper understanding of the expected behavior and functionality of the system, facilitating the creation of more precise and comprehensive test scenarios. Additionally, developers can provide valuable input on potential edge cases or complex scenarios requiring special attention.

Acceptance Criteria and Scenarios with Cloud Testing in ATDD

Cloud testing permits the creation of a realistic testing environment that closely matches the production environment. By harnessing cloud infrastructure capabilities, testers can replicate diverse scenarios and evaluate the application’s performance under varying conditions.

This approach guarantees that the acceptance criteria and scenarios are thorough and encompass all potential situations the application may encounter in a real-world environment. Besides, cloud testing platforms like LambdaTest facilitate parallel testing, significantly speeding up the testing process and authorizing faster feedback.

LambdaTest is an AI-powered test execution and orchestration platform that empowers developers and testers to perform automation testing seamlessly on over 3000+ real browsers and operating system combinations. It also supports all major automation testing frameworks, such as Selenium, Appium, and Playwright.

LambdaTest goes beyond the ordinary when it comes to automation. It is a valuable tool that can handle even the most complex testing scenarios. With its user-friendly interface and advanced features, teams can automate tests effortlessly. This allows for efficient and effective testing across various browsers and operating systems. All in all, LambdaTest proves to be a versatile and powerful ally for optimizing automation testing processes.


Acceptance criteria and scenarios are predefined conditions that must be accomplished to guarantee that the product meets end-users expectations. It should be easy to test, uncomplicated, and understandable, and it should convey the user perspective. It is recommended to establish the acceptance criteria and scenarios before the commencement of the development session rather than addressing them once the session has started.