A project manager drafting acceptance criteria for a project involving a necessitous client.

Acceptance Criteria: Definition, Types, and Best Practices

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Ever wondered how a software development team ensures quality assurance and meets the desired customer needs? Look no further than acceptance criteria. These powerful guidelines, a criterion in the scrum methodology, play a vital role in the development process, helping teams define what is expected of their software. Effective acceptance criteria act as a roadmap, outlining the necessary functional requirements, scenarios, and expectations for user acceptance.

Acceptance criteria, a criterion in the development process, serve as entry requirements for quality assurance and acceptance testing. They provide documentation that helps developers align their work with user stories and broader acceptance criteria. By setting clear guidelines, teams can ensure that their software meets customer needs and functions flawlessly. The product owner plays a crucial role in defining these acceptance criteria.

So let’s cut to the chase and uncover the significance of user stories and acceptance criteria in delivering high-quality software products. These essential criteria play a crucial role in the development process.

Purpose and Importance of Acceptance Criteria:

Acceptance criteria play a crucial role in any development project, ensuring alignment between stakeholders, quality assurance, and the development team. By clearly defining the expectations for a deliverable, acceptance criteria facilitate effective communication and collaboration throughout the process of creating user stories in a scrum framework.

One key benefit of having well-defined acceptance criteria in user stories is the mitigation of risks. By establishing specific requirements in the product backlog, potential issues can be identified early on, preventing costly rework or delays. This helps to maintain the quality of the project, including its timelines and budgets.

Another important aspect for a scrum team is how acceptance criteria prevent scope creep in user stories. With clear guidelines in place, it becomes easier to manage changes and additions to the project scope. This ensures that everyone involved understands what is within the agreed-upon boundaries and helps maintain the quality of the user story.

Effective communication is essential in any collaborative effort, and acceptance criteria play a vital role in facilitating this for the scrum team. They provide a common language for stakeholders and developers to discuss progress, identify gaps or misunderstandings, and make informed decisions together on user stories.

To illustrate their purpose further:

  • Acceptance criteria could outline specific functionality or features that need to be present in a software application, as defined in the user stories and entry requirements of the scrum process.
  • They might specify good acceptance criteria, such as performance benchmarks, that must be met by a new product. Here is an acceptance criteria example: the product should meet the broad acceptance criterion of meeting specified performance benchmarks.
  • In a scrum development environment, acceptance criteria may define entry requirements for user stories that need to be completed before moving on to the next sprint in the product.

Types of Acceptance Criteria:

Functional Acceptance Criteria:

Functional acceptance criteria are essential for defining the desired behavior of a product. They outline specific functionalities and features that the system should possess to meet user stories and scrum requirements. These criteria ensure that the system functions as intended and fulfills its purpose effectively.

Examples of functional acceptance criteria include:

  • The login page should authenticate users with valid credentials.
  • The product’s search functionality should have good acceptance criteria to ensure accurate results based on user queries. For example, having broad acceptance criteria can help define the expected behavior of the search functionality.
  • The checkout process for our product should allow users to smoothly complete their purchase. It should meet all entry requirements and be organized using the scrum methodology. Each step of the process should be designed as a story, ensuring a seamless user experience.

Performance Acceptance Criteria:

Performance acceptance criteria for a product focus on evaluating the efficiency and responsiveness of the system. These criteria help ensure that the system can handle expected workloads without significant performance degradation. They determine how well the system performs under various conditions, such as high loads or heavy data processing. By considering these criteria, user stories can be effectively evaluated and entry requirements can be met.

Examples of performance acceptance criteria include:

  1. The product’s website should have a response time of less than 2 seconds for each page load, as per the team’s user story.
  2. The application should support concurrent user sessions without noticeable slowdowns. This is crucial for our team to ensure a smooth user experience. Additionally, it is important to meet the entry requirements of the AC system to ensure compatibility and optimal performance.
  3. The team should ensure that database queries, as described in the user story, execute within an acceptable timeframe, even when dealing with large datasets. This is important to meet the entry requirements of the project.

Usability Acceptance Criteria:

Usability acceptance criteria assess the entry requirements for a team, ensuring the system’s user-friendliness and meeting user expectations in terms of ease-of-use and satisfaction. These criteria consider factors such as navigation, layout, clarity, and intuitiveness to ensure a positive user experience story.

Examples of usability acceptance criteria include:

  • Users should be able to navigate through different sections easily using clear navigation menus that provide information on entry requirements and AC.
  • The user story for the interface elements (buttons, forms, etc.) should include entry requirements and ensure that they are intuitive and self-explanatory.
  • Error messages displayed to users must be informative and guide them towards resolving issues effectively. This is especially important when it comes to entry requirements and AC.

By defining these different types of acceptance criteria—functional, performance, and usability—you can establish clear guidelines for evaluating your systems’ effectiveness in meeting their intended goals. These guidelines are essential for ensuring that the user story and entry requirements are met.

Best Practices for Writing Acceptance Criteria

  • When writing acceptance criteria for a user story, it is important to use clear and concise language with specific details. Clearly state the entry requirements and what needs to be accomplished, in order to avoid any ambiguity. Provide specific details about the expected outcome of the user story.
  • Make the user story acceptance criteria measurable and testable. Entry requirements should be written in a way that allows for easy measurement and testing. This helps ensure that the criteria can be objectively evaluated and verified.
  • When writing acceptance criteria for a user story, it is important to prioritize the most critical functionalities. This ensures that efforts are focused on the essential aspects of the product or feature being developed. By prioritizing critical functionalities in the entry requirements, the development team can effectively meet the needs of the user story.

When writing acceptance criteria for user stories, agile teams should use these best practices to create effective guidelines for development and testing. By using clear language with specific details, teams can avoid confusion and misinterpretation. Ensuring that the acceptance criteria meet the entry requirements and are measurable and testable ensures that they can be objectively evaluated. Additionally, prioritizing critical functionalities keeps development efforts focused on what matters most.

Examples of Well-Written Acceptance Criteria:

  • When a user clicks on ‘Add to Cart,’ the item should be added to the shopping cart. AC and entry requirements must be met for this action.
  • The login page should load within 2 seconds.
  • The font size should be adjustable by the user.

Writing effective acceptance criteria is crucial for ensuring that software meets the desired requirements. Here are some examples of well-written acceptance criteria that serve as powerful solutions for testing and validating software functionality. These criteria play a vital role in capturing the user story and ensuring that the software meets the needs of the end-user.

  1. When a user clicks on ‘Add to Cart’:
    • The user story for adding the selected item to the shopping cart is successfully implemented, meeting all entry requirements and adhering to the AC.
    • The user’s cart is updated with the appropriate quantity of items.
    • A confirmation message or notification is displayed to indicate successful addition for the user.
  2. The login page should load within 2 seconds:
    • Upon user accessing the login page, it should fully load within a maximum of 2 seconds.
    • All user elements, such as text fields and buttons, should be visible and functional for a smooth user experience without any delay or disruption.
  3. The font size should be adjustable by the user:
    • Users have the option to increase or decrease the font size according to their preference.
    • Adjusting the font size should result in immediate changes throughout the user interface of the application.

By following these clear and concise acceptance criteria examples, development teams can ensure that their work aligns with specific user requirements and functions as intended. It’s essential for teams to write acceptance criteria using an active voice rather than passive voice, making them more actionable and easier for all stakeholders, including the user, to understand.

Remember, well-defined acceptance criteria contribute significantly to successful project delivery by providing a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved by the user.

Differences: Definition of Done vs Acceptance Criteria

The difference between the Definition of Done and the Acceptance Criteria lies in their respective focuses. The user Definition of Done centers on completion from a development perspective, while the Acceptance Criteria concentrates on meeting stakeholder expectations.

The Definition of Done outlines the criteria that must be met for a user or ac task or feature to be considered complete. It serves as a set of guidelines for developers to ensure that all necessary steps have been taken. This includes aspects such as code reviews, testing, documentation, and deployment. By adhering to the Definition of Done, teams can maintain consistency and quality throughout their work.

On the other hand, acceptance criteria define specific conditions that need to be fulfilled for a user story or requirement to be accepted by stakeholders. These criteria are typically expressed in terms understandable by both technical and non-technical individuals. They provide clarity on what needs to be achieved and serve as a basis for evaluating whether a deliverable meets the desired outcome.


In conclusion, acceptance criteria play a crucial role in ensuring the success of any project or task. They serve as a set of guidelines that define the conditions under which a user deliverable can be considered acceptable. By clearly outlining what needs to be achieved, acceptance criteria provide a shared understanding between stakeholders and user teams, reducing ambiguity and preventing misunderstandings.

Understanding the different types of acceptance criteria is essential for effectively implementing them in various scenarios. Whether it’s functional, performance-based, or user-focused criteria, each type serves its own purpose and contributes to overall project success.

To write effective acceptance criteria, it is important to follow best practices for user satisfaction. These include making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) for the user. Involving all relevant stakeholders in the process ensures that their perspectives as users are considered and increases user buy-in.

Examples of well-written user acceptance criteria can serve as templates or references when creating your own. They demonstrate how clarity and specificity lead to successful outcomes for the user.

It’s worth noting that while acceptance criteria define what needs to be accomplished for a specific deliverable or feature, the definition of done encompasses all requirements for completing an entire project or task successfully. The user should understand that acceptance criteria and the definition of done are both essential for successful project completion. Get help with writing acceptance criteria and revolutionize your project management game with Project Widgets’ ultimate project management solutions.

To improve your understanding and application of acceptance criteria further:

  1. Explore case studies and real-world examples.
  2. Engage with industry experts through forums or communities.
  3. Continuously refine your skills by practicing writing effective acceptance criteria.
  4. Stay updated with emerging trends and best practices in your field.

By incorporating these strategies into your work processes, you can enhance collaboration among team members, streamline project execution, and ultimately achieve better results.


Q: How do I determine the appropriate level of detail for my acceptance criteria?

A: The level of detail for the AC (Acceptance Criteria) should be based on the complexity of the deliverable or feature being developed. It should provide enough information for both developers and stakeholders to understand what is expected without becoming overly prescriptive.

Q: Can acceptance criteria be modified during the course of a project?

A: Yes, acceptance criteria can be modified as long as all relevant stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. Changes should be communicated clearly to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Q: Should acceptance criteria be written before or after development starts?

A: It is best practice to define acceptance criteria before development begins. This helps set clear expectations and allows for early identification of any potential issues or misunderstandings.

Q: How can I ensure that my acceptance criteria cover all necessary aspects?

A: Involving all relevant stakeholders and conducting thorough discussions during the requirement gathering phase can help ensure that no critical aspects are missed. Regular reviews and feedback loops also aid in refining and improving the acceptance criteria.

Q: Are there any tools available to assist in writing acceptance criteria?

A: Yes, several tools are available that can help streamline the process of writing, organizing, and tracking acceptance criteria. Some popular options include Jira, Trello, and Confluence.