Stands for "User Acceptance Testing." UAT is a process designed to help ensure products will meet user expectations when they are released. It involves running a product through a series of specific tests that help indicate whether or not the product will meet the needs of its users. While the user acceptance testing process can be applied to any type of product, in the computer industry, it is most often associated with software programs.
Software applications typically go through multiple development stages before being released to the general public. These stages include the initial development process, the alpha testing stage, the beta testing stage, the release candidate stage, and the public release of the software. Not every software program goes through each one of these stages, but most software programs are tested by multiple users before they are released.
The primary UAT stages of software development include the alpha and beta testing stages. In the alpha testing stage, a limited number of users within (and possibly outside) a company test an early version of software for bugs and user interface issues. In the beta testing stage, a larger group of users (usually outside the company) test the software and provide feedback, including bug reports and usability issues. This feedback lets the software company know if the product is meeting user expectations and enables the development team to make the necessary revisions before the official release.
Because software is relatively easy to modify and update (unlike hardware products), user acceptance testing may continue even after a software program is released. Many programs now include feedback and bug submission forms directly within the software, which allow users to provide feedback as they use the software.