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Introducing TextTest and Acceptance Testing
Why do I need Acceptance Tests as well as Unit Tests?
Much has been written about Unit Testing, and JUnit and its translations continue to gain in popularity. This is good, but is it enough on its own to really ensure that your project is on track?
Unit Testing is about developers verifying on a low level that their code does what they think it does. That may not be the same as what the paying customer wants it to do when it is integrated into the whole system. Even if it is, the customer probably will not be able to understand what the unit tests do, and so cannot gain confidence in the system from them. Therefore, Extreme Programming advocates creating and running another kind of tests, 'Acceptance Tests' which are written by the customer and test that the requirements are fulfilled as they should be.
In practice, it has turned out to be harder to find a way to do this that is generic, easy to maintain throughout a project and easy for non-technical customers to be involved in. No approach has yet gained anything like the widespread coverage and acceptance gained by the xUnit tools.
This has led to lots of projects relying entirely on unit tests to prove that they are on track. While this is vastly better than not having any way of knowing whether you're on track until release date, it can still go wrong. If your system doesn't do what your customer wants it to do, it's better to know that as soon as possible.
The situation has also led to projects writing their own tools for acceptance testing that will suit just their project. We did this for the first time in 2000. Since then, we have re-used and refined it in a number of other projects, until in 2003 we decided it was generic enough to be released open source.


Last updated: 05 October 2012