Acceptance criteria

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Acceptance criteria
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Acceptance criteria are the criteria used in projects or contracts to establish whether job was done properly. Objectives of project or contract can be stated generally and be not precise enough to tell if task was done. For example, objective can state "to build a house with 3 bedrooms". But how large those bedrooms should be? What should be height? Is cellar/basement required? Is kitchen required? What technology should be used to build walls? Therefore, we need acceptance criteria which tell precisely when we agree that the contract/project is done.

In case of agile projects, when we know budget and time span, but we don't know the scope, it is more difficult to define acceptance criteria. Usually criteria are defined as:

  • functional criteria - related to specific functions,
  • non-functional criteria - related to e.g. layout, look, design,
  • performance criteria - related to efficiency.

Acceptance criteria in scrum projects

In scrum, acceptance criteria are integral part of user stories. User stories are simple description of a product function, written from user's perspective.

What we can do to ensure that user stories are finished accurately and conform to a customer's needs? This is the place acceptance criteria become an integral factor. Acceptance criteria are a formalized list of necessities that guarantee that all user stories are finished and all situations are considered. Acceptance criteria determine conditions which ensure that a user story is satisfied. Briefly composed criteria help team members avoid uncertainty about a customer's requests and avoid miscommunication.

Composing acceptance criteria isn't essential only for defining the vision of a product from the customer's perspective. It is also important for team members to achieve good results. It's nothing unusual that different members of the team see a similar issue from various points. Good composed criteria can ensure that everyone in the team can understand problem that has to be solved[1].

How to write good acceptance criteria

  • Good acceptance criteria should be specific, detailed and well defined so that everyone in the team can understand clearly the problem that has to be solved
  • Acceptance criteria should be measurable so that it is possible to estimate project development time
  • They should be agreed by all stakeholders. External and internal stakeholders can have different solutions for the same problem. Acceptance criteria should define a consensus between them.

Example of user story with acceptance criteria

As an authenticated user
I want to be able to set my profile photo
So that my profile would be more attractive

Given the user is logged in and is in “My profile” section
When he presses button “Change profile photo” and he chooses photo from library
Then the system will upload his photo to server and set his profile photo[2].



  1. V. Tripathi, A. K. Goyal (2014)
  2. M. Kramer, D. Ludlow (2010)

Author: Paulina Baczyńska