Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance Criteria are specific conditions or requirements that must be met for a User Story or a product increment to be considered complete. They are a crucial part of Agile development, where they provide a clear definition of done for each Backlog Item. In the following we will touch upon what an Acceptance Criteria is and which benefits you can expect from using them.

Key points to understand about Acceptance Criteria

When it comes to the topic of Acceptance Criteria, there are some key points you don’t want to miss:

  1. Collaborative: They are ideally created in collaboration with the team(s) who have to execute on them. This both ensures a collective understanding and that all information isn’t shared in writing.
  2. User Story Completeness: They ensure that a User Story defines itself well. It provides a clear understanding of the intended functionality or behavior.
  3. Shared Understanding: They foster a shared understanding between the development team and stakeholders about what needs to be delivered.
  4. Testability: They provide a basis for testing the User Story to ensure that the intended functionality works as expected.
  5. Specific and Measurable: They should be specific, objective, and measurable. They should avoid ambiguous language and be verifiable.
  6. Validation: The product owner or stakeholders use them to validate whether the User Story meets the desired outcome and provides the expected value.
  7. Not Prescriptive: They specify the “what,” not the “how.” They do not dictate how the development team should implement the functionality.
  8. Evolutionary: They can evolve throughout the development process as new information becomes available or requirements change.
  9. Multiple: A User Story may have multiple Acceptance Criteria to cover various aspects of the desired functionality.
  10. Negotiation: The development team and product owner collaborate to define the Acceptance Criteria, ensuring they have shared understanding and expectations.

Examples of Acceptance Criteria

For a User Story related to an e-commerce website:

  • Given that a user is logged in, when they add items to the cart, then the cart should display the correct total amount, including tax and shipping fees.
  • Given that a user selects the “Express Shipping” option during checkout, when they complete the order, then the order confirmation should display the expected delivery date as two days from the order date.
  • Given that a user provides an invalid credit card number during payment, when they attempt to submit the payment, then an error message should be displayed, indicating that the credit card number is invalid.


When getting skilled in working with Acceptance Criteria in a constructive way, you can expect the following benefits:

  • Alignment of Expectations: The Development Team and Product Owner collaboratively define them. They do so to establish a shared understanding of what is needed.
  • Increased Innovation: When they are used correctly it increases the innovation. It does so by allowing more time for reflection rather than practical coordination.
  • Increased Autonomy: They serve as an enabler of autonomy by providing clear constraints for the development work.
  • Reduction of Risk: Using them to share the essential requirements with a Development Team enables faster and better decisions.
  • Better Products: When sharing key knowledge the Product Owner and Development Team significantly improve the quality of the Product.
  • Continuous Improvement: Defining and evaluating Acceptance Criteria encourages continuous improvement. Teams learn from each iteration and use it to improve.


  • Subjectivity: Crafting clear and unambiguous Acceptance Criteria can be challenging, and they may sometimes be subject to interpretation.
  • Completeness: Ensuring that all essential aspects of a user story are covered can be difficult, leading to gaps in understanding.
  • Changing Requirements: In dynamic projects, requirements may change, requiring adjustments to Acceptance Criteria, which can impact development timelines.
  • Complexity: For intricate features, creating comprehensive criteria for acceptance can be time-consuming.
  • Communication Barriers: In distributed teams conveying and understanding them can be challenging.

To address these challenges and reap the benefits of Acceptance Criteria, Agile teams should invest time in collaborative discussions between the development team, Product Owner, and stakeholders. They should also prioritize clarity and regular refinement of Acceptance Criteria throughout the development process to accommodate changing requirements and maintain alignment with user needs. When used effectively, Acceptance Criteria contribute to successful Agile development by ensuring that user stories are well-defined and meet customer expectations.

To get more inspiration, then have a look at the related topics of User Stories.

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