User stories are a fundamental component of Agile development, serving as concise descriptions of functionality from an end user’s perspective. To ensure that these user stories are well-understood and can be properly tested, it’s crucial to draft clear and comprehensive acceptance criteria. In this article, we’ll delve into the art of writing acceptance criteria for user stories, providing practical examples along the way.

What Are Acceptance Criteria?

Acceptance criteria are specific conditions that a user story must meet to be considered complete. They serve as a guideline for both developers and testers, ensuring that everyone has a shared understanding of what needs to be accomplished. Essentially, acceptance criteria answer the question: “How will we know when this user story is done?”

The purpose of acceptance criteria for user stories in Agile development is to provide a clear and detailed description of what needs to be accomplished in order for a user story to be considered complete and ready for implementation. Acceptance criteria serve as a crucial tool for communication and collaboration among team members, including developers, testers, product owners, and stakeholders. Here are the primary purposes of acceptance criteria:

  1. Shared Understanding: Acceptance criteria ensure that everyone on the team has a shared understanding of the user story’s scope and requirements. They help prevent misunderstandings or assumptions about what needs to be built.
  2. Guidance for Development: Developers use acceptance criteria as a roadmap for building the desired functionality. They provide clear, specific instructions, reducing the likelihood of incomplete or incorrect implementations.
  3. Basis for Testing: Testers rely on acceptance criteria to create test cases and validate that the user story meets the specified requirements. These criteria are instrumental in ensuring the functionality works as intended.
  4. Quality Assurance: Acceptance criteria set the standard for quality. They help maintain a focus on delivering high-quality software by defining the expected behavior, performance, and functionality.
  5. Definition of Done: Acceptance criteria contribute to defining what “done” means for a user story. When all acceptance criteria are met, the user story is considered complete and can be reviewed and potentially released.
  6. Scope Control: They help manage scope by clearly outlining what is in scope and what is not. Any additional features or changes not covered by the acceptance criteria should trigger discussions and potential adjustments.
  7. Prioritization: Acceptance criteria can help prioritize user stories. By breaking down complex functionality into smaller, testable pieces, teams can more easily assess the effort required and make informed decisions about which stories to tackle first.
  8. Alignment with User Needs: Acceptance criteria tie the development effort directly to user needs and expectations. They ensure that the resulting software aligns with what users are looking for and provides value to them.
  9. Documentation: They serve as valuable documentation for future reference. Once a user story is completed, the acceptance criteria provide a historical record of what was delivered, aiding in maintenance and future enhancements.
  10. Effective Communication: Acceptance criteria encourage collaboration and communication among team members. They facilitate discussions during sprint planning, refinement sessions, and daily stand-ups, promoting a shared sense of responsibility.

Acceptance criteria are essential for effective Agile development. They enhance communication, reduce ambiguity, guide development and testing efforts, and ultimately contribute to the delivery of valuable, high-quality software that meets user needs and expectations.

Characteristics of Good Acceptance Criteria

Before diving into examples, let’s outline some key characteristics that make acceptance criteria effective:

  1. Specific: Acceptance criteria should be clear and unambiguous. They leave no room for interpretation or guesswork.
  2. Measurable: Criteria should be quantifiable, enabling testers to determine if the functionality meets the requirements.
  3. Testable: Each criterion should be testable, allowing for verification and validation. If it can’t be tested, it’s not suitable as an acceptance criterion.
  4. Complete: They should cover all relevant aspects of the user story, leaving no room for unexpected functionality or hidden requirements.
  5. Concise: Avoid unnecessary complexity or verbosity. Keep the criteria concise and to the point.
  6. Relevant: Ensure that the criteria align with the user story’s objectives and priorities. Irrelevant criteria can lead to confusion and wasted effort.

Examples of Acceptance Criteria

Let’s explore some examples to illustrate how these principles are applied:

User Story: As a registered user, I want to reset my password.

Example 1:

Acceptance Criteria:

  1. The user must be able to access the password reset feature from the login page.
  2. After clicking the “Forgot Password” link, the user should receive an email with a password reset link.
  3. Clicking the reset link should take the user to a page where they can create a new password.
  4. The new password must meet the complexity requirements (e.g., at least 8 characters, including a mix of letters and numbers).
  5. Upon successful password reset, the user should receive a confirmation email.
  6. The user should be able to log in using the new password.

Example 2:

Acceptance Criteria:

  1. The “Forgot Password” link must be prominently displayed on the login page.
  2. Users should receive the password reset email within 5 minutes of requesting it.
  3. The reset password page should have clear instructions and a user-friendly interface.
  4. Password complexity requirements should be clearly stated on the reset password page.
  5. Users should receive a confirmation email within 1 minute of successfully resetting their password.
  6. Password reset should be a seamless process with no server errors or downtime.

User Story: As a customer, I want to filter products by category on the e-commerce website.

Example 1:

Acceptance Criteria:

  1. The homepage should display a list of product categories.
  2. Clicking on a category should filter the products displayed to include only items from that category.
  3. Users should be able to select multiple categories to filter products further.
  4. The selected category should be visually highlighted to indicate the active filter.
  5. Filtering should work in real-time without requiring a page refresh.

Example 2:

Acceptance Criteria:

  1. The product categories should be displayed in a sidebar on all relevant pages.
  2. Clicking on a category should instantly update the product list, with a smooth transition effect.
  3. Users should see a clear “Clear Filters” button to remove any applied filters.
  4. The filter bar should be responsive and work seamlessly on both desktop and mobile devices.
  5. Categories should be alphabetically sorted for user convenience.


Writing effective acceptance criteria for user stories is essential for Agile development. Clear, specific, and testable criteria ensure that everyone involved understands what needs to be delivered and how to verify its completion. By following the principles and examples outlined in this article, you can enhance communication within your development team and increase the chances of delivering high-quality software that meets user expectations.

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