A computer controlled experiment for damage threshold measurements on optical surfaces in the UV spectral region is described in detail. The spatial intensity distribution of the probe beam can be monitored in a plane equivalent to the sample surface using a UV sensitive video camera. A relatively smooth near Gaussian beam profile is obtained. The experimental techniques used for damage recognition involve Nomarski microscopy, He-Ne laser scattering, stereo microscopy with He-Ne laser illumination, fluorescent light analysis as well as photoacoustical measurements. A comparison between the different techniques is given with respect to damage threshold results on a 248 nm high reflection coating. The influence of experimental parameters on the measured threshold fluences such as the number of pulses per site and pulse repetition rate is discussed.