· 8 min read ·
Alpha, Beta, A/B testing. All these are used extensively in the software industry. Each one has its own merits. In this blog we will focus on Beta testing. It’s not like one is better than the other. That would be comparing apples to oranges. Each type has its purpose, pros and cons. The purpose of this blog is to learn what Beta testing is all about. Let’s get started 🚀
Beta testing is when your customers/external users try out your update before it is made generally available(GA). The goal of beta testing is to get feedback on how your product performs in the real world.
Early on in my career I used to wonder what was the point of Beta test. Shouldn’t alpha tests created by the Quality Assurance be enough to make sure the product works as expected. These professionals are trained to test your software. How is an end user going to test your software better than them? Actually that is the wrong way to look at things. Your inhouse QA team will build a ton of manual and automated test cases and test the robustness of the update. But there are an infinite number of ways in which users can use your software. On top of that each user will have a different hardware and software and configuration. It is impossible to account for and recreate all of them with Alpha Testing. That’s where Beta testing comes in.
Public/Open Beta Testing
As the name suggests this type of testing is available for the public. Anyone who has access to your product can go ahead and start using your features.
An open beta makes more sense for B2C products when you are starting a new line of service or adding new capabilities.
Closed Beta Testing
This is the traditional way of doing beta testing. It is open to a smaller subset of users. You are more in control (or atleast you think you are 😂 ). You identify users who will be ideal for the beta test and work with them closely to identify issues with the product. You collect all this great feedback and then prioritize ones that need to be fixed before the general release.
You have decided to run a beta test/program for your upcoming release. Here are some of the things to keep in mind.
Establish Goals for the Beta Test
This is the first step that you need to do when setting up a beta test. This is also the step that most people skip 😅 .
The goal of your test should be clear to everyone both internal and external stakeholders. You’d think that all beta test would have the same goal. That is true to some extent. Through the beta test you want to check how robust your release is. Whether it measures up to the quality standards of your team. The difference in each beta test goal lies in what it does not want to achieve. You can use your beta to unearth and fix every possible bug or usability issue. But where do you draw the line and say that we will only fix “X” number of things or “Y” types of problems. Stating them as part of your goal helps prevent confusion and chaos during the beta test.
Users are selected on a number of factors:
Try and automate (1) to (3) as much as possible. You will most likely be able to auto-populate the information from your user database.ist but to actually help users navigate through the update. Some things to keep in mind for the documentation
The goal of the beta is to get feedback on the change that you want to introduce. So the feedback process is the most critical part of the beta test. Creating a process that works for you and your users is an iterative process. You start with what seems like the right approach based on your interactions with your customers. And tweak it along the way based on what you learn.
You can either come up with a template for users to provide the feedback or let them write what they feel in a free form text field.
An Example of what your information is needed in the template is given below:
Try and automate (1) to (3) as much as possible. You will most likely be able to autopopulate the information from your user database.
Once you know what information you need it’s time to find out the best medium for it:
Metrics help you measure if the Beta is able to achieve its goal. Some common metrics to track for Beta Testing:
Overtime these metrics will help you decide if Beta testing is working for you.
Beyond these metrics there are a number of subjective questions you should discuss with your team after the beta is complete.
In some cases you might go ahead and release the product after Beta. However in most cases there will be some amount of work that will need to be done before the update is in a ready release state.
It is always good to share the outcome of every Beta test with the internal stakeholders and Beta participants. In addition you should thank all the participants for the time and effort they put in to test out your product. If a specific feedback is going to be worked on then it is good to share that as well.
After reading this are you confused if you should be doing Beta testing? Look at it holistically. Ask your the following questions:
At the end of the day your answer will be as unique as your business. It might make complete sense for you to start beta testing. Or you might be like..ummm…wait a minute…this is great but I don’t think we need this right now.