Beta Testing | Definition | Template | Advantages | Challenges

Beta Testing | Definition | Template | Advantages | Challenges

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 🚀

What is Beta Testing

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.

Types of Beta Testing

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.


1.Easier for users to try out the new update
2.You will get feedback from more number of users
3.It is a great way to garner interest in the product and get traffic on the website


1.You don’t know how many users will end up using the beta. So planning and managing it can be a bit chaotic at times.
2.Open beta’s are difficult to control. For example- You might have a set of expectations on how you want users to use it and what the goal of release is. But the open beta can be mistaken for everything that everyone wants the product to do. Nobody needs that 😷 . Not from beta testing.

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.

Setting Up A Beta Test

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.

Identify Participants

Users are selected on a number of factors:

1.Skillset: If the feature requires a certain type of skillset then only users who have them are added to the beta. If the users are not well equipped to use the beta then they might not be able to use the new update properly. It could then lead to user dissatisfaction and frustration and become a distraction for the team.
2.Time commitment: The users should be able to spend some amount of time testing the feature on a regular basis in order to provide feedback
3.Accessibility: Users should be able to access the update without any roadblocks. For e.g if the beta testing requires advanced technical setup then either they should be able to do it or you should be able to provide them the support for it.
4.Commitment: It comes down to how committed and excited users are to try out and help test the product

Create Documentation

Try and automate (1) to (3) as much as possible. You will most likely be able to auto-populate the information from your user but to actually help users navigate through the update. Some things to keep in mind for the documentation

1.Be Specific: Documentation should not sound like a novel. It should be specific to the change being introduced , what’s in it, how to use it and provide feedback
2.Medium: When we say documentation the format doesn’t need to be a document per se. It depends on the medium your users prefer. Some people learn better by reading, others by watching videos while the rest through live walkthrough sessions.
3.Naming Convention: You will have a name for the product during internal release which is different from the beta or launch. Be consistent in how you refer to the product while talking to the customers and what you write in the document.

Feedback Process

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:

4.What is the behaviour you are seeing?
5.How do yuo expect it to work?

Try and automate (1) to (3) as much as possible. You will most likely be able to autopopulate the information from your user database.

You can download a copy of the Feedback Template here

Once you know what information you need it’s time to find out the best medium for it:

1.Live Sessions: where users can share their experience of working through the beta. The great thing about these sessions is that they are interactive and all users get a chance to hear about everyone’s experience. But not everyone might be comfortable to share in a group setting. Or users’ feedback might get biased based on what they hear from everyone. There are ways to counter these issues though. You can collect all the feedback before the meeting to get a complete picture
2.One on One Sessions: Talking to each beta participant after every milestone is the most comprehensive way of collecting feedback. It provides you understanding of the underlying context behind the feedback and get to the root cause of the problem faster.
3.Real Time Feedback: Getting users to send across feedback as and when they get stuck using the product makes it more usable. You can add a feedback link to the product to make it easier for the user to send it. In addition you can setup tracking events and pass information about the user’s device, operating system and browser as well.
4.Feedback Portal: If your company uses a feedback portal to get feedback from users on a regular basis you can use it for the beta test as well.

Track Metrics

Metrics help you measure if the Beta is able to achieve its goal. Some common metrics to track for Beta Testing:

1.Total number of users who have signed up for Beta
2.Number of active beta users. You will have to define what constitutes an active user
3.Total Feedback provided
4.Total Actionable feedback
5.Total feedback implemented for GA (general availability)

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.

1.How confident does the team feel about the public release after the beta?
2.Is another set of beta testing needed after the current feedback has been implemented?

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.

Share Results

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.

Advantages of Beta Test

1.You are able to get feedback on the product from real users
2.Edge cases that you would have never thought will come up in beta testing. It will help you to be better prepared
3.It is better to find lots of issues in a beta test than when the product become publicity available to everyone
4.You have more control on a product in beta versus one that has been released
5.Beta test reduces the risk of causing issues for your customers. It is because people using the beta are aware that the system might not be very stable. Hence they use only test data and never hook up the beta to their production database
6.Improves the quality of the final release

Challenges with Beta Test

1.It is not always easy to find good Beta testers. You have to identify users, build a rapport and relationship with them. Only then can you convince of the symbiotic nature of beta testing
2.It adds a lot of overhead for the product and development team. Running beta tests might stretch your team too thin.
3.It slows down release. You have to balance the need to move fast and break things versus slowing down to achieve a certain level of quality.


After reading this are you confused if you should be doing Beta testing? Look at it holistically. Ask your the following questions:

1.What is the relative gain in quality that I get from doing beta tests?
2.Do I have the resources to run Beta tests?
3.Are there other types of testing that are less resource intensive which might do the job?
4.Can I justify the delay in release for more comprehensive testing

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.

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