Beta testing is a process whereby an unfinished version of a product is given away to real customers in exchange for feedback about their experience with it.
This adds an important dimension to quality testing since users can try the software in a wide variety of environments which cannot be replicated in a lab. Beta testing also provides enormous benefits (but also some challenges) to companies developing products and their customers.
Why do beta testing?
Besides allowing product developers to improve their products quickly and inexpensively, beta testing can be used to reach many different goals other than quality, including:
- Requirements Management – Beta testing allows product owners to pinpoint any further requirements they should address or to clarify and prioritise those in the existing backlog better.
- Bug Tracking – Beta testing helps uncover bugs that only emerge during real-world usage, thus giving us a peek into the level of performance of the product that can be expected when it is in the users’ hands.
- Usability Issues – Beta testing allows us to study the user experience and find ways to improve it either based on the feedback the users themselves give us or from insights obtained by observing their behaviour patterns when interacting with the product.
- Support – Testing documentation and support material can be compiled in such a way that they accurately reflect real-world usage and thus provide a clearer and more helpful resource to the people who use them.
- Product Marketing – Collecting feedback enables product owners to find out which features the users enjoy most using, find out any unexpected and implicit benefits in the software that give it an edge over competitors and ultimately market the product by addressing all this information in the promotional material.
Setting up beta testing
There are many ways to carry out a beta test, however most managers follow a plan which includes some or all of the following stages:
- Project planning – Before beta testing can even begin, the objectives of the project must be written down and agreed upon. Furthermore, quantifiable targets and key metrics to measure must be selected in order to make the process more effective.
- Recruiting participants – Beta testing begins by making a call for testers who agree to using an unfinished version of the product and provide feedback about their experience. Ideally, participants are people whose opinions won’t be affected by their relationship with the company. Using previous customers is okay, but recruiting your own staff isn’t. It is important to be aware of the fact that your colleagues’ feedback is biased. If you are aware of this, it may be OK to use your colleagues in certain circumstances, but typically, your own team will not be very useful as beta testers.
- Distributing different versions of the product – Updated versions of the product are shipped to the beta users as soon as they’re finished, allowing them to experience first-hand what it feels like to use the product in real-life situations.
- Collecting feedback – Once your participants begin to use the beta product, feedback needs to be gathered quickly. This feedback comes in many valuable forms including bug reports, general comments, quotes, suggestions, surveys, and testimonials. It’s important to have a tool that can handle them all.
- Evaluating feedback – All feedback should be systematically reviewed based on its impact on the product and relevant teams. While bugs are often the core focus of a beta, other valuable data can also be derived from the test.
Beta testing: Benefits and Concerns
Beta testing results in better products and improved user experience, which in turn lead to better reviews and increased sales, as well as lower support costs and a more positive brand image.
Customers also get the opportunity to try new products before anybody else and can directly influence the development of the products they love by giving their feedback.
However, using an unfinished and buggy product can be a frustrating experience for many and until the major issues are ironed out the developers can expect to be deluged by an initial surge of critical feedback.
Testers need to ensure that all the feedback is collected, acknowledge and analysed in a timely manner. It can be quite difficult to stay on top of such a dynamic and complex process like beta testing without the right tools, which is why a single testing platform like ReQtest can be a life-saver in these situations.
How ReQtest makes it easier to capture beta user feedback
ReQtest offers a nifty feature that gives your team a great tool to make your beta testing phase less of a hassle and infinitely more productive!
You can instantly create bug reports by emailing them to ReQtest. We designed this feature to save you a lot of time and organise feedback as soon as it enters the system.
You can set up a specific email address in ReQtest to catch feedback. User feedback is then automatically converted to requirements or bugs.