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Everything you need to know about beta testing

Last updated

15 April 2023

Reviewed by

Tanya Williams

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Beta testing is a common and critical part of the product design cycle. 

Even though developers have used it successfully for years, there’s still some confusion about what it is, how to do it, and the benefits.  

Let’s delve into everything you need to know about beta testing, so you can fix product issues before release.

What is beta testing?

Beta testing is one of the final product tests before releasing it to a larger audience. Using the product in a real-life environment allows researchers to gain insight into design and functionality flaws. This means they can resolve any bugs before releasing the product.  

These tests can be open or closed and last for a set period or continue until no issues remain. 

To ensure stable beta testing, you need to fulfill a few requirements: 

  • Don’t load the product with predictable issues

  • Ensure it’s in a complete, stable state

  • Real users should test the product on standard user equipment in their natural environment 

The difference between beta testing and alpha testing

Alpha testing is pre-beta testing. Alpha testing tries to catch as many issues with the product before the public touches it. It’s usually the final test before developers introduce the product to actual users. 

The major difference between alpha and beta testing is who does the testing and where. 

In alpha testing, internal employees such as developers, designers, or quality assurance personnel conduct tests in a lab setting.

Actual users carry out beta testing in the setting they’ll normally use the product. 

Types of beta testing

Beta testing can include several tests of different types.  Some of the most common types include:

Closed beta testing vs. open beta testing

Closed beta testing involves a limited number of real users. These tests are more suitable for assessing the core features of a soon-to-be-released product.  

Some consider closed beta testing "invitation only" since the developers invite a select few to participate.

Open beta testing uses a larger sampling of participants, generally allowing anyone to sign up to test the product. This testing is best for collecting quantitative data and providing information on how your product performs with a larger group.   

Open beta testing provides a more diverse sampling of user habits and patterns, allowing your product to perform as it would under regular use.

Often, developers perform a closed beta test to isolate issues before conducting open beta testing with a larger, more diverse group.

Technical beta testing

Technical beta testing requires tech-savvy users that will use the product upon release.  

This testing type uncovers complex, hard-to-find system bugs. Participants are willing to work through problems to provide test execution reports at the end of the experiment. The engineering team uses these reports to make product adjustments and improvements. 

Focused beta testing

Focused beta testing is for testing a specific feature or function. You release the product into the market to collect the data you need.   

Marketing beta testing

Marketing beta testing aims to get media attention for your product.  

This testing allows developers to understand how their marketing strategies are working and see the customer's reaction to marketing campaigns and product features.

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What is the objective of beta testing?

Internal testing can uncover many problems with a new product or feature. However, getting your target audience to test your product is key to its success.

Beta testing is your best opportunity to uncover bugs, usability issues, and improvements. 

It’s also helpful for:

  • Ensuring adequate product speed, storage, and scalability

  • Validating hypotheses about how users will experience your product and its features

  • Discovering improvements for future versions

  • Evaluating and refining marketing strategies

  • Getting the word out about your new product 

How do product managers use beta testing?

With beta testing, product managers can ensure that all product components perform as expected. They can use feedback to fix installation, documentation, and delivery issues before release.  

Product managers can also use the test data to influence future releases or improvements. Confirming the users interact with the product as expected ensures a less disruptive release to the intended end users.

How to use beta test feedback

Sometimes, product managers predict that certain prompts, layouts, or content will work a certain way. Test feedback can let them know whether their assumptions are correct or if they need to make adjustments. Feedback can also determine the scale for product rollout. 

Product managers can check if the key performance indicators (KPIs) correlate with their expectations. If not, they may want to adjust expectations or make the project less of a priority.

What you need to run beta testing

Beta testing is your last chance to test your product before release, so it requires special planning to make it successful.  

Follow these steps to cover your bases:

1. Define your goals in advance

Establish what you want to test and your goals to determine the scope and type of testing. Be as specific as possible when setting your goals, so you collect the right data.

2. Recruit your participants

It’s essential to find and recruit the right participants for your goals and crucial to determine the size of your sampling.  

Unsuccessful beta tests are often due to a lack of participants. While there’s no simple way to determine your sample size, time, scope, and cost are all related. The larger the scope, the longer it will take and the more it will cost.  

Your recruiting strategy is key to finding the right people for your beta test. Methods include tapping into your existing user base, creating adverts, or contacting dedicated testing communities. 

It’s also vital to decide on your preferred communication method, such as email, phone, or text. 

Always be transparent with participants: Keep them informed of timeframes and responsibilities. Ensure you’re easy to contact and ready to respond to their queries for a smooth process and minimal dropouts. 

3. Define the length of the testing period

Consider what you want to learn and your budget when determining your test period. Short periods may not collect enough data, while long periods may result in participants dropping off or giving little feedback.  

4. Write product documentation

This is your product's how-to manual. It’s crucial that your users understand the instructions and know what to do. Create clear, accessible descriptions.

5. Share the information about known issues with test participants

If you’ve discovered any issues with your product before beta testing, let the participants know. That way, they’ll expect it and be more likely to tolerate it while testing.

6. Share results of beta testing with stakeholders

Once you’ve analyzed the results, share them with everyone who has a stake in the product release. That includes quality assurance, product management, and the design and development teams.

7. Create a clear procedure for collecting feedback

Even though you may collect information digitally or automatically, leave a clear path for participants to communicate their thoughts on product features and design.

8. Use tools for beta testing

Several online tools can simplify the process of logging bugs, collecting feedback from users, and gauging user productivity.

Beta testing participant examples

  • A game publisher is releasing a sequel, so they select people who played the prequel.

  • A company is installing a new inventory system for a group of warehouses. The employees of one warehouse test the new system before it rolls out to other locations.  

Benefits of beta testing

You can identify and repair overlooked bugs before an expensive rollout.

Challenges of beta testing

While beta testing is beneficial, there can be challenges: 

  • It’s tricky to define the number of participants and the testing scope.

  • Recruiting enough participants can be difficult.

  • There can be a lot of data to collect and analyze.

FAQs

What are the three types of beta testing?

Technical, marketing, and focused are the three types of beta testing.

What is beta vs. alpha testing?

Beta testing takes place with real users in real-world settings. Alpha testing takes place in a lab with employees who are not the end users.

Why is it called beta testing?

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet after Alpha. In product testing, the alpha is the first stage, and the beta comes next.  

Where is beta testing used?

Beta testing has several applications: Software and app developers regularly use beta tests.

What is beta testing vs. field testing?

Beta tests evaluate specific product features by guiding testers to them and prompting them for feedback. Field tests determine the features customers will use most.

What's after beta testing?

Beta testing is the final testing of a product before release.

Is there a difference between beta testing and pre-production testing?

Quality assurance conducts pre-production testing before production, whereas users perform beta testing at the final stage before release.

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