Before you release your product out into the wild, you want to make sure it's perfect right? That's where beta testing comes in.
A beta test provides an opportunity for users to evaluate your product before the big launch. As a result, you may uncover issues or opportunities that you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.
In this guide, we'll explore everything you need to know about beta testing.
Table of Contents
- What is beta testing?
- Benefits of Beta Testing
- How to Perform Beta Testing
- Role of a Beta Tester
- Beta Testing Jobs
- Beta Testing Examples
What is beta testing?
Beta testing is a method that allows real users to test out a product and provide input before it goes to market. The goal is to identify any remaining product flaws or UX issues ahead of the official release.
Beta Testing Definition
By definition, "beta" represents the second in a series of items. Beta testing is the second (and final) phase of software testing that asks end-users to try the product before the final launch.
In line with the Greek alphabet, businesses run a beta test after running an alpha test. Let's review the differences between the two.
Alpha vs. Beta Testing
There are two main differences between alpha testing and beta testing. The first is when the testing takes place, and the second is who is doing the testing.
An alpha test is performed before the product has any external exposure. The internal product team reviews the product in a staging (or test) environment to ensure that the product is usable and performing as intended.
The beta test is the first chance for outside users to try the product in the production (or live) environment. It's the final testing stage to catch end-user usability issues and product bugs.
In some cases, businesses may start with a closed beta and then move into the open beta phase to let more users experience the new product.
More on open vs. closed beta tests next.
Closed Beta vs. Open Beta
A closed beta is reserved for a limited group of users by invitation only. These users are selected by internal teams for product development feedback.
An open beta is more large-scale, and it's available to the general public. This means that anyone who is interested can test out the product and share their thoughts about the product's usability, quality, and performance.
Both types of beta testing have their benefits. We'll take a look at a few in the next section.
Benefits of Beta Testing
- Users can catch issues that your team may have overlooked.
- It’s a chance to generate excitement around your product before it’s released.
- You’re building deeper relationships with your users.
Beta testing has its advantages for both the business and the end-user.
Here are some more details on the benefits:
- Users can catch issues that your team may have overlooked. It's always good to have a second set of eyes on your product, especially from someone who will actually be using it.
- It's a chance to generate excitement around your product before it's released. Beta tests are also a form of product promotion and your chance to create awareness ahead of launch.
- You're building deeper relationships with your users. By asking for feedback, you're showing customers that you care about their opinions and you want to create the best product possible.
Let's talk about how to conduct a beta test.
How to Perform Beta Testing
- Define your goals.
- Identify your participants.
- Distribute testing information.
- Run the beta test.
- Gather and analyze feedback.
- Make final product updates.
Let’s review these six helpful steps for running your first beta test.
Remember: Before you start, make sure you're satisfied with the results of your alpha test. Also, confirm that your product is fully accessible to users in the final production environment.
1. Define your goals.
The first step is to understand what you're trying to achieve with the beta test. Determine what tasks you want users to complete, and identify which areas you want users to focus on.
Your goals may be designed to:
- Improve the overall product quality
- Solve a particular problem
- Discover new opportunities
- Evaluate the product's performance
2. Identify your participants.
Next, decide who you want your testers to be. Will you conduct a closed beta test with a select group of users? Or are you ready to release your beta version to the public for feedback?
Also, review your budget to figure out how many users you can accommodate and whether or not you want to charge your testers.
3. Distribute testing information.
Once you decide on your participants, share resources for users to complete the test.
This may include product access materials like installation packages, download links, user guides, issue logging instructions, and anything else needed to facilitate the test.
4. Run the beta test.
Now's the time to launch your beta test. Choose a specified time period where testers are expected to review your product, and set a deadline for feedback.
As an example, you could open the beta test from April 1 to June 30 and make the deadline the last day of June.
5. Gather and analyze feedback.
Once the test is complete, compile all of your feedback. You may consider categorizing your feedback by task or by goal.
If you asked users to navigate through a specific page, you may organize your feedback according to that task.
Another option would be to collect all feedback related to "improving product performance" if that's one of your goals.
6. Make final product updates.
Based on your feedback, you may decide to make a few tweaks before releasing the product or save the larger changes for future versions.
Specify what your "need-to-haves" are versus your "nice-to-haves" and address the highest priority items ahead of launch.
Based on these steps, it's clear that beta testers have an important role to play in product development. We'll talk more about this next.
Role of a Beta Tester
The beta tester's primary role is to identify product usability issues and provide feedback so the product team can make improvements. Common issues may include bugs or glitches in the production environment like broken or misdirected links, software crashes, or slow load times.
You also have the opportunity to make suggestions as a beta tester. For example, if you think an added product feature (e.g., breadcrumbs for navigation) would make your workflow better, this is your chance to speak up.
Beta Testing Jobs
Companies are always running beta tests, and many are actively looking for participants.
Websites like Betabound connect users to beta testing opportunities and also give product developers space to recruit participants.
Some jobs require an application while others are free for the public to join.
Keep in mind that companies who run closed betas are often looking for specific types of participants, so you may not be selected for every test.
Beta Testing Examples
Here are a few examples of how different industries use beta tests during the final stages of product development.
SaaS companies may release a beta version of a new tool to a subset of users before the offer goes live. HubSpot recently released a private beta for their new AI content assistant, and you can gain early access by joining the waitlist.
Many gaming companies release public beta tests for video games that are nearly complete but may have some functionality issues. There are testing sites like Alpha Beta Gamer that compile tons of recently released alpha and beta tests.
Popular smartphone companies will also run a beta to test out new operating systems. Apple has a dedicated Apple Beta Software Program that allows users to sign up to test out the latest public betas and provide feedback.
We hope you found this guide useful as you embark on your beta testing journey.
The TL;DR is: A beta test is like your soft launch. Don't waste the opportunity to connect with your users and catch critical issues before you officially take your product to market.