Beta testing is the key to finding problems in your application before you release it to actual customers.
Some advice about beta testing: Give it to 10 users; others ask you to get 100 people on your list. They’re wrong. Extensive beta tests are too expensive, and smaller ones aren’t representative. How many do you need? The answer depends on your application and how confident you want to be that the problems will be discovered before release day.
This guide will give you some tips on how to get real users to use your product.
Make your goals clear
When users sign up as beta testers, they can expect different things from it – for example, maybe somebody wants to test the new features not available at this stage. However, there are some universal expectations: people long to find bugs that could be corrected before the product goes live (before that happens). They want their feedback to be heard, or they may even join because of curiosity or only for fun.
To get the most out of beta testing, you need to make your goals clear from the beginning – it helps keep testers motivated and engaged.
Offer a reward
This is not needed when just a few people join your program, but if you have a solid beta testing community with tens or maybe even hundreds of people that help you find bugs/problems, then offering them some kind of a reward for their work is a great way to inspire them further.
It may be anything from an internal “Thank You” email after each bug report or an invitation to an exclusive beta testing pre-launch party where they will meet other testers and the core product development team.
Of course, this will depend on your type of product and brand image, but you can also think of more clever or creative things that will come as a surprise, for example, a small gift to all beta testers after the product is released.
For sure, not every bug report or problem found should be made public – some of them are vital features/bugs which need deep analysis from your team before being corrected, so those must stay on hold until the whole thing is sorted out.
However, you should introduce a system where only general information about bugs is available to everybody, and access to complete reports is given on request by beta testers who have the technical knowledge or feel entitled because they have been with you from the beginning.
Transparency builds trust between developers and testers, which shows in the number of reports you get – people are inspired to become better testers when they know their opinion is valued.
When somebody sends in a bug report, the developer needs to analyze it and fix it. However, if there is no feedback given to that individual who has spent their time testing your product, this may discourage them from reporting future bugs.
Make sure you let beta testers know how much you appreciate each report by sending an investigation email with an update about the issue’s status or even by giving them public recognition on your website or forums after some severe bugs have been detected so everyone else knows too. This way, users will be more motivated to perform additional tests that will help you notice even more bugs!
Consider a forum/blog system
There is a possibility that your beta testers may need some additional help with performing specific tests – for example, one or two of them could be performed only by developers and not by the general public.
In such cases, it makes sense to set up a blog where they can ask you questions (if they cannot find answers in FAQs) and vice versa: let beta testers give their opinion on various aspects of the product as well as report other things that should be fixed before launch.
Even though you run a website full of information about your product and provide contact details should users need any assistance, this article should come as an extra tool to make it even more helpful and accurate.
Make a video!
After your product is launched, you want as many users as possible to use it – that’s why videos are perfect for promoting those features that may not be so obvious at first sight. It makes sense to record a short video with commentary by the development team, who explain how best to use the program and what each button/menu item does so everyone can have a clear understanding of its purpose.
You need to bear in mind that potential customers tend to trust reviews from other people, so involving beta testers in this process will help them feel more engaged and respected, encouraging them to participate again in future testing sessions. Of course, if they find bugs, beta testers should mention them too to record another video showing how they were fixed.
Make regular updates
This is something most ordinary people forget about because..well, they do not have time for it! However, suppose you want to keep up with the competition. In that case, you need to consider blogging on your website every once in a while or publishing regular articles with information that will help users feel more secure when using your product.
If there are no changes made after 3-4 months of launch, beta testers may lose interest which will cause them to stop testing – and everything else mentioned above would be in vain.
Give recognition where credit is due.
Regardless of whether somebody has found a significant bug in your product or simply stuck at some point during installation/configuration that prevented them from proceeding, you should always give praise to anyone involved in beta testing your product – whether it is a person who has spent days trying to install it on an obscure system or somebody who just tweaked one of the settings.
Everyone’s opinion matters, so you need to honor their contribution by sending out rewards, from appreciation messages for members of the general public or even unique gifts/discounts for premium testers.
Make the most of every bug report!
Although minor bugs are not critical, they can cause users frustration if they have used similar products before so do all you can to fix them before launch day arrives. However, before deciding what needs to be done with each report you receive, you need to sort them according to type (e.g., crashes, exceptions, hangs) and origin (which category does the detailed information come from?), so it becomes much easier to address them quickly.
You should also remember that beta testers may be wary of certain functions due to their less than optimal performance/results, which means such reports may not always indicate bugs (for example, a picture missing from a menu).
To ensure your team receives every relevant message sent by users, consider setting up an email template with preset subject lines that will help categorize all submitted data and assign different priorities based on its content and how severe the problem is.
Keep open communication
As we have already pointed out, one of the essential elements of successful beta testing is keeping constant communication between testers and developers so no issues get overlooked or misinterpreted.
You need to send out emails with regular updates on new releases so all of your team members can download them as soon as they arrive, which will also help you fix bugs/mistakes way before launch day.
Lastly, email templates are a must if you want to keep track of every new message that gets sent by beta testers – not only because it makes it easier for you to tell whether a particular piece of information has been submitted before but also because this would allow you to build a robust list of bug reports from those who have been actively participating in testing your software product up now which would make it much more manageable.
Finally, even though this article covers the ten most important aspects for successful beta testing, many other elements need to be taken into account if you want to achieve success or provide users with a definitive trial version before release day comes around.
Just have in mind that Beta testing is a perfect marketing tool that lets you find out first how many people are willing to pay for your product before launch day arrives. It also helps you understand whether the problems that users might face during their use of your product are just minor ones or real showstoppers that need to be solved before launch day comes around.