iOS app beta testing is a critical stage in the application development lifecycle. It helps maintain your mobile app quality and improve its user experience, among many other things.
Below, we take you through all the basics of beta testing your iOS app in order to help you prepare for this phase. From what beta testing is and its benefits to where to find beta testers, how to distribute your iOS beta app, and more, this is your all-in-one guide to help you get ready for iOS app beta testing.
iOS app beta testing is a phase of the software development lifecycle where a group of external users (beta testers) test your application in real-world environments to discover errors and provide you with feedback. You can use this user feedback to fix any existing issues ahead of your app’s production release as well as to implement less urgent ideas in later iterations.
Beta testing and alpha testing are two different software testing methods. While both depend on getting your app in the hands of human testers, alpha testing is conducted internally by members within your company for quality evaluation. At this point, the app is not expected to be 100% complete and is likely to have multiple bugs and crashes. The objective of alpha testing is to identify the most obvious errors in order to fix them ahead of the beta testing phase.
The beta testing phase is conducted after alpha. Participants are external testers who are unfamiliar with the app and are trying it for the first time in real-world scenarios. At this stage, the app is almost ready to launch. The goal is to improve the app’s quality, usability, and overall user experience, and to identify any last issues before its final release.
Learn more about alpha vs. beta testing.
iOS app beta testing helps you save time, money, and effort. Beta testing benefits include:
- Quality: Ensuring and maintaining your app's quality, making sure that everything is working as it should be and that you're providing the best user experience possible.
- Cost: Catching bugs before release. iOS app beta testing saves you over the long run as errors in production are extremely costly.
- Performance: Making sure that your iOS app is up to industry standards and users' expectations.
- Proof of Concept: Validating your ideas based on feedback from real users.
- More Testers: Uncovering bugs that slipped through earlier test phases, since more testers means a greater diversity of device environments and use patterns.
- Diverse Perspectives: Collecting a broad spectrum of feedback with diverse perspectives from users of different backgrounds, demographics, and locales.
- Early Adopters: Building a community of users before even launching your app.
- App Store: Increasing your chances of getting approved by the App Store because beta testing shows Apple that you're making an effort into making your app better.
- Bugs and Crashes: Discovering problems with your app that you need to fix or optimize before launching your app.
Learn more details about why you need an iOS beta testing tool.
Studies have shown that only one out of five beta testers will try your app and provide you with feedback, and you need a minimum of 100-300 testers to ensure that your app is properly and thoroughly tested. Unless you have a large company and everyone on your team is actively involved in the testing process, this means that you'll need at least 500 to 1,500 beta testers to get a proper amount of quality feedback.
Learn about dogfooding your app as an alternative to recruiting external beta testers.
- Beta Family: A crowdtesting community for beta testing where you can test your app on real people and get an honest opinion on the user experience and filter by age, gender, nationality, device, OS and more.
- Twitter: Find testers using the common hashtags #betatesting, #betatesters, #testmyapp, #indiedev, #mobileapptesting, and #gamedev and #gametesting for mobile games, or scout for potential testers by checking several public Twitter lists that have been compiled by other apps.
- Reddit: You can find beta testers on multiple subreddits including r/beta, which has 350K+ beta testers, r/betatests, r/TestMyApp, r/alphaandbetausers, r/iosapps, r/iOSBetaTesters, r/TestFlight, r/iOSAppShowcase, and r/gamedev for mobile games.
- Betalist: A community of makers and early adopters showcasing their startups and exchanging feedback.
- Applause: Connects your app to the world’s largest community of digital experience quality experts, giving you authentic input and insight from real people in real-world settings.
- Quora: Most early adopters and influencers can be found answering questions on Quora, so make sure to reach out to them, engage with them, and get their feedback about your app.
- Hacker News: HN’s community loves to try new things. That’s a great opportunity to get expert feedback from a very tech-savvy audience. Submit your app to ShowHN, but make sure to follow the rules.
- Product Hunt: Once you've launched your app, you should submit it to Product Hunt, a place for product-loving enthusiasts to share and geek out about the latest mobile apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations.
- Killer Startups: A news site that accepts submissions for review.
- UserTesting: Provides an on-demand human insights platform that helps you find and connect with the exact audiences you need, without the effort, to provide feedback.
- UserZoom: The most comprehensive UX insights platform on the market.
- Betabound: Collects, organizes, and offers beta testing opportunities in an ongoing stream.
The biggest problem with iOS app beta testing that mobile app developers and product managers report is not getting enough useful feedback. To discover the insights you need, you need to ask your beta testers the right questions.
When designing the survey questions you’ll ask your beta testers, follow best practices to encourage a higher response rate and more accurate answers. For example:
- Numerical Answers and Scales: Quantifying the answers allows testers to give you more precise feedback.
- Multiple Choice Questions: Encourage participation by making it easier for your testers to do so.
- Specific Details: Start with a general aspect you want to know more about, break it down into identifiable parts, and ask about those parts.
- Open-ended catch-all question: Give your testers the opportunity to leave any other comments they might have in an unfiltered way.
- Aim for negative feedback: Seek to elicit answers that point to areas where your app needs improvement.
Learn more about what to ask beta testers in order to get better feedback.
Once you have your beta testers, you need to motivate and encourage them to participate in order to get quality feedback. Some tips for motivating your iOS app beta testers include:
- Respect: Recognize your beta testers’ efforts and maintain long-term relationships.
- Swag: Build brand loyalty and turn your early adopters into promoters as walking billboards for your app.
- Gift Cards and Promo Codes: Select a store or brand that your beta testers would be excited to redeem credit from.
- Public Appreciation: Publicly acknowledging your beta testers’ efforts makes them feel appreciated, incentivizes others to participate, and builds overall brand loyalty.
- Discounted or Free App: Given all the hours your beta testers put in to evaluate your app, let them have it for free.
- Points and Prizes: Institute a points system or rewards program where beta testers can receive products related to your app or win big-ticket prizes.
The length of the iOS beta testing phase depends on many factors, including:
- Objectives: The more objectives you have for your beta test — whether it's feedback about bugs, functionality, user experience, etc.— the more time you will need to cover all of them.
- Testers: The more testers you have, the faster you'll be able to cover all the objectives of your test.
- Participation: Providing your testers with a proper onboarding, informing them beforehand of your goals and objectives, and motivating them throughout will not only increase the quality of participation from their end because they'll know what to look for and understand your expectations, it will also smooth out the process and set them up to execute at a faster pace.
- Deadlines: If you have a release deadline to meet, proper planning ahead of time is crucial. You can make up for shorter beta test durations by aiming to get more testers as well as optimizing your beta program to collect quality feedback rather than just quantity.
Suggested beta test durations for iOS apps range between two to 12 weeks, with most beta tests taking an average of four to eight weeks.
In the case of rapid release cycles with ongoing beta programs and continuous integration and continuous deployment, beta builds are released as often as nightly. Learn about the top CI/CD tools for iOS apps.
To learn as much as possible from your pool of beta testers, you can segment them into multiple groups in order to conduct A/B split testing for your iOS app. This will help you discover insights from comparing the results and outputs of different user groups. You can also use A/B testing to ensure that localized versions of your app are bug-free in real-world environments of different locales.
You can split your users based on many attributes, including:
- OS Version
Another strategy is to split your users into almost identical groups and have each test out different features of your app. This allows them to be more focused and helps you save time by running multiple experiments at once.
Once your beta build is ready, you'll need to send it to your testers to install and test. There are many iOS app beta testing distribution tools out there that make this entire process extremely simple, including:
- TestFlight: A great option for indie developers and small to medium teams developing for the Apple environment.
- Microsoft App Center: Offers extensive integrations with most of the popular tools used by developers.
- TestFairy: Integrates with a lot of popular tools for bug tracking, communication, and continuous integration.
- Appaloosa: An enterprise-focused tool that is not suitable for smaller teams.
- DeployGate: A tool that can help small to medium teams accelerate their beta test and deployment.
Learn more about each platform in this comparison of the top beta app distribution tools.
And when you're ready, here's a step-by-step tutorial for How to Submit Your iOS App to the App Store.
How do you know if your beta test was successful? One of the first and most crucial steps of the testing process is defining your testing metrics — measurable indicators based on your goals for the test.
If it’s a private beta, then the main focus is usually on usability and quality assurance, while public betas are more marketing-focused in terms of awareness and collecting feedback on points like pricing and features. Some of the key beta test metrics to consider are:
- Stability: Tracking the number of bugs in your app over time as well as their severity.
- Churn Rate: Tracking the percentage rate at which users stop using your mobile app in a given period and understanding where the drop off points are.
- Meaningful Participation: Tracking the amount of quality, actionable feedback that you receive compared to your overall rate of feedback.
Learn more about beta test metrics.
We found that implementing our in-app user feedback tool can result in a 750% increase in user response. That’s more data you can use to improve your app, better chances of identifying problems, and since you’re using a third-party bug reporting tool, more time to fix errors.
Instabug is the top iOS beta testing tool for mobile apps. It provides the most useful metadata on the market, exceptional customer support, and an in-app communication channel to chat with your testers and users.
Bug and Crash Reporting
With each report, you automatically receive comprehensive data to help fix issues faster, including steps to reproduce errors, network request and console logs, and environment details. For bug reporting, your beta testers can also send screen recordings and annotate screenshots to provide further context.
Mobile-first App Performance Monitoring
View your app's performance from your users' perspective with built-for-mobile performance monitoring that tackles the unique challenges of the mobile experience. Instabug's APM aligns your team around a single overall metric that reflects your app performance and helps you build a culture of performance for your team.
In-App Surveys and Feature Request Management
Collect user feedback from your beta testers right inside your app to minimize interruptions and boost participation rates. Get powerful insights to enhance your product roadmap with surveys that you can target at specific tester segments and feature request voting to understand user pain points and desires.
iOS app beta testing is a crucial stage in your application's development lifecycle. Prepare yourself ahead of time and make sure to delve deeper into each aspect of the process. Make sure you cover this checklist ahead of your beta launch.
Most importantly, be sure to communicate with your beta testers and continuously motivate them to provide you with quality user feedback. After all, your app's success depends on them!
- What Is Beta Testing?
- The Ultimate Guide for Beta Testing Apps
- Comparison Between the Top App Distribution Tools
- How Much Your Mobile App Performance Costs Your Business
Instabug empowers mobile teams to maintain industry-leading apps with mobile-focused, user-centric stability and performance monitoring.