Beta testing is a great way to give your app some real-world exposure and see how it will perform in the wild, in the hands of actual users. Think of it as a limited launch for your app to a limited number of your users so they can try it out and let you know what needs fixing and what needs ditching.
In this post, we will discuss everything beta. From what it is and its benefits to how many beta testers you will need and where to find the right testers. We'll also tackle how long your beta testing phase should be and the best practices to encourage more good feedback before your upcoming release.
In essence, beta testing is giving a finished or nearly finished product to a sample of current or potential users to evaluate its performance in the real world. To be classified as a beta test, a test should at least satisfy the following criteria:
- The app must be “feature complete” and reasonably stable.
- Beta testers should belong to the app’s target customers.
- Beta testers should use the app for real-world scenarios.
Starting your beta testing phase when your is not yet beta-ready will have a dramatic effect on the test's results. So, before we start talking about the different types and approaches to beta testing, we must first differentiate it from alpha testing.
Alpha testing is the phase that precedes beta testing. The alpha version usually lacks many features and is almost always too buggy and unstable for any reliable use. It is traditionally an internal affair where your internal developers and testers use a mixture of black-box and white-box testing techniques to discover bugs, crashes, and performance issues. However, it is not unheard of for alpha tests to include external testers who are highly trusted technical users.
On the other hand, a beta version should be feature complete and includes all the features that are planned for the release version. Beta testing is carried out by external testers and end-users using black-box testing exclusively, which basically means that they will be using your app the way it is meant to be used. In other words, real-world scenarios in the wild.
Consequently, although finding bugs is one of the main purposes of a beta test, your beta version must not be too buggy or unstable to be usable or get too much in the way of your users' experience.
Technical beta testing is the classical approach to beta testing and is a great way to uncover the hidden bugs and crashes in your code and make sure your app functions seamlessly on a wide range of devices and environments. Additionally, they allow you to test your infrastructure and backend to make sure your app is ready to go live.
Marketing betas help you understand your audience and how they interact with your app while giving you a head start on user acquisition and building a user base. They also allow your marketing team to test their marketing strategy and messaging and identify the most effective channels to reach users.
As a best practice, you should conduct your beta test over several stages. Start with dogfooding internally if possible then move to a small closed beta test with technical beta testers to get rid of the major issues. You can then gradually add more testers to your closed beta testing phase to test the app on more diverse environments and begin collecting qualitative feedback.
Your app will then be ready to open your beta test for anyone to join. To start, set a limit for the number of testers in your open beta testing phase then increase this cap gradually until your app is ready for the public.
It depends on the goals you set for the beta testing apps phase. Do you want to discover corner case bugs? Get feature requests? Build a group of early users? Create some buzz around your app?
Beta testers can be generally divided into four non-exclusive types:
- Technical beta testers do a very similar job to manual testers and can even be beta testing professionals. They have a very good technical understanding of how apps work and how to break them, and they will often be using your app with the sole purpose of finding bugs.
- Early adopters thrive on trying out new apps in their quest to find the latest and greatest and tend to be fairly easy to recruit into your beta test. They provide valuable feedback, but they have a short attention span and are easily distracted by the next new thing.
- Power users are those that show a heavy usage of your app and view the app as essential in their lives. They usually make use of most of your app’s features and tend to have different usage patterns than your average users, including a few unique use cases that you might not have thought of before.
- The average user makes up the bulk of your user base which makes their feedback essential for your beta test. Besides the feedback they give you, tracking their app usage will give you valuable insight into how most of your users will use the app.
In most cases, you would need somewhere between 300 and 500 testers to get good results, with anything under 50 being of little use except for catching technical issues.
Unfortunately, there is a catch; only 20% to 60% of the beta testers you recruit will actually use your app actively and provide you with feedback. This will depend on how engaged your testers are and how easy it is to provide feedback. To overcome this you will need to aim for recruiting somewhere between 40 to 80% more beta testers than you actually need to account for the drop-offs.
At the startup stage, you are looking for the right beta testers (AKA your early adopters, your audience, your future evangelists) especially if you are also focusing on feedback-driven iterations. Here's a list of where you can find beta testers for free:
Find testers using the common hashtags #Betatesting #Betatesters #Testmyapp #Indiedev, or scout for potential testers by checking several public Twitter lists that have been compiled by other apps.
There are specific subreddits to help you find beta testers, like /r/TestMyApp, /r/alphaandbetausers and /r/AndroidAppTesters. You should also look for reddit communities with interests that align with your app's target market
One of the most active websites to find new betas. They feature two to 10 new startups every day.
The focus here is around getting qualitative feedback for your app. You have the option of listing your startup as pre-launch, private access (with promo code), or a paid focus group.
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.
- Beta Bound:
Developed by Center Code to collect, organize, and offer beta testing opportunities in an ongoing stream.
- Beta Family:
Beta Family is a crowd testing platform for beta testing iOS and Android applications. You can test apps on real people and get an honest opinion on the user experience.
- Killer Startups:
Killer Startups is a news site that accepts submissions for review.
Identify your industry’s leading communities and channels and get involved in them. Don’t restrict your recruitment efforts to cyberspace; attend the popular conventions and meetups and spread the word there. Be creative, use all available resources, and don't stick to the traditional channels.
Knowing the length of your beta test should be determined early on for a few reasons. If it is too short, you might miss out on potential improvements that could have enhanced your app. Also, you might end up with a premature app that risks and hinders achieving your goals. If it takes more than it should be, you are tiring your users out and decreasing your chances of good participation and feedback rates.
Factors like the goals you set, available resources, testers limitations, and how many phases you intend on having are what you should consider while planning the length of your beta test.
On average, it's very hard —if not impossible— to conduct a thorough beta testing apps under two weeks. Yes, you could receive some useful insight, but it won't be sufficient to beta test the different builds that you need to ship as you iterate toward a satisfactory level of stability and performance. Ideally, you should aim to beta test between six to 10 weeks' time.
Now that you know where to hunt for beta testers and how long it should take, it's time for the real action where you get actual results. Below are some of our picks for the best app distributing platforms:
- TestFlight: The easiest and most used tool to distribute apps to external testers.
- Google Play Beta Testing: Android developers shouldn’t forget about the tool they already have.
- Appaloosa: A simple and secure enterprise app store.
- DeployGate: Customizable landing pages you can share with beta testers.
- Installrapp: Easy iOS beta distribution with API.
You need to make beta testing apps worthwhile for the testers. You are already creating a better app because of their input, so let them know that you appreciate it and include them in future beta programs.
Usually, the incentives given for testers are the product itself or in-app content. If you are doing a beta test for your app, give the testers gift cards to use for any in-app purchases. It won't cost you a lot, but it will build an army of loyal fans with just a small gesture.
Don't tell the testers what their incentive is from day one and keep it a mystery. If they know what they'll get early on, they might not be as excited as if you kept it a surprise. It also signals that the beta test is about to be over, which might make the testers a bit lazy while giving feedback. You should always excite them and make them anticipate your next announcement.
You need to plan ahead and figure out the type and number of beta testers your app needs. It's crucial to dedicate some time to dive deep into the different outlets where you could find your beta testers. In parallel, define the goals you want to reach and communicate them to the testers and make them know that their voices are what determines what's working and what's not. In that sense, offer them a little something to remember you by and appreciate you. After all, beta testers are the backbone of this critical phase for your app's success!
- What Is Beta Testing?
- TestFlight Beta Testing: Setting Up Effective Beta Tests
- Google Play Beta Testing: Setting Up Effective Beta Tests
- Comparison Between Top Beta App Distribution Tools
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