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Beta Testing


The Beginner's Guide for Beta Testing Apps

Mobile app beta testing

Whether you're developing an iOS or Android app, you go through a beta test, which usually comes second in line after alpha testing. The main goal of beta testing apps is to get real-world exposure and to know how your app will feel in the hands of actual users. Think of it as a soft launch for your app when your early users can try it out and let you know what needs fixing and what needs ditching.

In this blog post, we discuss everything beta. From where to get the right testers and how long you should be beta testing to how to encourage them to send feedback before your upcoming release.

Why beta testing apps?

Before diving into beta testing, I want to tell you more about alpha testing. During the initial development phase, the app goes through a rigorous in-house alpha testing process that is conducted by an expert team of developers and testers. The aim of this phase is usually to fix the obvious bugs and glitches. The problem is that it's very difficult to replicate every possible configuration, test query, and bug that could possibly occur when mass users try an app. That's why you take your app next to a larger group: the beta testers.

Beta testers try out your app, use it consistently for a specific period of time, and report back any issues, bugs, or feedback about the app. This allows you to validate your idea fast, confirm that your app is moving in the right direction, check if it meets user needs, and whether the app's features are all worth it. In essence, they need to point out any relevant issues to help you enhance your app.

You, as a developer, should establish a strategy for testing and communicating the process to your testers in order to keep them active.


What kind of beta testers should you look for?

Short answer: 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? Conduct PR?

Getting the right beta testers will immensely affect the quality and the outcome of this stage. In all cases, you'll need to split your intended testers into different groups to ensure that your app receives the right feedback and bug reports.

You should separate between doing a technical beta and a marketing beta. Technical beta testers aim at finding bugs and giving you constructive feedback. Marketing betas are the versions preceding the actual launch of the app intended for the press, evangelist customers, and influencers. With marketing betas, you test how the app is perceived in terms of user interface and design. At this stage and with this audience, you probably wouldn't get much insightful feedback for technical issues or bugs. You should leverage both beta types while testing your app to fix any bugs and attract attention for your soon-to-be smash hit app.

It's also essential to choose the right profile for each of your testers to ensure relevancy. When you get random testers from open betas, you are less likely to receive feedback that is beneficial and insightful. Yes, you might have thousands of testers, but the rate of feedback could be very little and you find yourself stuck with useless data.

Selecting the right users for your beta test is not just important for your app, it's crucial for you as well. Building a collaborative relationship between you and the testers will give them an extra push so that they can contribute by providing both positive and negative feedback.

How many testers do you need?

Only one of out of every five testers you get is really going to test your app. So if you have 1,000 testers, expect that only 200 of them are going to provide you with real and valuable feedback. In general, you should aim for around 100-300 testers to ensure your app is thoroughly tested. Less than that, you won't have much feedback to work with, and more than that would require you to get a helping hand to effectively monitor feedback.

It also depends on whether you develop the app yourself or if you have a team. Having a team of three developers or QA responsible for the beta testing process would be ideal, as each one of them handles separate issues and groups of testers.

Where to search for beta testers?

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:

  1. Twitter: 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.
  2. Reddit: There are specific subreddits to help you find beta testers. Here are a few: /r/TestMyApp, /r/alphaandbetausers and /r/AndroidAppTesters.
  3. One of the most active websites to find new betas. They feature two to 10 new startups every day.
  4. BetaTesting: 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Beta Bound: Developed by Center Code to collect, organize, and offer beta testing opportunities in an ongoing stream.
  8. 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.
  9. Killer Startups: Killer Startups is a news site that accepts submissions for review.

In addition to this list, you can also hunt for potential testers by joining communities on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any relevant blogs. Simply reply to a relevant post, talk about your app and how it provides a solution to the problem stated in the topic, and ask people to check it out. This technique could get you sincere testers if you play it right and only post relevant comments.

How long should beta testing apps take?

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.

According to Centercode, 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.

After much research, we found out that 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 are more likely to develop to reach a satisfactory level for the app. Ideally, you should aim to beta test between six to 10 weeks' time.

Where are the best places to distribute your app?

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:

  1. TestFlight: The easiest and most used tool to distribute apps to external testers.
  2. Google Play Beta Testing: Android developers shouldn’t forget about the tool they already have.
  3. Appaloosa: A simple and secure enterprise app store.
  4. Installrapp: Easy iOS beta distribution with API.

How can you motivate your beta testers?

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 the byproduct that you own. 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 if they already know their prize. 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.

In a nutshell

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!

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