Beta Testing: The Ultimate How-To Guide
In my latest article for @thinkapps, I'll be answering a few key questions on beta testing, the difference between alpha and beta testing, and how startups can calibrate a beta testing strategy for success
What Is Beta Testing?
Beta Testing is the last phase of tests your web or mobile app goes through before it gets into the hands of your potential users.
To put it another way, it’s a final opportunity for you as a startup founder or product manager to catch bugs and improve the UX (user experience) before your app is out in the wild.
Beta Testing vs Alpha Testing
Alpha Testing is considered a form of “internal acceptance testing” conducted in-house by developers and testers.
Unlike the alpha phase, the focus of beta testing is not on designers or developers who were involved in creating the app, but instead on consumers or businesses that are the target user base for the product.
Some projects do invite external users as early as the alpha phase, but it’s generally in a more limited capacity than during the beta phase.
The simulated environment of alpha tests can’t account for all combinations of conditions, whether they be network conditions, device variations (screen sizes/resolutions, different device or OS versions), or use cases not thought of during in-house testing.
It’s not just the concept but also the execution that will ultimately lead to a great product, and beta testing puts stress on your product differently than the in-house testing of the alpha phase.
Alpha testing has traditionally been said to be more rigorous and systematic, with a reliance on continuous integration tools. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that beta testing should be relaxed.
When the product graduates to the beta testing phase, continuing the team’s systematic and controlled strategy is just as vital as it was during the alpha.
What Are the Benefits of Beta Testing?
Beta testing provides users early access to a new app (or to new features of an existing app). The process, in turn, provides startup founders and product managers with the opportunity to iron out any problems that weren’t caught during the alpha phase.
Crowdsourcing your testing to hundreds or even thousands of real users in real environmental conditions allows for a greater net to catch any glitches or edge-cases that may not have been spotted previously.
Identifying and fixing those issues during the beta phase can reduce your development costs significantly, in addition to helping you avoid a potential PR crisis associated with a bad public launch.
Beta testing also provides customer validation beyond technical glitches, providing startup founders and product managers with feedback and analytics as to whether to include specific features.