What is beta testing?
Definition: Beta testing is the final testing stage of a product, where a sample group of users is given access to test it before it is released to the general public.
A product being tested is considered almost finished, and the group of beta testers gives the development team an easy way to simulate how real customers would use the product.
Beta testing is usually conducted by a group of people who are not part of the development team.
The goal of beta testing is to identify any remaining issues and ensure that the quality of the product is up to par for a wider public release.
Difference between alpha and beta testing
Alpha testing is the first form of testing performed by the development team on their product and is focused on finding technical issues and fixing them.
The key difference between alpha and beta testing is that beta testing is conducted by real users and focuses on evaluating the product's usability and user experience.
Alpha testing has longer execution cycles, while beta testing cycles are shorter as changes in the beta are much smaller and need to be made faster for the users to continue testing the product.
The alpha stage answers the question, “Does the product work?” while the beta stage answers, “Do users like the product?”.
Types of beta testing
There are four types of beta testing:
- Closed beta testing: The product is released to a small selected group of users and has a limited number of spots. Users sign up for the closed beta through landing pages, forms, or in some cases, pay to participate. After signing up, the team has a pool of candidates to choose from to test their product. This type of beta is great for earlier stages of beta testing, for example, if the product has only a few features.
- Open beta testing: There is no user selection process, and testing is open to anyone who wants to participate. This type follows the closed beta and gives the development team more information about how their product performs with more users.
- Technical beta testing: This testing targets QA engineers and programmers to test the product's technical aspects (backend, bugs, performance) and report to the development team. The testers are usually from inside the company or from an external testing company.
- Focused beta testing: This is a more restricted type of beta testing, allowing participants to test selected features that the team is working on without having access to the rest of the product.
Beta testing process
- Planning includes setting goals for the beta and choosing the best type of beta testing for them. In this stage, the company defines its target persona and the testing timeline.
- Recruiting candidates for the beta using various methods like email lists, recruitment platforms, and marketing campaigns… If the beta is closed, this process also includes the selection process. The goal is to have a diverse group of testers based on the ideal persona.
- Testing is conducted over a few weeks, and testers are free to use the product. Sometimes, the team can give the testers specific tasks designed to test the features.
- Collecting feedback is done by setting systems of how feedback will be gathered. This is done through forms, in-app review prompts, and discussion boards. Testers will be prompted to leave feedback through pop-ups and reward offers. After collecting the feedback, it is analyzed and passed to the next stage.
- Making changes to the product based on received feedback and going into another round of beta testing if necessary while informing testers about the changes and going through stages 3-5 again.
The beta finishes with the product ready for launch, but before that, the team creates product launch strategies. Another goal of the beta test is to acquire initial customers from their testers.
Example of beta testing
A software development team is working on a productivity app.
After alpha testing the app, the team thinks the product has enough features and is polished to begin beta testing.
Before launching the beta, the team creates a landing page announcing a closed beta and asking people to enter their email addresses and briefly explain why they want to participate.
After a week of marketing the beta, they had 800 sign-ups. Since their target is project managers and developers, they chose 200 beta testers based on their desire to test the app.
They implemented a feedback button on their app, making it easy for testers to leave feedback.
The beta was meant to last a month, but after three weeks, the team noticed many users complained about the app crashing and their tasks disappearing from the task tracker.
The team worked on the backend to fix crashes and the database to fix disappearing tasks.
After this, they announced the changes, and the beta lasted for two more weeks without major complaints.
A month and a half after the beta launch, the team considered it a success and started preparing to launch the product properly.