You will no doubt have tested and re-tested your app until the cows came home. But, you must always remember that you will be in love with your app, and this devotion can often blind developers to some areas for improvement and indeed to some of its more glaring flaws.The only real test of your app is when users start to engage with it themselves, who are not so attached to it that they can’t actually see it for what it really is, and for the true value of its usefulness and/or functionality. For the sake of absolute thoroughness, therefore, not to mention the sake of releasing the absolute best version of your app the first time round, it is highly recommended that you put your app through at least one round of beta testing before launching it in the app store.
What is Beta Testing?
Beta testing is simply allowing a number of people to have a play with your app before you release it to the general public. Quite often, beta testers will encounter some issues with it that you may well have overlooked in your excitement of your new product. The functionality may not be as intuitive as you thought, for instance, there may be misspellings here and there, or any other amount of bugs or errors that may cause your app to crash.
By allowing a group of beta testers to ruthlessly engage with your app and come back to you with their criticisms and feedback, you’ll have a much better chance of discovering any flaws, fixing the problems, and thus releasing a much better finely tuned version of it when it comes to launch day.
The Difference Between Alpha and Beta Testing
There can sometimes be confusion between alpha and beta testing. Put simply, alpha testing is usually the testing carried out by app developers and engineers throughout the process of the app’s build, whereas beta testing is ‘real-world’ testing by potential customers, sometimes just days before the app is set to launch.
Alpha testing really is about the technical side of getting the app up to functional scratch, whereas the purpose of beta testing is to fine tune the (nearly) finished product so that it is absolutely optimized for market. Indeed, beta testing doesn’t start until alpha testing is finished – then it’s all about the launch. Both phases of testing usually uncover some bugs, so neither should really be avoided.
Incidentally, while we’re talking about terms used in app development, it should be noted that some developers use the terms ‘field trials’, ‘pre-release testing’, ‘customer validation’, ‘customer/user acceptance testing’ (C/UAT) and ‘beta testing’ synonymously.
Beta Testing Best Practices
Knowing when the right time is for your app to come out of the alpha testing phase and put into beta testing can in itself be quite a challenge. There are three guiding principles, however, that can help – product readiness, team readiness and tester readiness. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Beta testers will generally be expecting that your app will have some issues; however, if the thing is absolutely riddled with bugs or incomplete pages, features or functions, then don’t be surprised if you experience a major drop off in participation cushioned only by an initial flurry of bug reports that you will no doubt have been aware of already if you’ve carried out adequate alpha testing.
So, your goal is to get your app as damn near perfect in your eyes in the alpha phase, as only then can you expect true, valuable and valid feedback from your beta testers. The last thing you want to do is frustrate them with a dysfunctional and glitch product. If your beloved app is still experiencing issues that not even you can overlook, then it is not ready in the first instance to enter into beta testing.
Your beta team needs to be fully equipped with schedules, timeframes and details as your app moves into the beta testing phase. The first thing that you need to do is establish a solid plan for collating and filtering the various feedback issues that the beta testing will undoubtedly uncover. You’ll need to establish categories for bugs so that your team can be organised and ready for the fixing jobs that will come up. It’s all about being ready and thinking ahead – if your launch date is imminent then your team needs to ready to set to work straight away on any bugs that are unearthed.
The most important part of this stage is to ensure that your beta testers are absolutely primed, ready and willing to start conducting their tests. Timeframes again are absolutely essential. Your testers need to be fully aware of this, and so it’s your job to ensure that all the mechanisms you have provided for giving feedback are as simple and un-inhibiting as possible. So, provide documentation if necessary that clearly highlights exactly what you’re expecting from them, or perhaps even some sort of training video that they can easily access.
Furthermore, you’ll want to have all beta secrecy and participation agreements signed and filed before the beta testing commences. This is absolutely essential, in fact, as the last thing you want is for people to start leaking any negativity about your product, especially while it’s still in the testing phase.
Beta testing nearly always results in a better final product and is definitely something that all app developers should consider before launch. Beta testers are normally very responsive and reliable, though occasionally they will need prompting, so make sure you have a fully up-to-date contact file available for all of your testers. Just remember that they will usually be volunteers with other commitments, so, allow a decent timeframe for them to carry out their tests before you start nagging them. Be kind to them and they’ll be kind to you – just remember that their kindness will come in the form of honesty about your app, so encourage that to the best of your ability at all times.