What is a Beta Test?
Beta testing is a type of user acceptance testing performed by a selected group of end-users before the general availability of a software product to validate its features, usability, performance, and identification of issues.
In beta testing, a software application is pre-released for testing before the launch to a selected group of users for feedback related to bug encounter, performance, usefulness, functionality and overall user experience, conducted in an environment similar to the post-launch phase. It is the final phase of product testing.
The group of end-users try out the product and give comprehensive feedback on their experience with the product and the difficulties, issues, or bugs they encounter.
A beta test revolves around three R’s – real product, real people, and real environment.
Beta testing is done with the objective of finding out most of the issues and bugs in the software so as to ensure that a flawless product is delivered to the market.
It provides reliability testing as real users and the environment are involved and it cannot be controlled like a lab activity.
Product testing such as beta testing is helpful in decision making on topics of how much scope there exists for upgradation and enhancement and how much investment shall be made for that.
The testing procedure can vary from product to product and also will be different for different testing goals.
Characteristics of a Beta Test
- The environment of beta testing is categorised into open and closed environments. Open testing allows the product to be accessed by anybody. The product is marked as a beta version so that the people who gain access to it already know they’re using a version that is yet to be generally launched and also made aware of the possibility of presence of bugs. It shall be described to the user on how to provide their feedback to the developers. On the other hand, in closed testing, the sample set of users is specifically defined and selected from the current customers or are paid beta testers.
- The duration of the beta test is dependent on the kind of issues that are faced by the testing group which they then mention in their feedback. The designers or developers work on the product to fix these issues. After the rectifications have been made the product is again tested. This process goes on until the product is rid of issues that the company finds necessary to be removed before the product launch.
These are those issues that are to be resolved urgently else they have the potential to hamper the performance and sales of the product.
Aim of Beta Testing
The main aim of a beta test is the identification of bugs and other issues that may have adverse effects on the user experience and satisfaction before the product is made fully available to the public.
Another major objective of beta testing is to provide a real production atmosphere which adds to the reliability of the end result gained (the feedback) and makes it more genuine and practical experience-based. This helps the developers to assess the software’s serviceability, capacity, capabilities, and performance in real-world conditions of speed, storage, user handling, behavior, and habits.
With beta testing the company gets an opportunity to shape (or reshape) and improve its marketing strategies, product positioning, and relationship with the consumer as the insights are received directly from customers using the product in a practical environment.
Conducting a Beta Test
The stages in a beta test are as follows:
Set your targets before the tests and determine the sample size for the total number of users that will use the beta version. Also, set the duration of the testing phase.
Having a limited number of people use the beta version supports the budget. Anything more than 250 is a good sample size for a mid-complex product.
Launching the beta version
Distribute the download or installation link of the software to the participating users.
Provide them with explanatory material like product tutorials and user manual to understand the features, functions, and how to use the product. Also share information about bug logging.
Extraction and analysis of feedback
The development teams are divided based on issue handling. Bug fixes, suggestions, and feedback evaluation are done in this phase. This continues throughout the test phase.
After there remains no such issue, bug, or feature, working and performance-related aspect that must be worked on before the launch otherwise it may hamper the product’s serviceability and sales then the tests shall be concluded.
It is a good practice to reward the user’s who participated in the testing and provided such valuable feedback.
Major challenges faced in Beta Testing
- Lack of resources
- Absence of a well defined procedure
- Beta testing involves dealing with a lot of tools
- Depends a lot on the people that are participating as users.
Differentiating Beta and Alpha tests
Alpha testing is done before beta testing. It is more of internal testing where individuals from the company test within the company or the developer’s environment or lab and give feedback. Alpha testing is done internally before the product is released to any of the users.
The execution cycle takes more time than beta.
A beneficial point is that as it is conducted within the company under the supervision of the development team, the developers won’t have to wait much for bug and issue tracking, the participating employees will directly report to them.
On the other hand in the beta testing the potential customers are provided access to the version of the software. The environment is the user’s real-time environment. It is the final phase of testing before launch thus providing validation and reliability to the product.
Perpetual beta is a state of beta testing where software is kept in a beta development stage for a long or indefinite time period. This allows the software designers to upgrade, remove and refine the features of the product as per their convenience of time. The product undergoes improvement all the time as the designers keep on testing and adding new features to the product.
A beta test is conducted by real users in a real-world environment which is different from the internal testing where designers and developers test the software. In the case of internal testing, the team members test the software on the basis of their understanding of the features whereas in beta testing the product is made available to the end-users who are the representation of the prospective consumers, thus the feedback gained here in beta testing is more genuine and user-based than another internal testing by experts.
Yes for open beta tests there are some risks involved such as
(i) negative reviews that may harm the sales.
(ii) mismanagement due to a large number of people participating.
(iii) bad user experience can affect sales.