What is Beta Testing?
Beta testing is an opportunity for real users to use a product in a production environment to uncover any bugs or issues before a general release.
Beta testers are “real” users who conduct their testing in the same type of production environment that the final product release will run on. The objective of beta testing is to uncover as many bugs or usability issues as possible in this controlled setting.
By running on the same hardware, networks, etc., as the final release, beta testers can more accurately simulate the actual user experience. This allows for more accurate testing and helps to ensure that potential issues are uncovered and addressed before the product is released to a wider audience.
Beta tests can be either open or closed. In an open beta test, anyone can use the product and is usually presented with some messaging that the product is in beta and given a method for submitting feedback. In closed beta, the testing is limited to a specific set of testers which may be composed of current customers, early adopters, and/or paid beta testers. Sometimes beta tests are conducted by diverting a certain percentage of users to the beta site instead of the current release. Beta testing can either last for a set period or run until new issues stop being reported and all-important ones have been addressed.
The difference between beta testing and alpha testing
The main distinction between an alpha test and a beta test is who is carrying out the testing—alpha tests are usually undertaken by internal staff in a lab or simulated environment, while beta tests are conducted by actual users in a production setting.
The objective of the alpha test is to identify as many problems as possible before the product has any public exposure or usage. The objective of the beta test is to ensure that actual users can complete their tasks, get a broad range of users interacting with the product, and test the product’s scalability, performance, and reliability under real-world usage scenarios.
What is the Objective?
Beta testing is the best chance to find bugs and usability issues before a product is fully released. While internal testing can uncover many problems, nothing can truly simulate real users trying to complete real tasks.
Additionally, beta testing is the first opportunity to test software in an actual production environment versus a lab or stage setting. This ensures the software can perform under real workloads and that speed, storage, and scalability all work as expected. Beta testing also allows you to assess how your product will fare in the competitive market and make any necessary changes before fully releasing it.
Beta testing is not only an opportunity to identify potential product flaws but also to validate hypotheses about how users will interact with new functionality. It’s important to beta-test any new features or functionality before release to ensure that the product meets all requirements and expectations. However, beta testing is also a great chance to refine the positioning, marketing, and communication strategy for the product. This is because beta testers are actual people who are using the product and can give feedback about their experience.
Another potential goal for testing comes when invitations to the beta are “exclusive.” This is more relevant for new products than subsequent releases. However, getting some early-adopting influencers into the beta testing pool can create some excitement and anticipation for the general release.
How do Product Managers use Beta Testing?
Product managers can use beta testing as a way to gather feedback and ideas for future releases. Testers are usually encouraged to provide feedback and they are more likely to make requests and comments than typical users.
Beta testing is also an opportunity to start collecting data about how users interact with the product. This can help confirm that users are interacting with the product as expected, or reveal unexpected usage patterns. Understanding these learnings before releasing the product can help set priorities about user education, onboarding, user help, and documentation – making for a smoother experience for all users.
How to Use the Beta Test Feedback?
Feedback from beta testing can not only help you understand how users interact with your product but can also be used as evidence in future debates over the importance of resolving “known issues”. If product development is resistant to addressing a certain issue, beta testers’ input can help product managers strengthen their case that the issue should be fixed.
In addition, product managers can use beta tests as opportunities to run experiments and a/b tests. By testing different prompts, notifications, messaging, layouts, and featured content, you can learn what drives the desired behavior from users.
Additionally, monitoring the performance of the production environment during testing can indicate how quickly the product should be rolled out. For example, if there are scalability issues that arise during the beta test, it would be best to launch the product more slowly to avoid a potential major outage or issues with performance. Alternatively, if it is determined that a user completing a certain task is likely to result in increased usage or repeat visits, yet the numbers don’t reflect that, then those metrics may need to be readjusted or deprioritized.
Beta testing is essential for product teams and should be a checkpoint for any large-scale release. However, there’s nothing that can replace having real users try out the product in its intended environment. The feedback from these beta testers will not only improve the current release but also help to prioritize future releases. It’s important to have a responsive roadmap and plan that takes into account what is being learned from the market. In addition, beta testers provide more in-depth feedback than what is typically received from customers, which usually arrives randomly and through various channels.