The weird and wonderful bugs that get thrown up when real users first start using your code never ceases to amaze. There’s always some odd edge case that had been overlooked, despite you think about little else for several weeks. We’ve been through this many times and concluded that beta testing is the solution to our problems.
Here are 7 things you can do to get the most out of your beta tests:
- Ask for a commitment to provide feedback:
Response rates will be higher if you ask your beta testers upfront to commit for providing feedback. This doesn’t have to be formal, it could be just a part of an application form. But having agreed to it, people are more likely to follow through.
- Do not release with known bugs:
Most beta testers will only provide feedback once so you don’t want to burn any tester to just hear about known issues.
- Allow enough time:
Use the following as a rough guide. For a major development effort, say about a year’s work, you’d want to spare 10-12 weeks for beta testing. Decrease as necessary – so if it took a month to develop, then, around a week will suffice.
- Be feature complete:
Only beta test when your feature complete. Adding in things as you go sets you back to the start. Otherwise, it just means the new code and its impact on existing functionality isn’t as well tested as the rest. Something you’ll regret later.
- Make it easy to get in touch:
You want to make it as easy as possible for your beta testers to provide feedback. Give them direct emails and offer to jump on a Hangout/Skype if they’d prefer.
- Follow up but don’t annoy:
While your product might be front and center for you, it’s not going to be that way for your beta testers. You’ll want to remind them along the way. However, don’t overdo it, they’re helping you out so you don’t want to annoy them with too many emails.
- Don’t forget to provide feedback:
Make sure to send them updates during and after the tests about how you are putting their feedback to use. People like to know that their time wasn’t wasted. And don’t be tight with the swag – a free t-shirt can do wonders!