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Whether you’re a multibillion dollar business, or a start-up working out of your own garage, beta testing is essential for new technology products. By allowing real users to trial your product in real environments pre-launch, beta testing generates the kind of data that can’t be produced in a lab. What is more, it allows businesses to engage customers from the very start of their journey. Testers don’t just reveal bugs – they give you their unbiased views on everything from your product’s benefits to its marketing strategy.
Whilst beta testing may seem daunting for new businesses, these top tips should help you on your way to launch…
Beta testing means preparing for feedback: both positive and negative. After all, no product is ever perfect. Being open to feedback will enable you to avoid expensive mistakes and make changes that could dramatically improve your product. Whilst it is easy to get attached to features you have worked on for weeks (if not months), you have to listen to your potential customers and respond to what they want. Otherwise, you run the risk of launching a product which doesn’t meet their needs – something that could prove disastrous for your company.
Make sure that your product is ready to go before you enter beta. You should not begin testing if any of the key features are not working. Each time a beta tester finds a problem, they will inform you. If you already know part of your product doesn’t work, you’ll be wasting both their time and your own.
Make sure you have clearly defined goals for your beta testing. These should underpin the whole project and allow you to evaluate the test’s success. Your goals should be specific, but also flexible – after all, user feedback may take your product in a whole new direction partway through the test. By knowing your goals rather than testing at random, you can prepare for issues testers may feedback to you, meaning you save time and money down the line. You could even make your testers aware of your goals, if there is a particular aspect of the product you want them to focus on.
Finding the right testers will be crucial to the success of your beta. Whilst this can seem difficult for new businesses, there are plenty of ways to recruit testers. Many companies advertise for testers on IdeaSquares, where you can also reach out to fellow developers for support and feedback. Additionally, you could find people through posts on popular technology forums, blogs and websites.
You should aim for quality over quantity: having a variety of highly-qualified testers in your target market is ideal. To weed out unresponsive candidates, you could send out an email when you are shortlisting testers, asking people to confirm their interest. You should give priority to the people who respond first, as they are more likely to stay in touch with you throughout the project.
One of the biggest obstacles in any beta test is maintaining testers’ interest in the project. Keeping people engaged means you receive more feedback over a longer period of time – something that would be hugely beneficial to your final product. To achieve this, you could offer incentives – everything from a free copy of the completed product to mugs and t-shirts. One specific example of a way to boost engagement could be to hide a code within your product, which only appears after the tester has used it for a significant time. They could then return the code to receive their incentive.
Beta testing is about more than just testing your product. It’s about building a community of early adopters. One way to begin to engage and build your community could be to create a forum where your testers can discuss issues with other users. Here, they may reveal opinions they would not share directly with your company. What is more, this will promote a sense of community that means you should only have to find testers once. After you have built your community, you can return to these testers again and again for help with future updates and products. Your early, loyal community is important, so look after them and listen to them. After all, these are the people who have been with you from the start and may well turn into your first paying customers.
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