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Test Management

10 Mistakes That Will Derail Your Beta Test

June 13, 2013

Whether you’re managing your first beta or your fiftieth, some mistakes can completely hamstring a beta test. Here are the biggest mistakes to watch out for as you prepare for your next test.

1. Lack of universal beta program support

Getting all of the appropriate stakeholders behind your beta test can take a lot of time and effort. If you’re knee deep in a test without the appropriate support behind you, however, you’ll find it nearly impossible to get the internal resources to make your test successful and impactful.

2. No well-defined plan

It can be very tempting to “wing” a beta test, especially if it’s your first. While just giving the product to some folks to see what they think might sound great, it’s a surefire way to set yourself up for failure. A well thought out plan will make sure you have the right goals in your sights and enough time to achieve them.

3. Underestimating ramp-up time

Unfortunately, fully-formed beta tests don’t pop up from nowhere. With some experience, an established community, and the right tools, you can put together a test quickly. If you’re starting from scratch though, it can take some time to get the right testers and processes in place to launch a successful beta test.

4. Releasing a non-viable product to beta

One of the main purposes of any beta test is to look for bugs so you can either fix or support the issues, but if you give testers a product that is too unstable you risk hampering them. Many will end up running into show-stopping bugs early in the test that prevent them from using your product. Others will get so frustrated with the product that they give up entirely. Either way, your test is in jeopardy.

5. Too few or too many beta testers

Too few testers can mean not enough useful feedback, but too many can mean that you’re receiving more feedback than you can manage. This could lead to data falling through the cracks and testers losing interest because they feel like they aren’t being heard.

6. Test period is too short or too long

Here’s another situation where you need to find a balance. If your testing period is too short, you won’t be able to gather enough information to get a clear picture of the product. If your testing period is too long, then you’ll wear out your testers.

7. Poorly motivated and/or managed testers

Keeping testers engaged throughout your test is one of the biggest challenges of beta. If testers don’t feel that they’re being heard or their feedback isn’t valued, they aren’t going to continue to engage in your test.

8. Ineffective tools

You can collect a lot of different kinds of feedback from your testers during your beta — from surveys to bug reports to forums. While a variety of different kinds of feedback can be helpful, using a bunch of disjointed systems to gather that feedback creates innumerable places for important data to fall through the cracks. It can also frustrate testers that are just trying to help and don’t like dealing with multiple logins and systems.

9. Failing to manage feedback effectively

The feedback gathered during a beta test can provide immensely valuable insight into how your customers use your product. If that data isn’t getting into the right hands, or is incomplete, it can’t have nearly the same impact.

10. Badly-managed incentives

Your testers are extremely valuable to your ongoing beta program. Incentivizing them can be a tricky business. If the incentives are mismatched, poorly timed, or not leveraged properly, they can hurt rather than help your test.

These mistakes can be avoided with some careful planning and best practices. There’s much too much to cover here, but for advice on handling specific challenges, check out our beta tips series, resource library, or request a free beta plan consultation.

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