Running a beta test is a great opportunity to interact with real customers as they use your product for the first time, but it can also be a difficult process to manage. Every day we talk with tech companies about the frustrations of running beta tests. After a while, we noticed a pattern in what test managers were telling us. So we gathered up the top five challenges of beta testing, along with some tips you can use to combat them and deliver great results.
1. Dedicating Qualified Resources
Beta testing can happen during already hectic times. The product team is frantically trying to close up every loose end, the launch date is looming, and often no one has the time or energy to devote to a beta test. On top of this, many product teams do not have a team member whose sole focus is beta, so the person managing the beta day-to-day may not have the skills or time to make the beta test amazing.
Tip: Build a test plan. Putting together a comprehensive beta test plan will help you determine far in advance what resources and time commitments you need. To help you get started, we provide planning kits, and plan consultations at no cost.
2. Recruiting Appropriate Beta Testers
You want enthusiastic beta testers from your target market who are detailed and communicate clearly. They also need to be willing and able to commit to your test. Where do you even start looking? Even when you do find potential testers, not every interested applicant is the right beta tester for your product. Finding an adequate pool of targeted but unbiased testers can feel impossible, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
Tip: Be selective. Have all your candidates fill out a qualification survey to be considered for the test. This will show that they’re serious and will give you the data you need to select the right testers.
3. Maintaining User Participation
The single most common challenge in beta is achieving high participation levels from beta testers. The industry average is lower than 30%, meaning that 70% or more of your testers will fail to provide any meaningful feedback. That’s a lot of time and product wasted on people that aren’t helping to improve your product.
Tip: Engage with participants throughout your test. We’ve put together a whole eBook that outlines our 12 best practices for achieving over 90% participation on your tests. It’s worth the download.
4. Collecting Relevant Feedback
Not all feedback is valuable. If testers are burying you in opinions about the color of your logo while you’re looking for bug reports for your development team, beta can start to feel like a hassle. We define relevant feedback as any feedback that results in a direct improvement in the quality of your product, or information that meets another specific goal set for your beta test. Encouraging your testers to focus on providing relevant feedback is tough for any beta manager.
Tip: Provide structure along with options and keep them focused by giving your testers specific tasks to complete. At the same time, make sure to provide a variety of ways for testers to submit input so you don’t end up with a big jumble of issues, ideas, and praise.
5. Prioritizing and Distributing Feedback
Successful beta tests generate an enormous amount of data. We often compare it to drinking from a fire hose. If you’re giving every person on your team all of the data, chances are they will do very little with it. Prioritizing and distributing the right information to the right people can be a complicated and time-consuming task, but it’s key to the overall success of your test and general beta program.
Tip: Plan ahead. Find out who’s interested in which data before the test starts. That way you can filter and direct the data to the right hands from day one instead of trying to deal with it all at the end.
For more best practices to help with these and other beta testing challenges, take a look the Visual Customer Validation Workshop infographic.