There’s a wide variety of activities your beta testers can do to help improve your product. The activities that make the most sense for your test will vary based on your product and objectives, but here are ten of the most common ones (spoiler alert: bug reports are just the tip of the iceberg!).
1. Bug Reports
Bug reports are most commonly associated with beta tests, so let’s start here. Bug reports are a way for testers to let you know when they run into a problem using your product so that you can either fix it or plan to provide support for it. Collecting these reports is considered one of the most valuable aspects of beta because it directly affects the quality of your product. We suggest having a very clear way for your testers to submit bugs that allows you to collect the details you need while remaining separate from other types of feedback.
2. Feature Requests
Feature requests allow your testers the opportunity to contribute their ideas on how the product could be improved upon or made more useful. They also give you insight into customer requirements and can help with product planning. While most features will be too difficult to add to a product at the beta stage, if an overwhelming number of testers are asking for the same feature, it may be worth considering including it in the final version of the product.
Forums serve a couple key roles in beta. First, they give your testers a secure place to talk about the product, which helps maintain confidentiality. Second, they give testers the chance to voice opinions that might not easily fit into other categories (bug reports, feature requests, etc.). Third, they increase participation by encouraging testers to return to your beta project regularly. Lastly, testers will often provide support or advice to each other through the forums, which removes some of the support burden from your shoulders. All in all, they’re a useful outlet for your testers and a great way to see how people naturally talk about their product experience. Check out this post on forums for more tips.
4. Assigned Tasks
Assigning specific tasks for your testers to complete can be helpful in kickstarting your test by giving your testers a focused way to start interacting with your product. During the test, they can also help you isolate or recreate a troublesome bug or issue. As long as they aren’t overused, they give testers some useful structure and guidance during a test while making sure your objectives are being met. Just remember to still give your testers the opportunity to get creative with the product and use it in different ways as well.
5. Daily Journals
We’ve talked about journals in detail previously, but we’ll summarize here. We ask our testers to complete a short form each day telling us a little bit about their experience with the product that day. These journals give us insight into how customers use the product on a daily basis. They also increase participation and give users who prefer not to use the forums an alternative way to share their experiences.
6. Surveys and Polls
Surveys and polls are commonly associated with beta tests and are used to capture opinions about features, functionality, and product performance. While it may be tempting to survey your testers on every topic you can think of, generally you should limit surveys to once a week and polls to a couple of times a week. They should also be short and focused. For more on surveys, check out this guest post by Symantec’s James McKey, or our post on survey writing.
7. Testimonials and Reviews
Most testers are more than willing to share their excitement for your product. At the end of the test, include a short form that includes instructions to be open and honest, followed by a free form text box. You can include a 5-star rating system as well to emulate a review on Amazon. If you plan to use the testimonials externally, include a checkbox confirming use of the tester’s name and/or company.
Wikis are a newer beta activity where testers are allowed to directly edit or suggest changes to customer-facing assets such as support documentation and marketing materials. They’re a great way to give customers yet another option for providing feedback while directly contributing to the improvement of your product delivery.
9. Tester Calls
Customer conference calls with individuals testers or small groups give product teams the chance to talk directly with customers prior to release. They can provide in-depth, real-time feedback that testers might not convey through surveys or forms. They also increase participation rates, since testers feel their feedback is valued.
10. Site Visits
When possible, visiting a beta customer is a great way to get a firsthand understanding of their experience. Customer visits allow product teams to see how customers interact with the product in their natural environment, providing valuable insight into real world usage. Similar to customer calls, visits show testers that they’re valued and can increase tester participation.
How many of these are you using in your betas? Did we miss any? You can find more details on these activities in our What You Need to Know About Beta Management eBook.