Beta tests are traditionally highly secretive, but in recent years some companies have started running public betas, where a “beta” version of their product is released to the public. This has created a new kind of beta test and resulted in some confusion about what a “beta” product really is.
We’re going to delve into the differences between public and private beta tests to clear up some of the misconceptions and help you devise a beta strategy that makes the most sense for your product. We’ve even written a free whitepaper that walks you through planning a successful public beta test. For now, let’s start with the basics.
Private betas (or closed betas) are limited tests specifically designed to gather feedback from a carefully selected group of users that match the product’s target market. The focus in these tests is to find bugs so they can be fixed or managed before launch, as well as to get general product impressions from potential customers. In these tests there is often a strong focus on maintaining secrecy about the product and its features.
Public betas (or open betas) are tests where the product is made available to the general public. The purpose of these tests is to generate awareness and buzz about the product, rather than actionable feedback from the “testers”. They involve either a limited version of the product (to generate interest in the paid version) or a launch-ready version of the product (and the company is calling it beta so that they can make changes at will). They generally happen after extensive private beta testing has already occurred.
As you can see, public betas are a very different animal than private betas. Their goals, risks, scope, expectations, and strategies require a different mindset. For example, a product that may be “beta ready” from a private beta standpoint, could flop entirely in a public beta setting, resulting in bad publicity for the product as testers lament about how buggy and frustrating the experience is.
This is just the beginning of understanding public betas. Our free whitepaper on using Public Beta Tests as a Launch Tool, goes into the history, perceptions, and risks surrounding public beta tests. It’s designed to help you decide if a public beta test makes sense for your product release strategy and how to make the most of that opportunity.
P.S. If you’re more interested in private betas, download our confidentiality whitepaper instead, which focuses on how you can make sure product details don’t go public before you want them to.