Private vs. Public Beta Testing

Private and public beta tests are very different animals. They have different goals, strategies, and risks. While they’re very distinct, they’re also often confused, since both happen during the exciting period leading up to the launch of a product.

The table below gives a quick overview of the key differences between private and public betas so you can select the right type of test for your goals and situation. Do keep in mind that this is not an either/or situation. Many companies run both private and public beta tests to get the most out of each type of beta test prior to their product’s release.

Private Betas Public Betas
Owner Product Management or Quality Marketing
Access Invite by company Open or invited by other testers
Participants Dozens to hundreds Thousands to millions
Goals Bugs, performance, accuracy, acceptance Marketing, load testing, data collection
Feedback Loop Constant engagement Minimal (forums/email) or none
Feedback Type Bugs, features, suggestions, tasks, surveys, forums Bugs, forums, surveys, email, or none
Product Type All technology products Online games, websites, some apps
Also Known As Closed beta, field trial, user acceptance testing (UAT), customer acceptance testing (CAT), customer validation, prerelease Open beta, marketing beta, stress test, load test
Tester Qualifications Target demographic specific to product Limited or no requirements
Duration Fixed time (weeks to months) Open length of time until release
Incentives Project incentives for tester engagement None
Product Security Non-disclosure agreement (NDA), test agreement, license agreement License only
Recruitment Staged (recruit, select, NDA, test) Flat (recruit direct to access)
Distribution Pre-release system or production-ready Production-ready usually required
Exposure Secret and undisclosed Public and promoted

Public beta tests serve a key role in the development of many products and can be a great supplement to a private beta testing program. For more on how to leverage public beta tests, download our free whitepaper below. Good luck with your next public (or private) beta test!

Download Using Public Betas as a Launch Tool now!

P.S. If you’re more interested in private betas, download our confidentiality whitepaper instead, which focuses on maintaining secrecy and handling beta leaks during your prelaunch testing.

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  • Vitaliy

    Guys link to conf. whitepaper does not work, shows fancy 404 error.

  • Emily Hossellman

    Thanks for catching that! It’s fixed now 🙂