An updated version of this blog post was published on September 18th, 2018.
When it comes down to it, beta testing is all about collecting feedback on an unreleased product from customers in real environments. If you’re not collecting meaningful feedback from your testers, then your beta test isn’t really doing its job. The problem is, collecting feedback that is actually useful is one of the biggest challenges of beta and a lot harder than it sounds. So, how can you get useful feedback from your testers without having to beg and plead for it?
First let’s discuss what we mean by meaningful or relevant feedback. Meaningful beta feedback typically meets one of two qualifications:
- It directly improves the quality of the product; or
- It addresses some other established goal of the project.
Feedback that doesn’t meet this criteria is effectively noise and can consume a great deal of your team’s time and energy, ultimately reducing the impact of your test.
As a result, the first step in collecting feedback is pretty straightforward: know what you’re looking for. Before your project even starts, create a beta test plan that lists your goals. This way you can guide users to the features where you need feedback the most. It will also help you keep an eye out for distracting topics, so you can refocus your testers.
The second piece of the puzzle is selecting the right testers. We’ve written about this topic a great deal, but basically you’re looking for testers that fit the demographics of your target market and give signs that they’re going to be amazing testers. Picking the right testers will give you a significant advantage because they’ll bring enthusiasm and interest to the table, improving the likelihood that they’ll give good feedback.
With your plan and testers in place, you need to make sure you have a good tool with a great interface, so they can easily give you the feedback you need. If your users don’t have an easy way to submit feedback, no amount of enthusiasm or coaxing is going to make up for it. Our platform is designed to reduce friction for your testers and make it easy to collect, manage, and distribute all of your beta feedback. Having the right tools in place can make a huge difference in the success of your beta test, so it’s worth taking the time to find the right tool for your situation.
Next you need to communicate expectations. This means telling your testers what you need from them and educating them on how to give it to you. We recommend communicating this in your Beta Participant Agreement, as well as throughout the test itself. Your testers genuinely want to help, so it’s important that you communicate with them how they can best contribute to your test.
Once you’re up and running, you need to give ongoing direction to your testers. It’s not enough to just hope that your testers are going to give you feedback on every inch of the product. You need to engage with them to make sure you get the feedback you need. This engagement can take many forms. You can solicit feedback by creating surveys, assigning tasks, or asking for daily journals. This will keep your testers engaged in trying out new features and giving detailed feedback on their experiences, while making sure you get coverage where you need it.
In addition to this, you should be actively responding to feedback. Ask your testers for clarification, have them regress fixes, or simply thank them for their feedback. This lets them know that you value their feedback, which will encourage them to keep submitting it. It also makes sure that you have all the details you need to act on their feedback once it’s in the hands of the right members of your team.
Collecting feedback from real users is the core of what makes beta valuable to you and your company. Putting these practices in place will ensure that your beta gets off on the right foot and gives you the feedback you need to make your product soar.