Once you’ve planned and kicked off your hardware test, you need to focus on managing your test day-to-day. Hardware tests usually have small tester teams, so you need best practices in place to help you maximize the contribution of each of your testers. Your testers’ initial excitement will begin to die down after kickoff and it’s up to you to keep that momentum going throughout the beta period.
There are a lot of different best practices you can put in place to improve the participation of your testers. Be sure to check out our resource library for general advice on beta management. The six tips below focus specifically on what you can do during a hardware test to make the most of each tester and get the feedback you need to improve your product.
Have a support process in place
Since hardware beta tests involve having a limited group of testers using complex products in varied environments, they’re going to run into trouble. Make sure you have a support process in place to help your testers get back to testing quickly. As a bonus, this will be a good opportunity for you to test your product’s support processes and documentation so you can make improvements prior to launch.
Collect detailed bug report forms
When a hardware product breaks, it can be difficult to tell what caused the failure. When a product fails during a beta test, it’s important to get details from the tester about the circumstances of the failure. What were you doing? Were their other devices involved? This way you have a better chance of recreating the problem. Make sure you have a comprehensive form for testers to fill out when they run into a problem.
Establish/test your firmware update process
Updating your product’s firmware while it’s in the field is incredibly difficult. There are even cases where you may need to collect all the units and start the test over. However, these cases can sometimes be a good opportunity for you to assess how you’d like future customers to handle updates to your product, and whether or not this process is something that you can simply walk your customers through. Use these opportunities to test your support team’s ability to assist a customer through an update.
Create a great testing experience
Since you have a limited number of testers, it’s vital that you maximize the participation of each and every tester. Focus some time and effort on making the testing experience fun, pleasant, and rewarding for your testers. This will keep them engaged and participating throughout your test. This includes small gestures (such as thanking testers for each piece of feedback) and large ones (such as giving out a prize for the best bug report). For more ideas on building a rewarding testing experience, download our free Beta Tester Incentives Kit.
Solicit comfort/usability/appearance feedback
With hardware products, the user experience is about much more than whether or not your product works. You’ll want to ask testers about the comfort, usability, and appearance of your product. These questions will result in highly subjective answers, which can be difficult to quantify.
To alleviate this, create surveys that ask testers to rate the physical aspects of your product on a numbered scale, and then look for trends in the data. If one or two testers thinks that the default volume of your speakers is too high, then it may not be a problem. If the majority of the testers agree, however, you may want to reconsider the issue. You can also use discussion forums to allow testers to voice their opinions about the look and feel of the product in a less structured way.
Triage the feedback you receive
A lot of feedback is going to come in during your beta test, and you often don’t have the time or desire to fix every problem before launch. Triage the feedback you receive so you know what’s critical (the product crashes on installation), what may require some additional support or return costs (the enter button doesn’t work on 5% of units), and what can wait until the next generation of the product (many of the testers thought the product looked too boxy and the edges should be more rounded).
Hopefully these tips have given you some new ideas for your next beta test. Keep your eye out for our next post with advice on closing your hardware beta tests. For all of our tips and best practices for hardware beta tests in one place, you can download our free eBook about hardware betas, which is part of our What You Need to Know series.