The first step to running a successful software beta test is having a thorough plan in place. While you won’t be dealing with issues such as shipping and tracking devices as you would in a hardware test, software beta tests have their own challenges. From preventing software piracy to recruiting testers with the right system requirements, there’s a range of things you should prepare for to help ensure your next test doesn’t come to a grinding halt over issues that could have been prevented.
We’ve put together a list of some of our best practices that’ll help ensure your next software beta test runs smoothly from day one.
1. Take security measures
Before you even think about distributing your software to anyone outside of your team, you will want to make sure you have the appropriate security measures in place to protect your product. Implementing simple steps like requiring a registration code and an account setup can be vital in preventing leaks and piracy, intentional or not, from occurring.
Whenever possible, it’s also a good idea to build a time bomb into your software, so even if a tester “forgets” to uninstall your software, it won’t work after the beta test is over. This also means you won’t have to worry about supporting beta versions of the product after launch. For more information on protecting your product from leaks during beta testing, check out our whitepaper on Keeping Beta Tests Confidential.
2. Get a license agreement in place
In addition to the above, to help protect your software, make certain you have a license agreement ready for testers along with your non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Software beta tests have extra requirements than hardware tests in this aspect, simply because software is so easily pirated.
Testers need to understand the importance of keeping their mouths closed about your software and their involvement in the best test. Adding a license agreement will help drive the point home that secrecy is a must. It will also help you determine if there are parts of your license agreement that are confusing for your testers, as well as test the process you plan on using to have customers review and agree to the license agreement.
3. Clearly document system requirements
If your beta testers need to have a certain operating system or hardware during beta, you need to communicate that clearly during the recruitment stage. At the same time, you don’t want to test your software on only top-of-the-line systems if you know many of your target customers are going to have older systems or lower technical skills.
Be realistic about the system requirements needed for your product to function. Also, if your product needs specific drivers or has other important requirements, make sure to document them clearly and provide details about which versions are needed. This will help you recruit testers with a variety of systems that still meet your product’s basic requirements.
4. Consider the file size of your beta product
If testers need to download your product for the beta, you’ll need to consider the size of the product. Multi-gigabyte files take time to download, and while high-speed internet is pervasive in some parts of the world, not everyone has access to 100Mbps speeds. As a result, some testers may need an extra day to get your product onto their computers. Take this into account when setting expectations for how quickly testers will be able to get your software up and running, especially if you want all your testers to start the beta test on the same day.
5. Prepare to encounter security software
Virus and security software are designed to protect users from strange and unrecognized programs. This can make them a pain for you during beta tests. If your testers are faced with a security program that blocks your software, they might give up or eat up valuable testing time just trying to get your product to work. Spend extra time testing with these applications if your software relies on the internet as part of its core functionality. You can also create documentation to help testers handle these issues as well.
6. Recruit a lot of diverse testers
Since you’re not limited to product availability restrictions as you would be in a hardware test, you have the option of having a larger tester team. This means that beyond the basic system requirements for your software product, there’s no excuse for not having an extremely diverse group of beta testers. This diversity will allow you to test your product in countless different scenarios, which is something you should take advantage of as it increases the likelihood of catching critical issues in your software, documentation, and customer messaging.
Brainstorm the different environments and demographics you’d like to see in your tester team. You can then build a plan for finding and recruiting the best beta testers based on the segmentations you’d like in your tester team. When potential testers apply for your project, ask them about their computers, browsers, and technical skills. This will allow you to recruit the testers that fit all your criteria, while also reflecting the diversity you’re looking for in your test. For more advice on recruiting great testers, download our Beta Tester Recruitment Kit.
These six best practices will not only help you in planning for your software beta test, but also in preparing both your team and testers. To learn more about beta testing software products, download our free What you Need to Know About Software Beta Tests eBook.