Last week our Director of Marketing, Emily Hossellman, joined the folks at Product Collective for a live Q&A webinar on validating Alpha and Beta products. Over 280 people registered for the webinar and we received a ton of great questions about Customer Validation, so we thought we’d take a minute to share some of them with you!
Of course the first question we wanted to elaborate on was the difference between Alpha Testing and Beta Testing. The simplest way to explain this is as follows: Alpha Tests evaluate product quality and stability. Beta Tests, on the other hand, evaluate customer satisfaction and acceptance.
Typically during the alpha phase the product isn’t feature complete, so you want to find technical testers (super users, employees, etc.) that will help provide feedback on major bugs, usability issues, interoperability challenges, and so on. Beta testers, on the other hand, consist of individuals in your target market (technical and nontechnical) that provide experimental and directed feedback on the entire product through bug reports, feature requests, surveys, private journals, and other forms of feedback.
We also received a couple questions aimed at internal communication with different teams, such as “How do we communicate our feedback?”, “What types of feedback does each team need?”, and “What do we do with the feedback once we receive it?” Our answer — set team goals and plan ahead!
By getting everyone involved early, you’re able to establish terminology to accurately craft your messaging, listen and understand the objectives each team needs in order to do their jobs well, and schedule tasks on a week-to-week basis to ensure you’re getting complete coverage of the product. Also, be sure to keep your teams involved throughout the testing process. Not only will this guarantee that the feedback is still valuable, but it also confirms the weekly tasks you planned in advance are still important to everyone.
Since Centercode’s been conducting Customer Validation tests for over 16 years, we were asked to share the most common mistakes companies make when conducting Alpha and Beta Tests so you can avoid them. There are a number of challenges, but these top the list:
- Plan your tests in advance. You can’t hope to achieve your objectives if they aren’t set in advance, and far too many companies put a product into beta just to “see what they get”.
- Look for enthusiastic testers with attention to detail and good communication skills. If you aren’t asking for feedback from the right people, you could be taking your product down the wrong path.
- Make sure you act on the feedback! The worst mistake you can make is to do nothing with your feedback before launching a product. There’s always an opportunity to improve, whether it’s preparing your support team for common questions or updating documentation to create a smooth onboarding process for your users.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to elaborate on every question we received, but we highly encourage everyone to watch the webinar recording, review the Q&A section of the page, and contact us with any Customer Validation questions of your own at firstname.lastname@example.org.