Imagine this: you have two groups of 100 testers. You give them the same product. You ask them to report back on their findings. Would their answers be the same? Well, that depends on who the testers in those two groups are. It also depends on what you ask them. Those aspects show the difference between crowdsourced testing and beta testing.
The conditions surrounding these two test types are very similar. Crowdsourced testing, like beta testing, gives testers real products to use in the real world before release. In both cases, you’ll get back some type of feedback about how your product is performing.
But the kind of feedback you get – and what you can ultimately do with it – draw a line between these two test types. There are three primary distinctions:
- QA-minded professionals vs. curious target market individuals.
What types of tasks do they perform?
- QA checklist vs. guided natural use
- Bug focus vs. experience focus
Who’s performing the test?
What are the goals of your feedback?
How Crowdsourced Testing Works
As a crowdsourced QA tester (as I have been on occasion), you generally focus on one of two goals: complete your given tasks or find an issue to get paid.
At the start the engagement, testers have guidelines for the new feature or update they’ll need to look at. The level of guidance testers receive will vary. Sometimes it’s a set of test steps, cut directly from a test plan. Sometimes it’s unguided, and testers have to come up with their own test strategy.
Most crowdsourced tests have a short test window, ranging from a few hours to a few days. Between the specific areas of concentrated effort and the short timeframe, crowdsourced testing is a good method for finding bugs and errors that fail in the prescribed workflows.
How Beta Testing Works
Beta testing is a phase of Customer Validation (CV) that – like crowdsourced testing – places real products in the hands of testers in real homes. But while the product is in a similar state, the goals of the test are very different.
Getting your product into the hands of people in your target market (i.e., your potential customers) is central to beta testing. You need feedback from real customers in the real world, outside of a test-plan driven environment like a QA lab.
While crowdsourced testing focuses on bug hunting, beta results go further to offer insight into the attitude of the consumer. Beta tests guide testers through a set of product experiences over two to three weeks. This element of natural usage reveals the way people use your product in their daily lives. In turn, you get plenty of use cases and a deeper understanding of how well your product solves their problem.
Because beta testers represent your target market and have longer exposure to your product, you can use their level of satisfaction to gauge how your real customers will feel. Understanding the key points that drive their attitude towards an experience – positive or negative – is a useful insight you can’t accurately determine through crowdsourced testing.
For quick reference, here is a breakdown of the key similarities and differences between crowdsourced testing and beta testing.
- Crowdsourced QA testers and beta testers both work with pre-release products in their home environments, where these products can interact with different devices and home ecosystems.
- Both test types reveal key product insights in a relatively short period of time.
- Both give product developers the benefit of seeing how their product performs across a larger spectrum of individuals than they’d see in a lab.
Specific to Crowdsourced Testing
- Career testers. Crowdsourced testers are often quality professionals who freelance test on the side. They bring their technical expertise into your project.
- Condensed timeframe. Crowdsourced testing lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
- Paid per bug. Crowdsourced testers generally get paid based on the valid bugs they find.
- Focused effort. Crowdsourced testing gives focused depth to certain product areas. This is especially useful when evaluating the robustness of a specific scenario.
Specific to Beta Testing
- Target market testers. These are real or potential customers rather than career testers.
- Thorough testing periods. Testers interact with several product areas over a few weeks.
- Motivated by product improvement. Testers are not paid per issue. Instead, they’re motivated by helping companies create a better product as part of the team. While not their primary motivation, it’s common to reward testers for their efforts.
- True sentiment of experience. Beta and other Customer Validation testers mirror your target market. This reveals key drivers of your target audience’s pain points or delights.
While they’re similar, crowdsourced testing and beta testing ultimately have distinct goals. Crowdsourced QA offers a quick in-the-wild check on your product’s stability. Beta tests cover the whole product experience, with results that surface bugs while painting a holistic portrait of the user experience.
Before you run either test, you need to understand exactly what you want to accomplish. But be aware that substituting crowdsourced testing for beta testing or vice versa will lead to frustration. Both tests serve a vital and unique purpose in developing competitive products.
For tips on recruiting enthusiastic testers that you can apply to either type of test, download the templates, guides, and best practices in the Beta Test Recruitment Kit.