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Test Management

7 Keys to a Successful (and Sane) Beta Test

May 21, 2013

Running a great beta test isn’t easy. The timing is rough, resources are often limited, and it involves getting a bunch of customers to use a buggy product. All of this can test your sanity during an already intense time. We put together a couple quick tips that can help you keep your sanity while getting the most of your test.

1. Focus on Goals

Always decide what you want to accomplish before beginning your beta. Quality improvement (finding bugs) is implied in every test. Everything else is up to you. Be sure to meet with the other stakeholders in your organization during the planning process and find out what they need, then design your test so you get the necessary feedback to meet all your goals. Here are some popular goals for you to consider.

2. Pick Great Testers

Don’t just let anyone into your test. You want enthusiastic people who match your target market and demonstrate that they can and will communicate effectively. Ask a lot of questions when testers apply for your test so you know they’re thorough and committed. This will allow you to be confident that the testers you pick are the right ones for the task.

3. Reduce Friction

Your testers have a limited pool of energy that they’ll invest in your beta test. Once your test begins, it’s your job to maximize that pool to get the most useful feedback possible out of each tester. If your testers have to spend time searching for the right place to submit their feedback or entering the same data multiple times, that’s using up valuable energy. Make sure you’re providing clear instructions and feedback channels for your testers. Basically, make it challenging to get into your test, but incredibly easy to take part.

4. Provide a Stable Product

Your product should be “beta ready”, meaning that the experience is close to that of a real customer. If there are glaring bugs that severely affect their experience using the product, your testers will burn out before they provide meaningful feedback. For more information on beta readiness, download our whitepaper.

5. Be Responsive

Your testers need to know that they’re important, their input is valuable, and this project is your top priority. A rapid response to their feedback sends the right message, keeps them engaged, and encourages them to continue providing useful feedback. A quick “thank you” or status update goes a long way.

6. Share the Results

Nearly every department tied to your product can benefit from a beta, but only if the information reaches them. That said, it’s important to ensure that not everyone is forced to dive into every piece of data. Always filter your data so that the right information lands in the right hands.

7. Learn from your Mistakes

This won’t be your last rodeo. The more lessons you can take away from this test, the easier your next one will be. If possible, create templates so that whether your next test starts tomorrow or next quarter, you won’t have to rebuild everything from memory. These tips are from our eBook: The Real Role of Beta Testing in Product Management. If you’d like more advice on how product managers (and everyone else!) can make the most of beta testing their products, download the eBook for free.

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