For this installment in our Beta Tips series, we’ll be looking at best practices for handling feedback. The rush of information you receive during your beta test can feel overwhelming. These tips will help you manage it in a way that gets you the detailed data you need while keeping your testers engaged, happy, and focused.
1. Be Responsive
One of the easiest ways to improve participation in your beta is to be responsive. Participants (understandably) get discouraged when they offer feedback but receive no response or indication it has been read. By being responsive, you demonstrate that their feedback is valued. It’s also an opportunity for you to get more information on reported issues.
2. Be Genuine and Specific
One caveat to being more responsive is that you shouldn’t fake it with boilerplate responses to feedback. Canned responses are hardly better than no response at all. Users see it as impersonal, and it makes them feel like you don’t really care about their input. Instead, make your response specific to the feedback at hand or to the user’s participation in general (e.g., “Thanks for your hard work recently. You’ve given us some very helpful bug reports and feature ideas this week.”)
3. Use Bug Frequency for Severity
Redundant beta feedback may sound like a nuisance, but it’s actually an excellent way to measure the severity of bugs. If a significant number of testers report the same problem, it immediately escalates its severity. Thus, it’s important to encourage your participants to report all problems they encounter. Doing triage on bug reports is a much better problem to have than releasing a product with small, widespread bugs that slipped through the cracks during beta.
4. Use a Variety of Feedback Mechanisms
It’s good practice to offer your testers several ways to share feedback. Some people like discussing the product on forums where they can chat with others. Other people aren’t comfortable with the idea of bug reports, but will provide amazingly detailed feedback in a daily testing journal. Some will thrive when given specific directions via tasks and surveys. By providing different opportunities to participate, your testers are more likely to find feedback mechanisms that resonate with their individual preferences and ongoing needs.
5. Stay Off the Low Road
At some point, you’ll run across a participant who doesn’t like your product, gets frustrated with a bug, or just has a negative attitude. This can be a tough situation, but try not to suppress criticism or respond negatively to it in any way. If you publicly censor testers, you risk alienating them and limiting future feedback. And if you attempt to rebut what was said, it looks like you’re not interested in honest and candid feedback. On the other hand, if you feel like you could learn more about the problem by asking questions, by all means do so. Just be careful of your mindset.
6. Enable Tester Creativity
You might think it’s best to discourage testers from using your product in unintended ways, but there are benefits as well. When you allow testers to use the product how they want, you’re tapping into a great resource for future product and feature ideas. And since you can’t always control how paying customers will use the product, it’s also a chance to get insight into support issues that may arise from unforeseen use cases.