Test Planning

Don’t Be Afraid to Call it ‘Beta’

September 2, 2016

Being in beta isn’t bad. In fact, it’s an exciting (and necessary) step towards a successful product launch. Every day, product developers request their beta tests to be featured on Betabound, which is Centercode’s community of 150,000 beta testers. One of the requirements of being featured on Betabound is for a product’s website to identify the product is in “beta”.

Some product developers are concerned about publicly acknowledging that their product is in beta. They share sentiments such as:

  • “‘Beta’ means buggy. Our product has basically launched, so this beta test is just to build customer acquisition momentum.”
  • “Using the term ‘beta’ violates our marketing strategy as we don’t want to advertise the newness of our product to key stakeholders and potential customers.”
  • “Can we use something like ‘VIP entry’ instead? Using the word ‘beta’ feels too serious.”

While I can understand these concerns, they miss the true value and importance of beta testing. Not only is the beta phase key to developing a great product, it’s also an opportunity to work directly with your customer community and learn about their needs together before your product is final. Product developers shouldn’t shy away from that, rather they should embrace it and get everything they can out of this phase. Let’s look at why you shouldn’t be afraid to say you’re in beta.

It Creates a Safe Space

Noting that your product or website is still in beta sets the right expectations with your audience. Testers become more forgiving of bugs and missing content, because they understand that you’re still putting the final touches on your product. The term “beta” acts as a subliminal disclaimer to your testers to forgive any hiccups they may encounter with your product. This also gives your team the freedom to experiment with different ideas or changes and get feedback on those changes, because your visitors are in the right mindset.

It Welcomes Tester Feedback

Beta testers are interested in improving the products they use. Describing your product as “in beta” encourages early adopters to come forward with feedback about your product. Astute testers will see your “beta” mention and recognize that you’re not only open to their emails/comments about your product, but that you’re actively collecting useful tester feedback and want to improve your product based on their feedback.

Remember, any tester that found the beta version of your product is there for one of three reasons: 1) they’re already a loyal user of your products, 2) your beta product solves a problem in their life, or 3) they want to help make your product better. All three scenarios describe someone who will convert to a customer if they have a clear understanding that your product was in beta when they first discovered it, and that your product will only get better with their input as an early tester.

It Attracts the Right Testers

Using the term beta lures serious, early users to your product. It’s OK to use replacement terms for “beta” like “VIP entry” if they pertain to your product or audience. For example, “VIP entry” would be applicable for a mobile app that helps you cut to the front of the line at cool events, but most cases, you want to go with the more appropriate and recognizable “beta”, making it clear your product might have a few bugs, but that it’s about to launch and your team is actively accepting feedback.

“Beta” attracts users who are genuinely interested in your product and are willing to sacrifice a great launched experience for a good beta experience just so they can play a role in your product’s development. Also, anyone who joins your beta test will have some degree of understanding of what a test is, so you’re more likely to gather helpful feedback from these testers.

It Shows You’re Serious About Success

Identifying your product as “beta” (whether it’s a public or private beta test) shows testers that your team is serious about your product’s success. Running and publicizing your beta phase proves to potential customers that you’re committed to building a product that meets the exact needs of the market, and that your team is eager to work directly with potential customers to do so.

From a tester’s perspective, seeing “beta” also adds legitimacy to their perception of your product and company, because a beta phase demonstrates your team is well-versed in executing a professional product launch. Running and publicizing your beta phase shows your team is committed to releasing a quality product the first time, which is becoming a rarity in today’s tech world.

So don’t feel bad about being in “beta”. Publicly identifying your product as being in its beta form creates a safe space where users are more forgiving of any hiccups they experience with your product, encourages users to share very valuable feedback, and proves your team is serious about the success of your product. Ultimately, beta isn’t something you should hide. Instead, it’s something your team should be proud of using to power your product’s launch.

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