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Test Strategy

The Five W’s of Field Testing

October 30, 2017

In last week’s webinar, we showed you how to run efficient Field Tests and how this last stage in Customer Validation can help evaluate the adoption of a product by gathering natural usage data from a larger audience over an extended period of time. If you missed the webinar, here are the major takeaways to help you plan and run an effective Field Test.

What is Field Testing?

Field Testing is the critical, final stage of CV, which occurs after you’ve completed successful Alpha and Beta Tests. This test type focuses on the unguided, natural contextual usage of a product by collecting ongoing qualitative and quantitative customer feedback over an extended period of time in real environments. By gathering long-term engagement data, you’re able to capture behavioral, attitudinal, and longitudinal trends related to feature adoption. This is the data you need to understand and maintain user perceptions over time, as well as analyze and hone your machine learning algorithms.

Why is Field Testing Critical to the Success of Your Product?

A successful Field Test will uncover the true, unbiased perception and adoption of your product and help you understand if it’s actually fixing the problems your target market is facing. During an Alpha or Beta Test, you’re guiding users down different experiences and/or features to get as much feedback about those specific topics as you can. In a Field Test, you’re taking a more observant role, giving no direction, and watching to see how users interact with the product on their own. What features do they like or ignore? Do they stay interested in the product after using it for a couple days or weeks?

When it comes to machine learning, Field Tests allow you to see how your product learns from and adapts to your customers’ individual needs. Modern machines are getting smarter and smarter, but people have to actually use them in order for them to learn and grow. Field Tests allow your product to learn and interact with people at scale prior to launch so you can gather analytics (and matching behaviors) to seed machine learning and enhance the product.

Who Does Field Testing Apply to?

Field Testing is no different than the other two Customer Validation methodologies in the sense that it applies to every product with a customer base. This includes hardware and software products for consumer, business, or enterprise markets. It’s important to note that Field Testing is especially important for any products that live in an interactive ecosystem in which the product will be used for an extended period of time.

Where Does Field Testing Live in My Company?

We’ve mentioned before how important it is to have a devoted CV team to run cohesive Alpha, Beta, and Field Tests, but there are other teams in your organization that might also be involved in your Field Test.

The primary stakeholders of a Field Test are user/customer experience and market research teams. User and customer experience teams use this phase of CV to understand the cumulative product experiences as a group, instead of specific use cases. Market research teams specifically observe how users interact with the product, which results in feedback to be used for the next version or update of that product.

When Does Field Testing Take Place Within the Product Lifecycle?

Field Testing occurs after Alpha and Beta Testing have been completed and right as your product becomes release ready. At this time the product is feature complete, major bugs and issues have been resolved, and your product is ready for natural, unguided usage by real customers. The goal is to give testers the same experience that your customers will have after the product is officially launched so that you can use the data to improve that experience and launch with 110% confidence in your product.

How Do You Run Field Tests?

Following the same pattern as Alpha and Beta Tests, the planning stages of a Field Test include defining objectives, establishing schedules, tools, and templated messages, as well as aligning your stakeholders. Although Field Tests follow the same pattern of preparation, the specifics of a Field Test are very different. For example, there are two separate approaches that you can take when collecting feedback during a Field Test — scheduled planning and event-based planning.

To learn more about these approaches, the specific types of feedback, and how to run successful Field Tests, watch the full recording of our webinar (starting at the 16-minute mark). Contact us or comment below if you have any specific questions about Field Testing or Customer Validation in general!

View the full webinar recording!

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