Setting too many expectations may be a quick path to disappointment in life, but what happens when you don’t set expectations during your beta test? Well, two decades of test planning and management has shown us it sort of ends up like the Wild West. Either your project turns into an out-of-control stampede….
Or..it’s a ghost town.
To avoid either extreme, you’ll have to put on your silver sheriff’s star and lay down the law — kindly, of course! Here are three ways you can set expectations to maintain engagement, ensure happy testers, and secure high-quality, actionable feedback — in other words, deliver on test success.
First, let’s talk legal. Your non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and beta testing agreements are critical to protecting your product during a private beta test. But while the main purpose of an NDA is to have something enforceable, it’s also there to set the expectation of secrecy — and the seriousness of breeching it.
Many people become testers because they love having a hand in the development of new tech — it’s actually part of what makes them great testers! But with that comes the temptation to show off these unreleased products in forums or social media. Stressing the importance of secrecy, the possible consequences of leaks, and getting those agreements signed will nip that in the bud.
In our experience, it also helps to provide testers with a secure outlet to share their thoughts without giving into temptation. The Centercode Platform, for example, has in-project forums, journals, and other mediums where testers can exchange ideas and express their sentiments securely.
Never done a beta agreement before? No problem. Get started with our free Beta Test Agreement Kit.
Train Your Testers
More often than not, your testers genuinely want to do a good job, but they need structure. The best way to help them help you is to tell them how the test is going to go. Let them know how often they can expect to spend time testing each week, when and where to submit their feedback, and how the hardware return or software uninstall process will look.
And like any good sheriff, you’ll need to make yourself available to answer questions and explain the rules. Communication is key to test success. Setting up your testers with resources — think informative blog posts, FAQs, or a dedicated help email that’s monitored regularly — not only empowers your testers to do a good job, it offsets the friction and discouragement that leads them to ghost your project.
Tools for Training Your Testers
- Welcome Letter. This is often the first thing testers will see once they’ve been selected, so make it count! Thank your testers in advance for their time and let them know what you need them to do — for example, log into the project space, keep the packaging for return, etc.
- Tester Content. Even seasoned testers will occasionally need guidance. Some of what a tester might expect is pretty general; in this case, content for testers — like a blog post that covers Being a Great Beta Tester — can help set their expectations.
- Constancy. General information works sometimes, but other times, your testers will need to follow specific instructions for submitting the feedback you need. Whether you’re using dedicated feedback channels or a full-service portal, consistency is critical. Make sure your testers know from the get-go where and how to submit feedback, be available to troubleshoot if necessary, and always thank them for their time.
Give a Timeline
Respecting another person’s time is incredibly important to maintaining relationships. Think about how frustrating it is to make dinner plans with a friend who isn’t responsive or doesn’t let you know where or when they’ll arrive. Don’t be that friend to your testers — give them a timeline then stick to that timeline as closely as possible.
Of course, it’s not always possible; delays happen all the time in testing. If you have to push your schedule out, it’s okay — but it’s vital to communicate that to your testers. It’s also important that you’re sensitive to their time. Your testers are, after all, volunteers. If a test continues for several weeks or months past the original timeline, it’s possible that many of your testers may not want to continue. Check in with them, be understanding, and don’t dismiss the hard work they’ve put in thus far.
Not sure how long your beta test should be? Here are three ways to determine the correct length for your beta test.
Taming the Wild Wild Test
Things going according to plan might make for a really boring Western, but it’s the best possible outcome for a test manager.
Setting expectations is even easier with a plan. Get started building your test plan with the template and best practices in our Test Planning Kits for Hardware, Software, or Mobile beta tests.