At this point in the beta process, you’ve planned your beta, recruited applicants, selected testers, and handled the legal paperwork. Now that all your preparations are complete, it’s time to actually start the beta test!
1. Start with Beta 101
It’s a mistake to assume everyone knows how to effectively participate in a beta test, so start things off by sharing a set of simple guidelines that explain what makes a great tester. You can also use this opportunity to introduce testers to the systems or tools you will use to manage their feedback (providing all relevant URLs), as well as provide tips for how to write great bug reports, contribute positively in forums, etc.
2. Reaffirm Expectations
We mention expectations again because clearly communicated expectations are a big part of a successful beta test. Once the test is ready to start you should send out another message letting testers know what you want, when you want it, and how you expect them to accomplish it. This allows you to establish a clear path to the incentives (i.e., if users are doing what is asked, they get the reward). It also gives you a concrete reference point to leverage in future discussions with any testers who are not participating to the expected level.
3. Confirm Contact Information
Before any test, and especially before shipping any physical product, remind all participants to update their contact information in whatever system you’re using. People move, change cell phone numbers, and have email addresses they only use for signing up for things. You want to make sure you have the most complete and current information available. Plus, shipping an unreleased product to the wrong house can be a source of frustration and embarrassment (not to mention a waste of time).
4. Include Return Instructions
If you’re shipping physical products that you expect testers to return, be certain to include clear instructions on how to return the product and what you expect returned. Be sure to include everything necessary to ship the item (prepaid, of course). Skipping this last step can greatly reduce the amount of product you eventually get back. It’s also helpful if testers can ship back product in the same box it arrived in. It means fewer shipping hassles for them, plus it gives them a distinct place to store any instructions and return labels you provide at the onset of testing.
Hopefully these tips will help you take advantage of all the hard work you put into setting up your beta. If you’d like more information on gauging whether or not you’re ready for beta kickoff, take a look at our whitepaper on Getting Ready for Beta Testing.