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Test Planning

Should Employees, Friends, & Family Be Your Beta Testers?

May 29, 2014

Whether you’re a small company running your first beta test, or a big company with an established beta program humming along, beta tester recruitment and selection is one of the toughest challenges of beta testing. Finding the right people, getting them interested, and qualifying them for your beta test can be an incredibly time-consuming task.

It can be very tempting to recruit friends, family, and employees to be your beta testers instead. Many companies have come to us planning to use these groups as their primary testers, for a few logical reasons:

  1. They’re accessible. Finding volunteers to test a product can be very difficult and many product teams already have enough on their plates. Friends, family, and employees are easy groups to pull from to try out the product.
  2. They’re trustworthy. On the surface, it feels a lot safer to put pre-release products into the hands of people you know instead of sending them out to a bunch of strangers.
  3. They’re less expensive. The incentives and shipping costs (if applicable) of a beta test can add up quickly. It feels much easier to give the product directly to friends, family, and employees, who you feel you don’t have to incentivize.

The Reality of Using People You Know

Unfortunately, while it may initially seem logical, the use of friends, family, and employees may not yield the objective feedback you need to improve your product. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. They’re Biased
    Your friends, family, and employees know and — hopefully — like you. Out of loyalty to you they may restrain their criticisms and/or complaints. They all want to see you succeed, so they may (often unconsciously) make your product seem more stable and on-target than it actually is.
  2. They Aren’t Your Target Market
    Unless you have a very general market, your friends and employees typically aren’t the people you’re looking to buy your product. So, even if they’re giving you detailed feedback, you don’t know if that feedback is reflective of the opinions of your target market.
  3. They Won’t Participate as Much
    Your employees, friends, and family inevitably already have a lot on their plates. Their jobs and personal lives will take priority over your beta test. This means that you will have no assurances that their feedback will be timely, if you even get it at all. They’ll also be more prone to pushing back deadlines and ignoring requests than volunteer testers, simply because they’ll feel that participation expectations don’t apply to them because of their personal relationship with you.
  4. They Don’t Have the Proper Motivation
    If your family and friends are testing your product as a personal favor, or if your employees are doing it because they’re required to, they aren’t going to approach the test in the right manner. They won’t be using the product naturally. In fact, they may not use it at all and just tell you they are. Employees may only give positive feedback or try to give abundant feedback because they’re trying to look good. Friends may be afraid to criticize the product out of fear of hurting their relationship with you. Volunteer testers, on the other hand, are motivated by the chance to test, so they’re often much more thorough and objective.
  5. They Aren’t More Secure
    Some companies like using people they know as beta testers to avoid leaks before a product’s release. From our experience, however, leaks are more likely to come from employees and internal sources than from beta testers. Beta testers sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) before joining a test and the importance of confidentiality is repeated throughout the test. This usually isn’t the case with employees, family, or friends, because you already trust them. If you’re interested in learning more about beta secrecy, download our eBook.

The only people who can give you relevant, unbiased feedback are volunteers from your specific target market. This means going out and finding the right people, screening them appropriately, and selecting only the ones that are committed to the test and providing thorough feedback. Unfortunately, it’s rare that friends, family, or employees will fit the bill.

The Role They Can Play

This doesn’t mean, however, that people you know can’t be helpful in your product development. Alpha testing is a great opportunity to have small groups of friends and internal staff give feedback on your product. This is often done before the beta testing phase of a product’s development.

You can also include people other than volunteer testers in your beta test. Depending on your goals, it may be appropriate to include investors, members of media, key employees, and other people you know in your beta test. It’s a great opportunity to get a variety of opinions on your product and give important people a glimpse of the product before its release. Just be sure to segment them within your beta test so they don’t taint the feedback from your core beta testers.

If you’re looking for ways to recruit volunteer beta testers, take a look at our previous post on sources for recruiting beta testers. Also check out our tester community, Betabound. With 90,000 members, we’re certain we can help you find the right testers for your product.

Download our eBook on Beta Test Confidentiality

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