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Test Management

The Role of Friction in Beta Testing

June 27, 2013

One topic we often discuss is how to keep your testers engaged and participating in your beta test. It’s one of the biggest challenges of beta testing and also one of the most complex problems to fix. We’ve come up with a way of looking at beta test participation that might be helpful as you strive to get the most out of your volunteers.

Each Tester Has a Set Pool of Energy

The way we see it, each person has a certain amount of energy that they’re willing to put into your test. It’s up to you to gauge how big that pool is and then maximize it. If you gauge the size of the pool during recruitment, you can then design a test that funnels the maximum amount of energy into providing you with quality feedback.

High Friction to Get into Your Test

Make applicants jump through a couple hoops when applying for your beta test. While it may seem counterintuitive, this initial friction does two things: it gives you valuable data on your applicants (making it easier to pick the best ones), and it shows how much effort they’re willing to devote to your beta test.

When someone wants to join our tester community, we recommend that they set aside 20 minutes for the signup process. We have them submit pages of data on themselves and the products they own before they even see the available testing opportunities. We do this so we can weed out the people that just have a passing interest in our tests. If they give up on page two of our survey, they probably wouldn’t have been willing to invest the time and effort necessary to put our clients’ products through the wringer.

As tempting as it is, don’t just let everyone into your beta community! You may be setting yourself up for frustration as you try to manage a horde of people that simply aren’t willing to put their time into your project.

Low Friction During Your Test

Once the person has been accepted onto your test, however, the mindset shifts completely. Now you need to reduce as much friction as you can. You want it to be as easy as possible for testers to submit feedback, report bugs, and let you know how things are going. If they’re searching for the right button or trying to log into different systems, that’s energy that is not going to be focused on using your product.

For example, our users tell us about their computers and mobile phones as part of that lengthy initial survey to join the community. When they submit a bug report during a project, they can associate a device with that report. With this process in place, they don’t have to tell us what kind of smartphone they have every time they submit feedback, saving them time while still getting us the detailed data we need.

Strategically looking at friction and energy as an aspect of your testers’ participation can help you get the most out of your users and your test. It can also help you build a community of high-quality beta all-stars who can make a significant impact on your product quality over time.

To learn more about participation best practices, take a look at the free Reaching 90% Beta Test Participation ebook.

Get the Beta Test Participation eBook

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