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Test Strategy

User Acceptance Testing vs. Beta Testing: What's The Difference?

June 15, 2023

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and beta testing are methods used to validate a product with real users before its official launch. The main difference between user acceptance testing and beta testing is that user acceptance testing prioritizes validating against acceptance criteria and beta on end users evaluating launch readiness. 

No matter which term you use to describe your user testing program, it will involve testing in natural environments with real users. Both methods are tools to understand what's working and what's not before releasing it to the customer base. Let's explore the differences.

Comparing User Acceptance Testing and Beta Testing

Understanding which method your company has adopted will give you insight into the purpose of testing. Each practice will follow a different playbook with both similar and unique goals. Let's compare and contrast how these tests handle the following situations.

How are goals different?

User acceptance testing has end users evaluate the acceptance criteria for test cases. Each tester will attempt to complete each test case to validate no defects. In contrast, beta testing validates the readiness for launch. Beta uses surveys and feedback to provide sentiment on each product feature. Both tests will share objectives like resolving issues and improving the usability of a product.

How is planning different?

Planning a user acceptance test involves communicating test cases into activities that testers can complete. While planning a beta test considers what areas of the product testers should explore. Each test plan would document testing dates, testers' requirements, and success criteria.

How is measuring success different?

The percentage of test cases that pass the acceptance criteria is one of the critical measurements for user acceptance testing. Beta testing uses surveys and feedback to determine product readiness. Teams will review star ratings and set criteria that verify no significant bugs are present.

How is inviting testers different?

User acceptance testing is rarely publicly announced, and testers typically receive an exclusive invitation to join. Beta testing can have an application or sign-up process on public-facing web pages.

Who manages the testing?

Quality assurance teams tend to take ownership of UAT because of its closer relationship to manual testing. Product teams, user research, and program managers typically take ownership of beta testing. In comparison, different types of beta testing can fall under other groups. For example, QA will prioritize technical beta testing, and marketing will steer public beta testing.

How to Choose the Right Method

There are a plethora of methods used to validate your product, but which one is best? Ultimately, it depends on your needs and goals. In this head-to-head, let’s look at situations where beta or UAT might be a better fit.

Here are the situations that lend themselves to UAT:

  • Validating test cases against acceptance criteria
  • Looking to provide step-by-step instructions to testers
  • Involving mostly engineering and quality assurance teams
  • Understanding what percentage of test cases pass or fail

Here are the situations where beta may make more sense:

  • Evaluating product readiness for launch
  • Understanding whether the product meets your users’ needs
  • Looking to provide activities or tasks to testers to explore the product
  • Learning about product market fit with real world usage

Key Takeaways

  • User acceptance testing focuses on validating against acceptance criteria, while beta testing evaluates readiness for launch.
  • The success of user acceptance testing is measured by the percentage of test cases that pass acceptance criteria. In contrast, beta testing collects feedback and uses factors like star ratings to assess product performance.
  • Quality assurance teams often manage user acceptance testing, while product teams, user research teams, or program managers typically oversee beta testing.
  • User acceptance testing is a more traditional method, while beta testing is adopted by companies seeking to make data-driven product decisions.

Conclusion

Both user acceptance and beta testing are essential in validating a product before launch. Organizations can ensure a smoother product launch and better user satisfaction by understanding their differences and choosing the proper method for specific goals and needs.

Read the Ultimate Guide to UAT
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