Every successful beta test starts with a great plan. Our software and hardware beta test planning kits are designed for larger teams with dedicated resources to get their beta test off the ground. So we wanted to share the very basics of what needs to be in your beta test plan — designed for smaller teams or individuals looking to pitch a beta test to others in their company. Below are the six components of every basic beta test plan.
What is your product? What does it do? Who is it for? Your Product Overview should include its formal name, a brief description of what it is and who it’s for, the basic features or elements of the product, how testers will access it (e.g. URL, TestFairy app distribution, physical units), and its estimated release date.
Who within your company will care about or use the results of your test? Your CEO or various department teams might be interested in being a part of your beta test — or at least being kept in the loop about its progress. When creating a beta test plan, it’s important to reach out to these potential stakeholders and ask if they’re interested in being involved and what feedback they need collected during the beta test that can help them meet their own goals.
For example, your marketing team might want to solicit product reviews from testers for an upcoming campaign. A chart highlighting who the stakeholders of your beta test are, along with their contact information and role within the beta test (i.e., Primary Contact, Advisor, etc.) can go a long way in creating clarity in your beta test.
The Test Process section is the most critical part of your beta test plan. This section should summarize your test’s design and preparation, recruitment and launch strategies, management process, reporting, and closure procedures. Taking your test plan step-by-step is the best way to ensure your test has a clear plan throughout where everyone has a role and all bases of your test are covered.
We’ve spoken with many product developers who tried to organize their own beta tests, but didn’t realize they needed a launch strategy for getting the word out to testers or didn’t have a closure procedure in place. Beta tests can create a tremendous amount of momentum for your product by building your brand’s awareness, creating customer loyalty, and stimulating overall positive growth for your company.
Think of the Test Schedule as the official calendar of your beta test. Here, you should outline the test’s recruitment start date, official start date, when planned surveys will be sent to testers, when check-in meetings with your beta team and other stakeholders will be held, your test’s end date, and a date for an internal wrap-up meeting to discuss next steps for your product. You can showcase this information using a T-chart or blank calendar so individuals with access to your test plan can quickly access that information, print it out, or add it to their own calendars, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
There are two types of feedback you can collect during a beta test: ongoing and directed feedback. Your beta plan should outline your strategy for both types of feedback.
Ongoing feedback is the feedback testers can submit throughout your beta test on their own time. Some easy ongoing feedback types are bug reports, suggestions, journals, and open discussions. So when drafting this section of your test plan, it’s important to include what ongoing feedback types you will use, how they will be managed, and who is in charge in case something (like a show-stopping bug) escalates. These ongoing feedback methods will give you a clear picture of malfunctions with your product, ideas for future iterations, as well as give you a temperature read of testers’ overall impressions of your product.
Directed feedback, on the other hand, refers to the specific feedback you want collected from testers, like surveys, tasks, or mock reviews. Unlike ongoing feedback, directed feedback is intended to answer a specific question or validate a particular hypothesis. Work with your internal teams to determine which product objectives (i.e. out-of-the-box experience, willingness to recommend the product to a friend, etc.) you want to focus on. Your directed feedback activities should be scheduled in advance so you know what you’re trying to achieve each week, and who needs to get the results of each directed activity. In doing so, it’s important to schedule these feedback activities so that they don’t overwhelm testers (e.g. three surveys sent in one week).
While this section will be at the beginning of your test plan, you should write it last, since it will be a summary of all of the other sections you’ve already tackled. The Executive Summary is where you summarize your overall beta test plan. It’s possible that some of your stakeholders will only read this part, so make sure you pack all the most important information into this section.
First, confirm your product’s basic details like its name and basic description. Next, briefly outline your tests’ participant requirements (i.e., if your product is an iOS app, then testers should own an iPhone). Third, go over your schedule — how long will the test last? Lastly, highlight the ways you’ll be collecting feedback throughout the test. This will give everyone a solid snapshot of what the test is trying to achieve and how.
Building a beta test plan is all about setting goals. What questions about your product are you hoping to answer through this beta test? What steps will help you answer those looming questions and, ultimately, help you achieve your product goals? As a next step, start brainstorming how you’d address the various sections outlined in this blog post and definitely check out our Software Beta Test Planning Kit for additional tips on getting started.