Beta Testing Tutorial: Comprehensive Guide With Best Practices
In this article, we explore what beta testing is, the types of beta testing, and its lifecycle, along with a few examples and best practices.
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Beta testing is the final phase of testing before releasing a product to the general public. This is usually done by a group of users representing the target audience. It is a crucial step in the development process as it identify and fix any remaining issues with the product before it is released to the global market.
Various methods of beta testing are available, including online platforms where users can test remotely or in-person sessions where users can provide feedback and interact directly with the product.
Beta testing usually comes second in line after completing alpha testing. In the software development process, it helps ensure that the product is ready for release and meets the target audience's needs.
What Is Beta Testing?
Beta testing is a type of user acceptance testing in which the end user validates the final product. It is performed at the end of the software testing life cycle (STLC). This validation is done on the product functionality, reliability, usability, and compatibility. Think of a beta test as a soft launch for your application when your early users can only try it out and let you know what needs fixing and what needs to be eliminated.
Product experience gained by the end users is asked for feedback on design, functionality, and usability, which helps assess the product's quality.
Beta testing of software applications interacts directly with the end user and ensures your developed application aligns with the user's interest. It is simply a testing method to check whether your application is as per the end-user requirement or not.
Why Is Beta Testing Important?
When the developers and testers approve the product in the alpha testing phase, they release it for a beta test to figure out what other changes are required.
In beta testing, multiple purposes are served through all of those initiatives to improve the overall customer experience. Users are now savvy, and they know what to choose.
If you fail to serve a good user experience through your web or mobile application, they will look for other similar apps and will never return.
Through beta testing, you achieve a range of things like software quality, performance, stability, security, and reliability. Let's talk about these essential factors of beta tests and how these can improve the user experience.
- Quality: Running a beta test allows testers and developers to evaluate the overall app experience from the users' end. Functional testing checks product quality by ensuring that all the features are working fine and performing as expected.
- Usability: The product's usability depends on an individual's preferences and usage. However, one of the major purposes of beta tests is to find a balanced and optimal solution suitable for most of the target audience.
- Bug detection: The primary role of any testing process is to spot issues or bugs, and the same goes for beta tests. It is always better to spot bugs before users to make your application more engaging and less annoying. During the testing phase, it allows developers to discover and fix bugs quickly.
- Performance: The performance tests are designed to analyze apps' speed and performance differences in a controlled environment and the real world. Many factors can affect the performance of an app, and some of those are almost impossible to reproduce in the lab.
- Cost: Beta tests allows developers to test their apps in a limited market where they can control the deployment costs. It is more costly to release the app's final version to the target audience, provides scope for improvement, works on the updates, and forces users to update their apps again.
Types of Beta Testing
Beta testing is used for various software applications as per requirement. Therefore, it is classified into five main categories:
- Open beta test: This testing method doesn’t have any user limitations in the testing process. For example, if an application is undergoing open beta testing, you can install it directly from the Google Play Store. You can also request the organization to get a file that installs the application on your computer or device.
- Closed beta test: This testing method doesn't allow a large number of users by simply limiting the total number of users in the testing process. Consider an application that is undergoing closed beta test. In that case, you cannot directly install it from the Google Play Store unless the software development organization invites you to install and use the beta version of the application.
- Technical beta test: It involves running a beta test with users inside the organization where they must provide insightful test reports to the working engineers uncovering complex bugs if available. These participants are tolerant of minor issues; hence, they must mainly focus on identifying hard-to-find bugs.
- Focused beta test: As the name suggests, it is performed on a specific feature by the teams. They collect user feedback by releasing the product into the market for all or limited users.
- Marketing beta test: The main aim of marketing beta testing is to gain the media's attention on your product. This type of testing helps evaluate your marketing channels by getting customers’ reactions to new products.
- Post-release beta test: Post-release beta testing involves delivering the product to the market for use and collecting customers’ reactions, experiences, and feedback for future software releases.
Advantages of Beta Testing
Since the beta test takes place outside the test environment with parameters set by a tester; the performance results are highly accurate. Apart from these benefits, beta testing can also help you in a few other aspects.
- It identifies hidden and corner cases that are challenging to find during manual testing. Regarding mobile app testing, different users approach the mobile application differently, so beta tests ensure that almost all bugs will be discovered while testing mobile applications.
- It is cost-effective and ensures that the application satisfies the expected product design and development requirements.
- Users can use beta applications on their devices until a specific time. To test on multiple device and platform combinations, mobile app testing platforms like LambdaTest can help to test out applications across various device and operating system combinations, thereby avoiding the pain point of setting up their in-house device labs.
- After rectifying all the loopholes and feedback received from real-world users, we get a high-quality application. Therefore, releasing them into the market becomes a cakewalk for the end-user.
- It enhances the application's security by analyzing the application logs or checking for any leaks in the entire infrastructure.
- Extensive research and cost shape the application as per the organization’s goals. It can help determine how many users contributed to achieving business objectives without informing them of the process.
Disadvantages of Beta Testing
Let’s look at some of the downsides of running a beta test:
- A software engineer has no control over this testing since it is performed by real-world users.
- It is a time-consuming testing process that can delay a product's release.
- If users are not using the software properly, this can waste time and cost to work on their feedback.
How to Create a Beta Testing Strategy
Creating a beta test strategy is not just a crucial step but also the first step before conducting a beta test. It contains the following information:
- Business objectives of the software application: Knowing your users is essential when you want to provide them with the best application for all their needs. As a business owner, you must think in the customer's shoes.
- Scheduling the testing phases: Seamless testing happens when there's proper scheduling of each testing phase. A perfect schedule can only be created when the number of testing cycles and duration of each process are known.
- Test plan: A perfect test plan starts with selecting the product areas you need to write related activities. These activities will outline what your selected testers need to evaluate and how they will send the feedback for analysis.
- Testing approach for participants: Choosing the proper testing approach is the most crucial part of the testing plan. As per need, you can choose from incremental or non-incremental testing approaches.
- Use of tools to analyze feedback and measure productivity: It's crucial to analyze the testing feedback to spot strong and weak aspects of the software. Feedback analysis is done using appropriate tools, as a small miss can cost a lot. The targeted end-users must give unbiased feedback to help grow software productivity.
- Rewards to the participants: For a good response from the participants, rewards are necessary. It's all around the marketing sphere, and no one gives their valuable time for free. Thus, good rewards are a must for testing participants.
When you run a beta test, there's no way left to control throughout the testing process; thus, managing the entire beta phase becomes challenging. So, to make managing easy, you should set up forum discussions. In these discussions, allow your participants to participate and give valuable feedback.
However, ensure that you limit the discussions only to the beta aspects of the product for a clear understanding. You can encourage the participants' testers to write specific testimonials on the product after conducting surveys to understand their experience with the product.
Life Cycle of Beta Testing
In a beta test, end users participate as testers. However, this process is not executed without a specific test strategy. To ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of the testing, the test team follows a set of steps before the testers (end users) begin the test.
It consists of the following steps:
- Design: Designing the software application is the first step. It is an initial phase that is to be done before initiating any development process on your application. Designing is one the most crucial upon which the entire journey depends and is made by considering the market, the user demand, the ultimate business goals, the future scope of the business, and more.
- Planning: Once you create your application design, you must move to the planning phase. In this stage, the team prepares a testing strategy and defines its goals. In addition, the team defines the number of users required for testing, the duration, and other important information.
- Finalize beta testers: After planning the testing structure, finalize your beta testers for your application testing. With a perfect testing plan, you can easily filter your beta testers. You must build a perfect channel or platform to connect with them and discuss the product performance and working.
- Make a pool of testers: Catering a pool with your testers will do half your job. You have already proposed your selected potential testers and the only thing you can do is wait for them to reply or accept your proposal. Making a pool will help you interact with them in less time and also help you in sending your mobile app beta test link to Google Play Store or Apple Store.
- Collect feedback: The next and last step in beta testing is taking continuous feedback from your potential beta testers. Feedback is essential to help shape your application according to its positive and negative responses.
When to Perform Beta Testing
Beta testing is performed after the completion of alpha testing and before the product is released to the general public. The software product should be completed and stable on any platform, including all the necessary features.
It's imperative to run a beta test of tech-oriented products since they are platform and process-dependent. Before launching an application, the application must be reviewed against a beta test checklist.
Beta Testing Checklist
Beta test reveals the hidden issues or bugs that developers or testers miss. Due to this, the testing phase has several use cases. Some of these use cases are:
- User experience: Beta test gives you an insight into your app's performance in a real environment. Getting feedback and evaluating them to have a deep understanding of whether it is delivering a great experience to users or not doing most of the work.
- Load and stress test: Even if your application works exactly as per the demand, it doesn't mean it can hold high traffic. Running beta tests of your apps with an extensive set audience simultaneously and checking whether there are any load handling issues.
- Device and platform compatibility: Testing your app's real-time compatibility on various devices and platforms will help extend your audience reach.
- Battery consumption testing: Get user feedback regarding batteries consumed by continuous usage of the application at full fledge.
- Content testing: Check if the delivered content of your application, like- photos, text videos, etc., is engaging and attracting the customer and ensures it is not hampering the overall user experience.
Alpha Testing vs. Beta Testing
Alpha testing and beta testing are software quality assurance techniques that help developers identify bugs in a product before it is released. Let’s see how they differ.
The Next Steps After Running a Beta Test
Alpha-Beta-Gamma means we have Gamma too. Gamma testing is the final stage testing phase when the test application is released. In Gamma testing, you don't have to test for the overall functionality or any QA activity involved. As a Gamma tester, you must focus on specific technicalities and specifications.
If there is any feedback available, they are noted for any modifications in the subsequent releases. Unless there is no high priority, there is no update on the locked application after beta test. If everything goes as per the requirement, the application is ready to hit the stores, and the subsequent testing cycle begins.
Challenges With Beta Testing
Customer validation is the most crucial stage of the product development lifecycle. However, the beta testing industry across the board is still in its infancy. Organizations face challenges while performing a customer validation program or beta test. These include:
- Insufficient resources: It is one of the most common and primary challenges many respondents face. They say they don't have enough resources dedicated to their customer validation program, which is the most crucial part of beta tests.
These resources include:
- The right kinds of tools
- Sufficient time for testing
- A dedicated customer validation team to manage beta tests and test participants
- No established processes: Another big challenge that many companies face is lacking a standardized process for their program. That means if there are established processes, then running a beta test (or even multiple beta tests) gets easier.
- Juggling too many tools: When there are multiple tools to manage the test and testers, it becomes a challenge to handle, and juggling among these tools will eventually increase the testing time and effort. During the customer validation stage, you can collect many types of feedback from a test, including bug reports, surveys, and forums.
- Setting up an in-house test infrastructure: Maintaining an in-house beta test infrastructure is a time-consuming process and can be problematic in terms of scalability.
The best way to avoid maintaining in-house infrastructure is to use a cloud-based testing platform like LambdaTest.
Best Practices for Beta Testing
Here are a few best practices that you can include while testing beta applications:
- Decide the tester's count prior: The number of participants who will test your application on different aspects before the final release plays a crucial role. This number should not be very low or high to make unclear feedback or corrupt the application software with high traffic.
- Diversity in your testing pool: Diversity is vital in beta test, so you should continuously diversify your pool with people having at least one dissimilarity. These diversities can be major such as geographical locations, or minor such as varying RAM. The more diverse beta testers bring a much better quality product later.
- Host your beta app only on an authorized platform: If you are not hosting your application on an authorized platform, your testers will have to forcefully install it by allowing third-party applications from their device settings. This warning will definitely create suspicion among your beta testers pool.
The affordable hosting platform is Google Play Store, which offers a different section for any beta app hosting.
- Testers should get small forms: Forms are the best and quick way to get your tester's feedback during your application beta test. It's also said that forms increase the friction with each of the available fields.
A big form will look hectic, and testers may skip some points or put in irrelevant data to quickly finish it up. It's better to have a small form with MCQ-based questions to comfort testers and get their genuine feedback.
To run a beta test is an excellent means of testing a product before launching it to market with real users. Regardless of the purpose of this testing, the ultimate goal remains the same — to create products with amazing user experiences.
Published at DZone with permission of Praveen Mishra, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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