What Is Beta Testing and Why Do I Need It?
Beta testing is a crucial phase in putting together the final touches into your app before the big launch. You can think of it as a writer trying to publish a bestseller. Before sending his manuscript over to a publisher, it is likely that he had already familiarized himself with every editing program on the web. All 1,559 of his editing buddies from college — as well as their families, were probably asked to read his drafts. Twice. Perhaps once for errors and once for enjoyment, but in any case, feedback is one of the most valued components in beta testing.
Just like the writer, you need second opinions. Realistically you may need hundreds or even thousands of not only opinions, but heavy and unfiltered criticism. The more the merrier. The messier the cleaner. This is a phase where you are offering the best version of your product to the world. You are daring everyone to uncover its flaws, issues, and weaknesses. You are sending a mass invitation for individuals to point out your app’s glitches, it’s not so welcoming design, and that it just keeps on crashing. Don’t worry, though, it’s all for a good purpose.
The team of people you choose for this task are beta testers and yes, you need them. In most cases, it is better to have more sets of fresh eyes and hands involved. This way you can learn and adjust your beta test products before the big bang.
You need to know what you want to get out of it before putting your feet into it or you may end up wasting all your efforts.
What Are Beta Testers and How Do I Find Them?
Given the importance of beta testing, there are a handful of ways to recruit your team of beta testers. They are available to you from anywhere in the world. Don’t know where to go to find them? Start off by browsing through some meaty free resources like Quora where you can land in the nest of the tech community.
Free can be a good thing. However, when it comes down to your beta testing project, it is well worth coughing up a few bucks. After all, this is your project and you’ve already gotten this far. It is strongly recommended to invest in a strong team of eager and committed beta testers. They can surely do the job like it’s no one’s business. When you invest in professional services for your beta test, you can rest assured that you are also investing in a strong foundation for your app.
Am I Putting My App Into the Right Hands?
Depending on what your app is, you will only benefit if you are associating with the relevant beta testers. For example, let’s say your app is a game. There is no use for you to hire a scuba diver who is not very interested in gaming technology for as long as he lived. You need beta testers who generally know your field pretty well and can notice problems when they occur. Only 1 in every 5 beta testers will take your beta testing product seriously. Focus on picking up those who are most likely to invest themselves based on their interests. Some suggest that it is best to have your potential beta testers fill out and go through an application process. This way, those who do not want to put in the effort will get filtered out. You wouldn’t want beta testers who don’t test, anyway. You will be left with the ones who took the time to apply and to get to know your product. And that’s the point.
However, it does not always work like this and you may not always need to filter out the best of the best. Again it largely depends on your target goals and what your app is all about. For example, if your app is a game, your target group is likely to be kids and teenagers. You are better off stopping by your neighborhood’s local internet gaming cafe to ask several people in the room to test out your product before its release. From this, you are more than likely to get some pretty dedicated beta testers given they are interested in this. Another option could even be to ask your 12-year-old son, his gaming buddies, and even the full-time worker at GameStop for his opinion. You want to see how your app can flourish in many unique hands and minds.
In general, the idea here is to get as many “serious” people as possible who are accustomed to the world of your app (in this case — gaming) and to see how your app thrives in its own environment. In terms of game apps, you should aim to get at least 200 or more testers, most of whom you can ask to do for free. Throwing an interesting and relevant project towards a group of people who loves what they are doing will more than likely bring you positive and constructive results.
Give yourself some time to marinate on these concepts. It’s important that you have a clear vision of what and who you need for your test.
So How Many Beta Testers Do I Really Need for My App?
Although the numbers of engaged beta testers do play a large role at times, the boundaries are entirely based on your objectives. If you are looking for an overview, we recommend only about 4 or 5 beta testers for small independent projects. For casual app startups (like Flash Player and Quick Notes) you could get by with 10 or 25 beta testers. For B2B applications, we’d suggest around 70 to 300 testers (depending on the complexity of course). And last but not least for your gaming app, it would be best to get 200 or more testers involved.
Nevertheless, there are many facets to consider before embarking on your beta test prior to actually initiating it. You need to know what you want to get out of it before putting your feet into it or you may end up wasting all your efforts. You get the point. Here are some questions to keep in mind for just how many beta testers you will need:
- Will your app have features involving several demographic locations? If so, have you considered having a group of beta testers for different countries? Are the amount of testers proportional to the size of the areas you want to cover?
- Who are your target users? Are you focusing on the correct field? How knowledgeable are your beta testers in the workings of your app?
- Do you have enough resources to handle the incoming feedback? Are you prepared with enough manpower to help you break down the results from the test? Do you have enough people to help correct and improve the issues?
- What is your budget and timeframe? How long can you realistically carry out this test? (Researchers recommend no less than 8-10 weeks for a proper test).
- How will you collect results from the test? There will be many people involved. Choosing an efficient and convenient method of delivery is pretty vital for your sake and theirs. It is highly recommended to go back to the basics and to keep things as simple as possible. Emailing and spreadsheets shouldn’t be underestimated. They have been proven to work wonders.
- Am I conducting a technical beta or marketing beta test? A technical beta test focuses primarily on finding bugs and technical issues. A marketing beta test is all about eye candy and how users can easily interact with the interfaces.
- When will I be testing? Consider the timing of your test. Will it overlap on Christmas? Did your test just happen to be during the peak season of summer when everyone is on vacation in Hawaii? It makes sense to think about your beta testers and how holidays may get in the way or slow down your testing. After all, everyone deserves a vacation.
Give yourself some time to marinate on these concepts. It’s important that you have a clear vision of what and who you need for your test. Only then can you accurately aim on collecting the right amount of beta testers needed for your app and really get your reply on the question: “How many beta testers do I need?”
In the end, it’s all about creating that daredevil app that you envisioned for so long. You want your beta testers to come home to you pushing in wheelbarrows of feedback. The feedback you acquire will be a very valuable resource for perfecting the user’s experience. After throwing your product out into the world, you will want opinions. You will want criticism. You will want to find all the buggy areas so that you can go in and smoke them all out. But to be able to do this, it is your job to set the guidelines. You must also manage all that feedback and come back with something even better. Then test it again. This can only strengthen your app to help you create your top-notch product.