When out of fashion, beta-testing never really went away, but was confined to a room – sometimes virtual room – of geeks who often had nothing better to do. It was confined to the IT crowd with technical testing the only really benefit seen from the beta-test.
However now, perhaps with the rise in emphasis on UX beta-tests are being rolled out on projects far and wide, using interested members of the wider public as testers. So why is it so popular and what benefits can a true beta-test offer?
What is a beta test?
Technically a product should have already gone through fairly rigorous testing process – Alpha-testing – before it reaces beta. It is in Alpha where the geeks and experts will look at the new offering and push it, pull it, pinch it, throw it and see how it stands up to expert use. That’s great but sometimes experts have a very narrow view. That expertise means they do things right and first time, in the reality of the world, not everybody is like that. So a beta test is the next step, testing by a group with a more varied background and level expertise to give the product or service a more ‘normal’ test in real life.
As well as ironing out any bugs, beta-testing helps confirm if there is even a market for the new product. This is where the recent rise in popularity has found its conduit. With millions being spent on research and development, especially by venture capitalists or investment angels, proof of concept is high on the agenda at many business meetings and a beta-test offers a relatively cheap way to find out if a new idea will fail or succeed. Beta-testing is now seen almost like a soft-launch of a service or product that can gauge audience reaction and where the tweaks need to be made.
Engage with your brand ambassadors
It’s a common theme in social media to pick up engagement and spread the word about your brand and offerings but offering a beta-test to your brand ambassadors is a great way to further develop their brand loyalty. By inviting them to beta-test you are allowing them to be part of a unique team responsible for the future development of your brand which is only a good thing. Don’t just focus on those ones that are always supportive though. You need inputs from those who dislike it too for your beta-testing to have a real impact.
Beta-testing is more than just testing it is now a genuine marketing tool that can test the market, encourage brand ambassadors and help you sample new audiences and how they react. What is important however when beta-testing is to make sure the feedback mechanisms are in place before testing begins and also that a full alpha test is carried out before the beta as nobody likes a product or service that simply doesn’t work.