Beta Testing the Product
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What is a Beta Test?
Once you are comfortable that your product is ready to introduce to the customer market, the next step is the Beta Test. The Beta test is where you introduce the product to a limited number of customers. Unlike in the Alpha test, the test subjects do not have prior knowledge of the product or special expertise in the field. Think of it as a test run for the product. The customers should receive the product in the same manner as if it were being offered to the public at large. You observe or the customer records his or her impression and input about the product. You will use this input in making certain that the product is ready for the consumer market and for putting the final touches on the product.
The Beta test generally takes place or ends very shortly (sometimes just days) prior to the general release of the product to the public. However, the Beta test itself can take a long time. You have to give customers sufficient time to use and provide input on the product. Then you have to take that input and determine what modifications should be made to the product. Sometimes you will note the input for future versions of the product. Other times you will attempt to make the modifications prior to releasing the product. You may need to run and second or third iteration to test the effect of any modifications made to the product based upon an earlier Beta iteration. It is not uncommon for the Beta test to last for several weeks.
Recall that the Alpha test is primarily for product developers to obtain information. The Beta test, on the other hand, is of interest to the entire team. For example, the person in charge of sales will want to note have the product is received and the major selling points for customers. Also, the person in charge of marketing will want to understand the most valued attributes of the product for purposes of marketing (advertising and targeting customer segments). In any event, the Beta test provides valuable information to various team members as this is the last step before product launch.
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The Beta Process - Attracting Beta Testers
The beta process involves several steps and objectives. Initially you will have to convince the Betas subjects to test your initial product. Often times you will seek to entice testers to purchase your product for testing. This generally increases the expectations and criticality of the testers. You will have to deal with the issue of delivering the produce, monitoring use, potentially customizing it to meet the users specifications, and recording feedback. In any event, the beta tester is eventually granted a discount on the final product. Of course, many product are the subject of free beta testing.
Establishing the Scope of Expectations
Often times the Beta test is the subject of a very controlled, limited testing environment. This may necessitate a user agreement regarding use, communication, and feedback about the product? There may be expectations by both the business and the tester. While the company demands information and feedback, beta testers often require support for using the product (such as technology updates).
Feedback - Product Quality
The business will specifically require information about how well is product working and how easy is it to use? It will seek to obtain both qualitative and quantitative information. Quantitative Factors include:
- Whos buying the product (this may include diverse groups or types of people)?
- What are the features attractive to each tester?
- What is the timing of delivery and capability of use?
- What was the testers priority for the product (i.e., what quantity did the tester purchase)?
- What was the actual revenue from the sale and how much would the tester be willing to pay?
Qualitative Factors include:
- What did the tester like best?
- What feature or attribute is missing?
- What needs improvement?
- Would the tester purchase the product again?