The Worst Beta Test You’ve Ever Seen!

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Several years ago, I had the opportunity to take part as a beta tester for a new telephone solution. Even now, the frustration of that experience still haunts me; jerking me out of my restless sleep, drenched in a pool of sweat. OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Let’s just say, the experience was not great. Let me share with you the perspective from a tester’s point of view with tips to help you with your next beta test program.

[TESTER]: “Am I the only one here?”

As a coordinator, the use of an online forum is a valuable element in managing user experiences. It is probably the most important scalability tool you can use. Why? Because you can be sure that if one person has had a problem or discovered a work around, others will want to take advantage of their experience as well. By establishing a forum to augment your beta testing, you make sure that important information is self-sustaining and self-distributed. As a tester, I remember thinking, “I know someone else has tripped over this problem, yet there is no way for me to figure out how they resolved it.”

Tip: Online Forums will support your team and allow you to scale.

[TESTER]: “Sorry to bother you about Your product, but if you are not too busy, can I ask you a question?”

Lead by example; be excited about your project. I recall a beta coordinator often sounding too busy or worse, annoyed when I called them. Your attitude as the coordinator is the cadence of the project.

Tip: Nothing will kill the incentive to participate faster than the beta coordinator not being excited about the product.

[TESTER]: “Is this the kind of feedback you wanted?”

Providing clear guidelines, including event reporting steps, will prevent a great deal of confusion during the tests. Furthermore, not having a location to accept issues reported can signal that the beta testing is just a perfunctory exercise. When critical issues are not acted upon, testers will feel that taking the time to report a problem is not worth their effort.

Tip: Provide written guidelines on the test, including a comprehensive incident reporting form. Make sure the form has enough fields to prevent you from having to go back and try to get more data later.

[TESTER]: “Do you want to know what else I thought about this?”

While a defect tracking tool is imperative to every beta test, broad survey feedback tools are also important. Remember that your beta test is not just an engineering exercise. This is an opportunity to test your entire launch readiness process. Securing feedback on ease of use, common questions asked and competitive observations are all invaluable data. Such information is uniquely secured during field trials. Testers will become frustrated if they feel important information is not being heard.

Tip: Develop a survey to capture both specific and generalized feedback. Review this survey with your testers BEFORE the start of testing so they know what to focus on.

[TESTER]: “Hey, is this beta test still going on?”

You are probably already having weekly status reports with your management team on the progress of the beta. Why not augment this with a weekly status to your testers. This can include acknowledgements to input provided thus far, key findings that may affect the group and days remaining for the tests. I recall being part of a particular beta test for over a year and on several occasions wondering if anyone was still in the “Command Chair”.

Tip: A weekly status report to your testers will keep the group energized and focused; increasing the quality and quantity of responses.

I hope you found this article both entertaining and educational.

Much success in your next beta test program!