Beta Testing

What is Beta Testing?

Beta testing is a final testing stage of a software before the commercial release. This term is mainly used in computer technologies. It refers to the process accomplished by intended users with the aim of trying the software out in the real world and send feedback to the company about their experiences and opinions. The purpose is the identification and correction of all possible errors and undesirable functioning prior to the launch.

Beta testing is one of the Customer validation methodologies to evaluate the level of customer satisfaction with the product by letting it to be validated by the end users, who actually use it, for over a period of time.

Product experience gained by the end users are asked for feedback on design, functionality, and usability and this helps in assessing the quality of the product.

At the beta test stage, the product has already passed through the first-level, internal pilot-test (alpha test) and glaring defects have been removed. But (since the product may still have some minor problems that require user participation) it is released to selected customers for testing under normal, everyday conditions of use to spot the remaining flaws.

What Does Beta Testing Mean?

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet and therefore means the second testing stage. Beta testing is therefore supposed to follow an Alpha testing phase. When initiating the Beta testing, the company already had other tests and made improvements and corrections resulting of those. Internal teams usually execute the Alpha testing while the Beta stage embraces potential users that are not directly related to the developing team.

These users usually discover problematic issues that are not easily seen by the developers. In this way, the firm is able to improve product quality and avoid potential user complains before the formal launch into the open market. The process scope may vary in terms of number of testers and time. Some software firms release free testing versions to be downloaded and thus to obtain early user feedback.

Beta testers are “real” users and conduct their testing in a production environment running on the same hardware, networks, etc., as the final release. This also means it’s the first chance for full security and reliability testing because those tests can’t be conducted in a lab or stage environment.

Beta tests can either be open or closed. In an open beta test, anyone is able to use the product and is usually presented with some messaging that the product is in beta and given a method for submitting feedback. In a closed beta, the testing is limited to a specific set of testers, who may be composed of current customers, early adopters and/or paid beta testers. Sometimes they are conducted by diverting a certain percentage of users to the beta site instead of the current release.

Beta testing can either last for a set period of time or run until new issues stop being reported and all-important ones have been addressed.

The Difference Between Beta Testing and Alpha Testing

The primary difference between an alpha test and a beta test is who is doing the testing—alpha tests are typically performed by internal employees in a lab or stage environment, while beta tests are conducted by actual users in a production setting.

The goal of the alpha test is to catch as many issues as possible before the product has any public exposure or usage. The goal of a beta test is to ensure that real users can successfully complete their tasks and get a wide range of users interacting with the product, as well as testing the scalability, performance, and reliability of the product under real-world usage scenarios.

Key difference:

  • Alpha Testing is performed by the Testers within the organization whereas Beta Testing is performed by the end users.
  • Alpha Testing is performed at Developer’s site whereas Beta Testing is performed at Client’s location.
  • Reliability and Security testing are not performed in-depth in Alpha Testing while Reliability, Security and Robustness are checked during Beta Testing.
  • Alpha Testing involves both Whitebox and Blackbox testing whereas Beta Testing mainly involves Blackbox testing.
  • Alpha Testing requires testing environment while Beta Testing doesn’t require testing environment.
  • Alpha Testing requires long execution cycle whereas Beta Testing requires only few weeks of execution.
  • Critical issues and bugs are addressed and fixed immediately in Alpha Testing whereas issues and bugs are collected from the end users and further implemented in Beta Testing.

Purpose of Beta Testing

The points mentioned below can even be considered as the objectives for Beta Test and are very much required to produce far better results for a product.

  • Beta Test provides a complete overview of the true experience gained by the end users while experiencing the product.
  • It is performed by a wide range of users and the reasons for which the product is being used varies highly. Marketing managers focus on target market’s opinion on each and every feature, while a usability engineer / common real users focus on product usage and easiness, technical users focus on installation and uninstallation experience, etc. But the actual perception of the end users clearly exhibits why they need this product and how they are going to use it.
  • Real world compatibility for a product can be ensured to a greater extent through this testing, as a great combination of real platforms is used here for testing on a wide range of devices, OS, Browsers, etc.
  • As a wide range of platforms which the end users are actually using, might not be available to the internal testing team during the QA, this testing also helps to uncover the hidden bugs and gaps in the final product.
  • Few specific platforms will cause the product to fail with showstopper bug which was not covered during QA. And this helps in improvising/fixing the product to be a compatible one with all possible platforms.
  • Known Issues, which are accepted by the Product Management team, may take a great turn when the end user faces the same issue and may not be comfortable while using the product. In such cases, this testing helps to analyze the impact of known issues on the entire product as the user experience gets hampered and is not acceptable for any successful business.

Types of Beta Testing

There are different types of Beta tests in software testing, and they are as follows:

  • Traditional Beta testing: Product is distributed to the target market, and related data is gathered in all aspects. This data can be used for Product improvement.
  • Public Beta Testing: Product is publicly released to the outside world via online channels and data can be gathered from anyone. Based on feedback, product improvements can be done. For example, Microsoft conducted the largest of all Beta Tests for its OS — Windows 8 before officially releasing it.
  • Technical Beta Testing: Product is released to the internal group of an organization and gathers feedback/data from the employees of the organization.
  • Focused Beta: Product is released to the market for gathering feedback on specific features of the program. For example, important functionality of the software.
  • Post-release Beta: Product is released to the market and data is gathered to make improvements for the future release of the product.

How is Beta Testing Performed

This type of testing can be performed in several ways, but there are five different stages in general.

1. Planning

Define the goals in advance. This helps in planning the number of users required to participate in the testing and the duration required to complete and reach the goals.

2. Participants Recruitment

Ideally, any number of users can participate in testing, but due to budget constraints, the project has to set up a  minimum and maximum limit on the number of users participating. Usually, 50 – 250 users are targeted for mid-complex products.

3. Product Launch>

  • Installation packages should be distributed to the participants – Ideally, share the link from where they can download and Install.
  • Share User Manuals, Guides, Known Issues, Scope of testing to the participants etc.
  • Share the Bug logging methods to the participants.

4. Collect and Evaluate Feedback

  • Bugs raised by the participants are handled by the bug management process.
  • Feedback & Suggestions are collected by the participants based on their experience with the Product.
  • Feedbacks are evaluated to analyze and make out the customer to satisfy the product.
  • Suggestions are considered to improve the product in its next versions.

5. Closure

  • Once a certain point is reached and when all the features are working, no bugs are arising, and exit criteria are met then decide to conclude Beta Testing Phase.
  • Distribute Rewards / Incentives to the participants as per the plan decided and thank them formally to maintain good relationship (this helps in further beta test on the product, much more feedbacks, suggestions, etc).

Advantages of Beta Testing

  • Reduces product failure risk via customer validation.
  • Beta Testing allows a company to test post-launch infrastructure.
  • Improves product quality via customer feedback.
  • Cost effective compared to similar data gathering methods.
  • Creates goodwill with customers and increases customer satisfaction.

Disadvantages of Beta Testing

  • Test Management is an issue. As compared to other testing types which are usually executed inside a company in a controlled environment, beta testing is executed out in the real world where you seldom have control.
  • Finding the right beta users and maintaining their participation could be a challenge.