How to establish a successful beta testing community

By | November 15, 2013

Beta testersOur experience is that apps that last are those we build together with our users. User feedback is one of the most important sources of improvement, together with our own research. This is why we could not leave it to chance. For over a year now, we have been actively collecting and analyzing feedback from users, beta testers and friendly professionals in the industry.

Creating an active beta-testing community engaged with your software is both essential and entirely within your control. Today we will tell you a little more about why this has been important for us and how it can change your apps’ performance for the better, too.

More than a year ago, we initiated our Beta Testing Program as an open platform, which anyone interested in Windows Phone could join. There were no limitations on the profession, background, location, age or gender of the beta testers. The only requirement was for them to be active Windows Phone users. A few months later, as we ported our award-winning hotel booking app Hotels 4D to all major platforms, we opened the program to iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android users as well.

After the kick-off, we immediately started receiving sign-up emails on a daily basis from people eager to leave their mark on the apps we are developing. Today we have more than 140 testers in our community – and counting.

It is a straightforward process: we send out new, fully functional versions of our apps currently in development and open our arms widely for valuable beta-tester feedback.

5 tips on how to successfully support a beta-testing community

1.Consider both in-house and external testers

You can test an app either internally (among company employees) or in the open world (wide web) where anyone can participate. The pros of the internal test are that as employees are generally familiar with your work, you usually receive detailed and meaningful analysis of the product’s performance. Plus, they are available to discuss it in person. However, an internal round is not a substitute for the external beta test, as it will provide you with real-world usage scenarios and unfiltered impressions. Besides, there is no limit to the number of external testers who can join your program.

 explain2. Provide clear instructions

All kinds of feedback are welcome, but you also need to outline your goals, so you can communicate your expectations to the users. You can help them with information on what kinds of data the test aims to collect, what specific tasks need to be achieved, etc.

For instance, we at Melon Mobile are looking for feedback on:

  • Ease of use and understanding of the product
  • Functionality suggestions
  • Crashes and errors
  • Accuracy of our data (for example, our GPS Voice Navigation offers worldwide driving directions and we’d like to know how precise they are in every location)
  • Interface design suggestions
  • Language and translations (if all labels and texts are clear and correct)

3. Stay organized

Your beta-testing community will generate a substantial amount of data which can be difficult to organize. Find the most appropriate way to put things in order and readily available. In Melon, we use spreadsheets where we store the information for each member, structured by different criteria. It is a good practice to set a little time for entering new data every day, otherwise you can get stuck with a full mailbox and too much data in disarray.

4. Personal touch

If you are contacted by a tester, make sure to thank them. Take the extra effort to let your testers know what you are going to do about the bugs, issues and suggestions reported — if they will be fixed or left for a later update.  If possible, send them the updated version after the issues are resolved. In this way, your testers will be able to see their impact on the final product.

superstar_hero_cartoon_front_tee5. Know your “celebrity testers” and keep them close

If you use a large pool of beta testers (and you should), some of them will do better than others. You will have a few “celebrity” beta testers – these are the ones that reliably give you valuable feedback. Pay extra attention to maintain fruitful contact with them, but try not to overdose them with emails so they do not burn out.

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In conclusion, if you want to develop a successful beta-testing community, you have to communicate effectively. Stay open for any suggestions and maintain the human touch even if you are far away (or precisely because of that).

If you establish a good relationship with your testers, you will create a constant flow of relevant, helpful information coming your way that will help you roll out great products.

 

To join our beta testing program, just send a message to betawp@melontech.com

 

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