The visuals are stunning, the UI is seamless, and the app looks ready to ship. But before software can be made widely available, one critical step should happen: beta testing.
Like a dress rehearsal for a Broadway show, beta testing is key to any app’s success. For anyone looking to bring an app to market, beta groups act as a cost-effective stress test that will verify viability, discover pain points, and iron out the app as a whole.
THE ROLE OF BETA GROUPS AND WHERE TO START LOOKING
Think of beta groups like a team of doctors who will dive into an app’s early release and diagnose any issues. Having zero familiarity with the app, these unbiased users can dive into the beta release with a fresh lens. By using the app like an ordinary user, beta testers can point out bugs, problems with UI flow, or anything in between and report their findings back to the development team. As far as group size goes, it depends on what you have in mind. To maintain a balance between tester volume and usable feedback, aim to get at least 100 serious people involved with the beta phase.
It may come as a surprise, but there are tons of communities chock full of users ready and willing to try new things. Sites like Betabound house communities of beta users, but another solid plan is to reach out to social media followers and gauge their interest in beta testing your app.
TEST VIABILITY / USABILITY
A lot of ideas sound great on paper, but seeing an app in action is when the real test starts. Similar to MVPs and POCs, beta users allow the team to start truly answering questions like “Is this idea viable?” and “Is the current release usable?” In the event that major functional changes are needed, a beta testing phase is the best time to rework things. By making adjustments based on beta group feedback, developers can both streamline the app and slash deployment costs (more on this later).
Another element that beta groups provide is quality assurance. App performance depends on a number of factors and some are almost impossible to reproduce in a lab setting. For example, model-specific errors could arise where the app performs differently on the iPhone 6 versus the iPhone 8. Always take lab results with a grain of salt and keep in mind that a surefire way to gauge an app’s performance is to put it to the test in the real world.
Beta testing lets developers test the waters in a controlled setting without going overboard cost-wise. Without a beta group, apps that go live are subject to constant feedback that could involve any number of features or bugs. The result is a haphazard scramble to implement multiple changes at once which will quickly burn through budgets and user goodwill.
However, by having a beta phase and observing users over a designated period, developers can make targeted changes without having to spend excess time, money, and manpower. Ultimately, it’s far more costly to release an app, discover critical errors, push through new updates, then force users to update their apps again.
WORD OF MOUTH
More often than not, the initial pool of beta testers will go on to become loyal users. There’s an undeniable feeling of prestige given to beta users who get a “sneak peek” at an app’s early designs. Having seen the original idea grow and mature, these users will form an emotional connection with the app after playing a part in crafting its final release. What started as a beta group will turn into eager marketers who will personally go to bat for the app whether it be through App Store reviews or spreading the good word to their peers.
Software development remains a moving target, and nailing a bug-free release is a tough ask. As veteran developers committed to building quality apps, we’ve found that beta testing is less of a suggestion and more of a prescription. By working closely with beta groups, developers can troubleshoot issues early on and ultimately deliver a well-polished product.