It seems like almost all technology goes to market with a “beta” tag attached. Google is notorious for this, releasing many of its products in beta form — and sometimes even leaving them in that phase for years. After all, Gmail wasn’t taken out of beta until 2009 — five years after it was originally released.
That same year, Microsoft “pre-released” Windows 7, making a beta version available to more than 8 million people prior to its official launch. And just this past April, Apple announced its plans to release its next OS X operating system in public beta.
But this relatively new trend of testing products publicly has led to some misunderstandings of what it actually means to launch a “beta” product.
When a product is ready for beta testing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it came right out of alpha testing. Instead, companies usually conduct extensive private betas to find bugs or glitches that could negatively affect the user experience.
When my company moves to public beta testing, we’ve already spent a full year in “true beta” internally so we can provide the general public with a higher-quality version of our technology.
We test our products with our partners in their retail spaces. We put our technology into the hands of employees — but in a controlled environment. Everyday people get a chance to use and interact with our product while we get a chance to gather feedback and tweak technology to provide a user-friendly experience.
What You Gain From Beta Testing.
Besides a better version of your product, true beta testing often provides:
A solid foundation. Automated testing assesses the designed boundaries of your product. Beta testing goes beyond these boundaries, helping you better solidify the foundation of your product before putting it to the public test.
Bridges between gaps. How you think something works versus how it actually does in the hands of users usually isn’t the same. Beta testing highlights where potential gaps in technology may develop and gives you a chance to bridge these gaps before going public.
Expanded uses. How you want a product to be used isn’t always how users will choose to or want to use it. By beta testing your product, you can modify technology to meet the needs and wants of your target audience.
Shorter development time. Getting products in the hands of users can uncover bugs in technology so your team doesn’t need to waste time creating potential scenarios during development. Instead, they can solve real problems based on user feedback and cut down on development time.
Ideas for updates. The feedback gathered during beta testing can provide a direction for future updates or versions of your product, which can cut costs down the line and improve the turnaround time for your development team.
Improved customer satisfaction. Because you’re releasing the best version of your product, your target audience is more likely to be happy with its purchase. In turn, it’s more apt to do business with you in the future.
Increased sales. Improved customer satisfaction often goes hand in hand with increased sales. When customers like your product, they tell their friends, and then their friends tell their friends. You get the idea.
You only get one shot to launch a product. When you’re a startup, that shot is even more important because it can determine the future of your product. You need to conduct private beta testing before going into this new version of beta. Skipping private betas and jumping right into public betas is a gamble and can result in bad press. Test your product thoroughly to increase your chances of achieving traction and, ultimately, growth.