Having a “beta launch” or “beta version” is a term that is widely used in the software industry, but what does it mean exactly? If you’re managing or developing an app, beta launches are a crucial step that you should be planning for as part of your product life cycle.
Here at Azul Arc, we are in the midst of this phase with several clients so we wanted to take the opportunity to clarify what this means and how to effectively plan for your own “beta.”
What is a beta launch?
A beta launch is a step in the software life cycle in which a small group of real users gets the chance to use the product in a production environment. The main goal in the beta launch phase is to pinpoint any bugs or UX issues that must be addressed before the app’s live production release.
How does it work?
During a beta launch, you’ll give access to your app to a limited number of real users. The expectation is that these users will provide feedback on the app’s usability, functionality, and highlight any issues that they see with it.
The type and amount of users that you allow to participate in your beta launch is up to you and your business’ specific needs, but we typically recommend including only a small number of trusted users whose opinion you value.
When is an app ready for a beta launch?
- When all of its features are complete- no major functionalities are missing
- When it’s stable- no unpredicted, regular crashing
- When a select group of the app’s target audience has been identified to become testers
- When a clear goal has been set as to what information will be collected from the testing
Why is a beta launch important?
Testing in a beta environment allows you to see how your app will work when it goes live so that there are no surprises when it eventually does so. Even if all of the feedback collected is not implemented in the current release, it can help set priorities for future releases and help structure expectations for them.
During the beta phase, issues with your app become evident in an actual production environment. In fact, the goal is not to minimize issues but to root them out before your app is fully launched. These issues range from bug fixes to usability, both of which may sometimes escape previous test rounds and only surface during the beta launch when the app’s software is tested under real workloads. In this environment, testers can also check whether your app’s speed, storage, and scalability are all working properly.
You can also match the expected user journey with the actual user journey during beta testing. If there are any significant discrepancies between the two, you must consider updating the app’s UI and UX.
How to structure a beta launch
There are several questions to consider as you structure a beta launch:
Who are your beta users?
It’s not always easy to round up a group of users that will give you honest feedback about a new or improved app that is not in a perfect state. It is best to start thinking about this long before you are ready for a beta release so you can determine who will use the application significantly enough to give you valuable insight and convince them to do it. Incentives like free or discounted access to your product help, and some companies simply use beta as a “preview” of upcoming features to their most passionate users.
How will you collect users’ feedback?
Will you ask them to input it directly into a form or spreadsheet? Will you schedule one-on-one meetings with them? Will you embed feedback gathering within your app? There’s no right or wrong answer; it all depends on your business model and your main purpose for collecting this feedback.
How will you prioritize feedback?
You can’t—and probably won’t want to—say ‘yes’ to all the feedback you receive. Some feedback will be discarded. If valid points are brought up, you’ll want the development team to look into implementing them. There may also be valuable but less time-sensitive feedback. Keep a backlog of items/ features that you don’t necessarily need to implement right away but would like to come back to at a future date.
How flexible is your release timeline?
Evaluate how much time you have before your app’s live launch release. Are you planning for a single beta launch before your app goes live or would you like to schedule several beta launches? Determine how flexible you are in terms of sticking with a predetermined date to take your app live. Are you willing to push it back to accommodate for more fixes (if more issues come up during this testing)?
At Azul Arc, we always encourage our clients to plan for a beta launch before taking their app live, and we’re here to do it with them! Feel free to reach out to our team if you have any questions about beta launches and how they can benefit you at: [email protected].