Working with beta testers is a great way to ensure a new product or feature is ready for “prime time” before you actually let it loose into the world. They can find bugs, quirks, and missing pieces while helping you avoid costly blunders.
But what makes for a good beta tester and how do you find them? Here are some qualities to look for in a beta tester and nine tips on recruiting them.
Desirable Beta Tester Attributes
The best beta testers share some commonalities, which make them a valuable part of the product development process.
First of all, your beta testers should be representative of your actual customer base; hiring a bunch of college kids to beta test a parenting tips app isn’t going to give you optimal feedback. You want users aligned demographically with your target audience that will have specific tastes, preferences, and experience with technology.
You also want beta testers committed to the project and descriptive in their communications.
“Testers who post regularly (even if it’s in smaller amounts) about their daily experience with the product offer the best chance of providing invaluable feedback that can improve the product,” says Brad Day of Betabound. “Ultimately, good testers are those who are engaged with the test. You don’t have to log in every single day, but you should use the product daily. Quality is always better than quantity and we’re looking for testers that give thoughtful feedback.”
Finally, consider whether you want beta testers with specific product experience. You might prefer testers who have used a competitor’s offering or a product that’s complementary to yours.
“A great way to attract beta testers is getting access to the communities of the apps your product integrates with,” says Zbigniew Czarnecki of Teamdeck. “In our case it was Podio, a popular PM app. We asked them to spread the word about a new integration, which brought us more users potentially interested in our app.”
If you have an existing user base, you may want to draw beta testers from there. They’ll be able to provide much more authentic feedback than someone previously unfamiliar with the product.
“Beta testers often sign up for your projects because they’re loyal customers,” says Benny Luo of Centercode. “It’s likely that they’ve spent countless hours using your product and see the beta test as a unique and exclusive opportunity to help be a part of its future developments.”
How to Recruit Beta Testers
With these qualities in mind, let’s dig into how you can recruit a roster of beta testers.
Dedicated landing page
Potential testers won’t scour your site for the opportunity to beta test. Create a clean and attractive destination where they can submit their details and discover the perks of testing might be.
You can then drive all traffic to this page as you execute your recruitment plan, creating a consistent repository of potential beta testers since they’ll all complete the same form.
Having beta testers that fall within your target market may not be granular enough to truly beta test a product with many types of users or a wide array of functionality. You may need to get a tester population that represents the entirety of your optimal user base.
“Leverage your user personas to split your users into different segments or cohorts based on their demographics and in-app behavior,” says Sherief Abul-Ezz of Instabug. “Examine your app’s analytics and try to identify the users that represent your app’s use cases and personas. You can examine metrics like the number of sessions, average session duration, session interval, and screen flow to look for a pattern. Once you uncover the common use patterns, divide your users into segments and map each segment to a persona. The segments will let you know who to recruit in order to have a beta testing community that represents your users.”
Engage the engaged
Fans of your product make themselves known on various channels, so be sure to include them in your recruitment efforts; they’ve shown an interest in the product and will be excited to get their hands on the latest and greatest before anyone else.
“The best beta testers are often neophiles — they want exclusive access to new features,” says Vik Patel of Future Hosting. “Send invitations to the most active and committed users, those who engage with the company via social media and in forums. But make sure to invite ordinary users too: The power-user take is important, but you also need to hear about the average user’s experience.”
Leverage your lists
Your company probably has email lists for marketing purposes, so include an opt-in for beta testing on the signup page or send our a targeted blast to recruit some people for your test. They’ve already expressed an interest in your product, so it’s a great way to engage them without trying to push for a sale.
The friends and family route
Asking everyone in the company to invite their friends and family to beta test might be a winning formula for a consumer-oriented product. You’ll have multiplied your recruiting efforts by asking coworkers to get involved, plus it’s a zero-cost tactic for bringing in new potential testers.
Give them a script that they can cut-and-paste or edit so it’s dead simple for them to forward it along to the people they know.
140 characters might be all you need to find a slew of beta testers. Write up a tweet and include hashtags like #betatesting, #tester, #betatesters, #testmyapp, #apptesting, #mobileapptesting, or #openbeta to get the attention of eager beta testers.
If you’re having trouble finding the right beta testers, a well-targeted ad campaign on an appropriate social network could pull in some members of your ideal audience to participate. It will increase the budget of the project, but if you need a specific segment it might be the best way to uncover some prospects.
Leverage existing beta tester communities
There are dedicated sites (such as GetWorm, UserTesting and BetaList), as well as communities on Reddit, Facebook and other online locales, where people are actively trying to become beta testers. Whether they’re in it for the perks, they like being on the bleeding edge, or they’re just really into finding bugs, these folks are experienced beta testers.
“I got all of our beta testers just through comments. To make comments that will be seen, go to the chosen subreddits and sort by newest posts,” says Christina Willner of Amazing Marvin. “Scan if there is anything where you can truly provide value. Write a detailed, helpful comment and drop the link to your pre-launch page or beta sign-up page.”
However, these eager beavers may not be a great proxy for your actual users, so relying solely on these sources might get you a very generic clump of usage and bug reports while overlooking some more nuanced aspects of the user experience that your target audience might care about.
Make it worth their while
Other than internal employees and current customers, you’re not going to find many quality beta testers without a proper incentive. While early access might be enough to entice them, sometimes you need to go the extra mile to recruit the right crowd and get them pumped to participate.
“Beta testers are so critical to the successful launch of your new product that you should shower them with gratitude and great perks,” says Natalie MacNeil of She Takes on the World. “I was part of a group of beta testers for a new software that promised us thousands of dollars in value, including the most premium monthly membership for free. I felt valued, and therefore I put a lot of effort into being a reliable beta tester.”
This won’t be the last time you need beta testers
After you’ve put in all that work to recruit a stellar batch of beta testers, turn this effort into an ongoing resource and nurture your new community. Give them occasional updates on what’s new with the product and bring them back for additional beta tests (at least those that don’t require a completely fresh set of eyes).
You’ll have a loyal core of beta testers that will make it easier, faster and cheaper to conduct beta tests going forward.