Beta Testing a New Feature: When to Use the "Beta" Label

When a new product is in the beta phase, it’s normal to clearly identify this. But what about when beta testing a new feature in an already public product? Should you tell users that this is a “beta” feature?

First, let’s quickly define what “Beta” means:

“Beta” is the phase in software development between the alpha phase and the actual public release. In the beta stage, development is largely complete and the product has undergone some amount of initial alpha testing (usually with an internal QA team, or using emulators or online labs). However, the product is not ready for public release yet as it has not been thoroughly tested in the real world – that is what the “beta” phase is for. Apps, websites and new product features are often said to be in “beta” at some point in the development cycle.

When a new product (as a whole) is in the beta phase, it’s common to clearly identify this, and recruit users to participate in “beta testing”. But what about when launching a new feature in an already public product? Should you tell users that this is a “beta” feature?

Is it always a good idea to label a new product feature as “beta” when testing it? The answer, as you guessed, is “it depends”.

Different reasons you may want to use the “beta” label when beta testing a new feature:

  • Identifying bugs – To warn users that there may be bugs / issues so that you can manage expectations. You could also incentivize users to identify any outstanding bugs. You can let them explore the feature on their own and report any issue they find, or give them specific tasks and processes to complete and report any issues within those tasks / processes.
  • Getting feedback – To let users know up front that you are actively building and improving this feature, in order to get more feedback from the community. To get the highest quality of feedback / engagement, make sure that you’re making the process as easy and rewarding as possible – for example, by making it easy for the users to provide feedback, communicating regularly with them, helping them gain easy access to the new feature, and most importantly being thankful and respectful to them.
  • Marketing – “Beta” features are exciting and new. You could label a feature as “beta” as a marketing tactic to attract new interest. When you release the beta to a certain group and encourage them to provide feedback, they feel a certain amount of privilege and “buy-in” in your product. They feel like they are an active part of the improvement process and this can encourage them to spread the word amongst their friends and families. Just make sure that the beta version is presentable and doesn’t have any major bugs.
  • Testing – Beta testing a new feature by having users “test drive” it is a great way to test your product in the real world and get a feel for how it will be received by a larger audience when it is released. At BetaTesting we can help you get an in-depth understanding of the user experience, as well as organic feedback  / engagement in a real world setting.

The reasons you may not want to use the beta label on something:

  • Credibility – You don’t want to disclose to potential customers that you’re beta testing a new feature. A product in beta may still be fixing bugs or just generally be more difficult to use and less valuable. Advertising a product is “beta” definitely won’t help sell it to Enterprises that want stable and reliable software.
  • Organic engagement – You want organic engagement from the users for your new feature, without additional messaging or hype around the fact that it exists.
  • Continued development – You might be building software quickly, and don’t see any reason to publicly indicate where a particular feature exists in the development lifecycle. You may, after all, be continually refining all your features.

Learn about how BetaTesting can help your company launch better products with our beta testing platform and huge community of global testers.

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