Software developers, as they are readying their product for market, need to, at some point, trial their software in a larger environment. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that the developers need to know if they are on the right track or in other-words have been listening to their user community and have picked up enough significant knowledge to move the product forward. As they are coding in features they need to know the value of the features and what’s important.
The second major reason for beta testing is the software has to be hammered out for bugs. You could not go to market having only trialed the software on a small community of users hoping to uncover all the potential bugs. Often by the time software has gone through a fairly rigorous beta program there are few bugs when the software goes live. It is unrealistic to think that all bugs will be uncovered during the beta but certainly the most significant bugs will get ironed out.
Why Would People want to Beta Test Software
When users sign up as Beta testers it is suggested they use a non primary product to do the work as the bugs might be significantly more than a nuisance. However, there is a Catch 22 to this scenario. If you’re not using the software actively it is unlikely you will discover the bugs. Thus, the purpose of running a Beta test might be doomed to failure.
The user might want to Beta test for more than one reason. They might want to:
- see a product before it is released
- they might want to input to its development
- they enjoy participating in the creation
However, in doing so they might impact their workflow significantly. As an example, I was beta testing IOS 14 and when we got to Beta 4 an odd but nasty bug turned up. Every-time I would try to enter a character in OmniFocus the program would always crash. After loosing significant time, I had to revert to the regular IOS app. This was a huge amount of work also. Was this all worth it? Absolutely. However, you need a certain kind of disposition or attitude to be able to work effectively.
Being a Beta Tester has its Perks
When you’re a beta tester, you see the software long before it’s ready for market. If you’re planning on including something in your wok-flow, you will know if it is viable before others. I am not saying that not having this access is a great dent to your production however, you might find that the path the software is on is in accordance with what you’re trying to do.
Beta testing often involves customer feedback around the tone of the software and what it will be attempting to do. The idea behind beta testing is not solely to seek out bugs before the software hits market but also what the software needs to do and does do. A good beta can provide competitive advantage in that it highlights what the customer finds valuable to their production. Being a beta tester is not therefore only something top do with ensuring the stability a product but also its viability. You as a beta tester can have hand in the outcome of a piece of software.
Beta testing can allow you to get a front row seat to up and coming software and software revisions. However, one must remember that you are running beta software that might be relatively stable or might be filled with bugs. Part of your job is the discovery those bugs before the software goes live.
As discussed, some people might choose to put their beta software on a secondary machine in which their critical apps aren’t running. This could ensure that you don’t have a fatal failure due to the software. However, because it’s running on a secondary platform the usage pattern is likely different, To uncover any bugs could prove extremely challenging.
Many people use the software on their primary system assuming it is stable enough. This may or may not prove the case. Regardless, if you’re running software that is not stable it will slo you down at a minimum and in a worse case scenario it might damage your work entirely.
As an example, I was running IOS 14 beta 4 on my primary iPhone and ran into a problem with an app. Every-time I would go to create a new entry, as soon as I pressed a character key the app would quit. Testing this from every angle, it suddenly dawned on me it was likely the beta software. The only way to determine this was to get the software of the device to return to the production OS. This proved to be no small piece of work.
With the time used running into the problem and the lengthy time reversing to OS13, it was definitely a bug in OS14 causing the problem. Fortunately I didn’t loose any more than time but a great deal of that was lost. Some who are beta testing on their primary systems have had it far worse. They not only waste time but may loose all their work finding the backup is corrupt.
It’s difficult enough to produce something but to loose it entirely due to bug is more than annoying. With a lost backup to re-create something is often more daunting than creating it in the first place.
Approaching Beta Testing
If you do choose to be a beta tester, be prepared for any of the more extreme potential downsides. Working with the product actively as beta’s are released is going to tell you more about the system and allow you to identify issues more easily.
Additionally, you will be engaged with the product in an active sense. You will be dealing with the reality as it evolves as opposed to sometimes working with it and sometimes not. My preference is to work with what I will be inevitably using and trying to ensure that it is as functional as is possible without jeopardizing too much of my mission critical work.
There are basically two ways to be a beta tester. The one approach is a safer method in which you try to identify the positives and trap the bugs so they don’t reach the consumer using a secondary system for beta only testing only
In the other approach you work with your active system. This ensures you’re more likely to identify problems and that the system is working more in the way you want it to for productivity. The second approach is more effective but also could be costly to your own work. I would rather take the chance on the second approach knowing that the end results will be inevitably far more effective.