Alpha, beta, gamma and lambda are the Greek alphabets of a, b, c and z respectively that once the linguist used to determine and was later used in algebra and statistics formula. The same alphabets in today’s software era are regarded as product release jargons that are widely used for any software system and application releases.
Of these, alpha and beta are the most commonly used terms and are marketed by big corporate giants like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Apple etc. Marketing is typically the driving force behind any product launch in Beta versions through which the marketers attempt to gather customer opinions and material suitable for promotion of the product. QA testing is an important aspect of software product development cycle.
Beta software testing comes after alpha software testing and can be considered as a form of external user acceptance testing (UAT). Versions of the software, known as beta versions, are released to a limited audience outside the product team. Sometimes, beta versions are made available to the open public to increase the feedback field to a maximum number of future users. Thus, Beta software testing is a complex process that, when properly executed, provides a wealth of diverse information to the owners that encompasses usability, functionality, compatibility and reliability with a perspective of the real user.
Beta software testing is an important aspect of SDLC as its owners focus mostly on the working features; unknown in deriving user expectations and functional behavior of the system. Beta software testing adds value to a product refinement and can help in improving the viability of concepts, understanding the impact of any outstanding issues and assist in deriving the major decisions pertaining to a product before it is released to the market.
The process involved in Beta software testing is that the product is distributed to customers or the end users to prove concepts, ensuring the technical capability and compatibility to determine the future of the product. Beta software testing acts as a final phase of quality assurance that is more focused on identifying the anomalous behavior of the product from the customer perspective. The feedback collected from customers can be used to compare with market research rather than technical specifications.
During beta software testing, end users will often report the issues that cannot be found or duplicated in a test lab as the eclectic and diverse nature of the beta users have the liberty to exploit the product limitation to its fullest. This input is not only critical to the product being tested but is also an investment into future product releases provided that gathered data is managed effectively by the product owners. Hence before rolling the product to beta release, it becomes equally important for the organizations that their product must pass the basic functional criteria which are normally achieved by their quality assurance departments.
On a general level, beta software testing can also serve the organizations to promote or terminate a product depending on the operational strategy. Nothing is more invigorating to a product development team or the product owners than to hear that the first customers to look at their product have positive and negative feedback revealing the potential risks of a product release.
Hence sometimes beta software testing is also referred as Acid Test of a product that is watched closely to ensure the product has no serious risks items and is usable for the end-user. Beta software testing ensures that software product works as intended and without issues during normal use and the product owners can reasonably extrapolate the same level of stability during the final release.