Beta Testing

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I’m working at 500px as my first real, big project out of University. I’ve been given a lot of responsibility for making this app a success, which is one of the reasons I’m finding this such a rewarding workplace. One of things I’ve been responsible for is managing beta testers and beta feedback. Thank god for TestFlight

What I’ve really noticed is a change in how I look at beta testing. I used to think of it as a way for me to be a lazy developer (work smart, no hard, after all) and offload a lot of testing to someone else. Now I see beta testing as a multifaceted tool capable of accomplishing all kinds of awesome things.

Beta testing engages your audience. I’ve never had an audience before, but having people who genuinely want to use the software I’m writing is an amazing feeling and effective motivation. I’m a better developer for a pre-production product because I have more people I don’t want to let down. In Paul Graham terms, I’m exposing my position to the forces of competitive pressure and I love it.

It’s also making me a more mindful developer. I’m keenly aware of user expectations because I’ve been in email contact with them already. When I make a decision or add a new feature, I’m asking myself “what are the beta testers going to say about this?”

Lastly, it’s really humanized users for me. It’s hard to empathize with users when they’re separated by an App Store review. Speaking of reviews, beta testing is a way better mechanism for getting feedback because now the developers are humanized, too. Users aren’t writing all caps, 1-star, negative reviews; they’re sending an email to me directly with helpful suggestions and contructive feedback.

Maybe I just have awesome beta testers. At any rate, I’ve never been more fulfilled with my work; the interactions I have with users on a daily basis are a huge part of that.


Posted on September 30, 2011