Should you use your fans as testers?

Since I joined Beta Family I’ve discovered a tool called Mention, which lets users monitor certain phrases that are important to them. For example, I’m always on the lookout for app development companies that need beta testers and with Mention I get an overview of all social media channels and forums where companies are searching for them. It’s great!

Using Mention I noticed it’s common for fans of games and other applications to contact companies directly and offer to be beta testers. This is quite interesting and I reckon worth chatting about, because there are some aspects to consider when using fans as testers.

In a previous blog post I discussed the idea of using your testers as marketeers. However, when talking about fans and their ability to test new apps we’ve reached a dilemma, because I believe they’re not the best beta testers.

Why you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

When you’re dealing with fans you have to realize they have high expectations and a preset idea, sometimes unrealistic, of how the app should be. If the app doesn’t deliver on those expectations the feedback might be overly harsh. It can also lead to the beta testing fans bad mouthing the app on social media and forums where other fans are. If fans are used in the testing it’s important you clearly communicated your vision and what you want the app to achieve to avoid this situation. At the same time, this sometimes harsh feedback can be very useful and help you make improvements in upcoming updates.

Testers that don’t know about you don’t have this problem. They’re beginners with completely fresh eyes and will give you unbiased constructive feedback. Often the goal with an app is to get as many people as possible to use it, right? Well, since your fans are already familiar with your products, things that are easy to them might be complicated to beginners. Therefore, using feedback from fans you might accidentally make the app too difficult and block off potential new users. And let’s be honest, we don’t wanna miss out on new customers.

But aren’t there positive aspects as well? Of course there are!

There are a lot of great reasons to let fans do the testing. They’re devoted to your products and are often happy to do the testing for free. They truly want you to make better apps and succeed. You don’t have to spend time and money finding beta testers as they’re right there and willing to work, often contacting you asking to be testers. And you can be sure your fans will do their best to help you!

We talked earlier about the pitfall of not meeting high expectations. Obviously the opposite can apply. If you smash it out of the park and get fans excited they will tell their friends and other people about their experience, creating word of mouth and free advertising.

Also, you can learn a lot about beta testing fans if you ask the right questions. When you know a lot about your users you can find their “twins” on social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, because those sites know so much about their users. I don’t mean actual twins of course, but rather people with the same interests etc. In other words, potential new customers.

So who is the optimal tester then?

There is no universal answer to this question as there are so many different reasons for testing products and services, however there are some characteristics to keep an eye out for.

Since the tests can be quite difficult it’s always helpful if the testers have a technical background, or at least an interest in learning the technical side of things. It’s also good if they have an interest in testing the app’s limits to find errors and don’t just do it to be among first trying it. They should have good communication skills too, both verbal and written, as they’ll have to explain their findings.

Great testers practice to improve these skills so you should look for testers with a lot of experience. Unfortunately it can sometimes be hard to find all these characteristics in a tester and perhaps even more so in a fan without testing experience.

So to conclude, I believe your products and services will be better off if you use experienced unbiased beta testers and clearly communicate your expectations to them. Having said that, it’s also valuable to invite dedicated fans to join the testing once in a while, just make sure you don’t solely rely on them. Also, a really cool thing about involving fans is that they tend to get real happy when they’re involved!

Beta Tester of The Month – September 2015 – Jerrod Kerwin-Sweeney

Wow, time flies! It’s already September and time for another Beta Tester of The Month. This month we’re happy to feature Jerrod Kerwin-Sweeney! He’s got an eye for user interface design and enjoys innovative and creative solutions. Keep reading to find out his tips for beginner beta testers.

Name: Jerrod Kerwin-Sweeneyjerrod

Age: 20

Nationality: American

Interests: Game Development and Design

Devices you own: Samsung S3, iPhone 4

How many apps have you beta tested?

I have tested over 60 applications, including the apps I tested on the Beta Family site.

What’s your best quality as a tester?

I personally think my best quality as a tester is my eye for UI design. I’ve worked with UI and UX designers for a while know and I like to share what I’ve seen in my own work.

What’s your favorite app?

My favorite app at the moment is Reddit is Fun. I use the app daily and I think the mobile platform is very convenient. My other apps are mainly for work, media, and scheduling.

Do you have a favorite app developer or company?

I don’t play mobile games as frequently as I used to. It would be unfair for me to list a specific developer as my favorite without playing the most recent releases, and my devices are somewhat dated so it’s difficult for me to judge the quality of a game on what could now be considered a low-end device.

How come you started with beta testing?

I started with QA and beta testing because it complemented my chosen field.

What kind of apps do you most like to test?

I enjoy testing a variety of apps. I enjoy seeing the innovation and creative UI solutions that smaller devs can present. I’d say I enjoy testing apps that aren’t music or messaging related the most.

As you’ve tested lots of apps you must have encountered many bugs and faults. Is there one bug or fault you see often that you feel developers should know about and fix before starting the beta testing?

The one issue I notice the most is bad text formatting. It doesn’t matter how robust or attractive your UI is. Simple formatting issues like messy text wrapping or alignment will throw off the appearance and polish of your entire application. It’s an easy fix but it is too commonly seen.

Why are you part of Beta Family’s community?

I am a part of the Beta Family community simply because of the convenience on the testers’ side of things. I like being able to help smaller teams that are trying to get new apps off of the ground. It’s been interesting to see how the service has developed over time, and my overall experience has been very positive over the years.

How long have you been a member at Beta Family?

I’ve been a member at Beta Family for 3 years.

Do you have any tips for newly started beta testers?

Be critical, test beyond what the test report is asking you to test, and don’t be afraid to be honest.

What’s your philosophy towards beta testing?

I think beta testing is useful for smaller companies, but I also think it is something that should be geared towards testing usability rather than bug tracking. I don’t mind doing bug reports, but a straight forward test report allows for more feedback about the application itself to make its way back to the developer.

What three things do you need to be successful in beta testing?

To be successful in beta testing you need excellent written communication, an honest opinion, and an eye for UI design.

What are the best and worst things about beta testing?

The worst thing about beta testing is the test reports. Sometimes the language barrier or poorly structured test reports make giving feedback very difficult. I’d say the best thing about beta testing is the feedback you receive from the developers and test owners for delivering a high quality test report.

Would you rather test apps for bigger companies or new start ups?

I’d rather test apps for bigger companies. I have no problem testing apps for smaller startups but it’s interesting to see both sides of the market, and in the past I’ve done more testing for smaller companies.

What makes an app exciting to test?

Seeing creative solutions to common problems is what makes an app exciting to test. I enjoying seeing unique designs and concepts in their earliest stages, and it’s even more rewarding seeing those apps make it onto Google Play nd the App Store.

How many apps are on your phone right now?

I have almost 40 apps on my personal phone, not counting stock apps. Most of them are for daily use and not game related apps.

Are you a gamer? If so, what kind of games do you like?

I’m an avid game and I enjoy FPS games for the most part. I tend to play more PC games in my own time.

Thanks to Jerrod for being our September Beta Tester of The Month! We love having so many fantastic testers here at Beta Family and hope you enjoy reading about some of them each month. You can check out other featured beta testers in our older blog posts.


Malin Klockare Gullesjö
Malin Klockare Gullesjö is working with Beta Family’s online profile. She has previously worked as a community manager on social media in the tourism industry.