The Complete Guide to App Beta Testing

You came up with an app idea, did your market research, prototyped the app and you actually built it.
Next stop…the app stores!
Hold on there killer…
Are your sure that you squashed all the bugs? Is your user interface the best it can be?
I hate to break it to you, but the answer is: probably not.
Although I’m sure that you have a great app, there is one small problem. You need to get more than one opinion of your app.
So before you go live, beta testing will give your app that last bit of polish that will give it the best chance of success.
In this post, we will go over what beta testing is, what it involves and how you can get started right now. 

What is Beta Testing?

When we Google the definition, this is what we find:
Beta testing definition
The key here is that the testing is carried out by a party that is not involved with its development. This is important because when you are closely connected to the project, you can start to take certain things for granted.
You might also project too many of your personal biases on the app and that may not be what your target audience really wants.
So don’t skip the app beta testing process.
Side note: Why is it called beta testing? This term was supposedly invented at IBM. If you are interested in the origins, you can read more on Wikipedia.
But now that we have that out of the way, let’s jump into how to actually do the testing. It is a simple, three step process.
First, you need to choose a beta testing tool…

Step 1 – Setup Your App Beta Testing Tool

TestFlight (iOS)

Apple recently announced that you can now invite 2,000 beta testers for 60 days, instead of the 1,000 people for 30 days, which was allowed under the previous TestFlight terms.
This is great news and you should take full advantage of this capability. We will get more into how to find those 2,000 beta testers in the next step.
TestFlight for iOS app beta testing
If you want a detailed technical walkthrough on how to setup your iOS app for beta testers, this excellent tutorial on Ray Wenderlich’s site will take you through the whole process.
There are other ways to beta test an iOS or tvOS app, but since this is an Apple product, we are going to keep things simple and suggest that you use their tool.

Google Play App Beta Testing (Android)

If you are developing Android apps, you will probably start on Google Play, so what better tool to use than Google’s native beta testing tool. It’s available for free in your Developer Console, so it’s a no-brainer.

Amazon App Beta Testing (Android)

Amazon also offers a beta testing tool in their Amazon Developer Console. They have an A/B testing tool that they say can be used for beta testing.
This may or may not work for you, but it is a good place to start.

HockeyApp (Windows)

HockeyApp for beta testing apps
HockeyApp is another testing tool that has been around for awhile and allows you to test iOS, Android, OS X, Unity, Xamarin and Windows apps. Since they were acquired by Microsoft last year, it is more than likely that they will phase out support for Apple products.
Therefore, you should probably only use it for Windows, since that will be their main focus.
The platform has a nice suite of tools that also includes crash analytics for beta testing. Windows is very much the (distant) third choice for a lot of developers, but if you do get that far, HockeyApp is certainly a good option.

Find What Works For You

Those are just a few of the options out there and new products can come out at any time. But we like to keep things simple and are only recommending one tool per platform.
There might be something that works better for your situation. So take this as a starting point, but also do a little research before you invest a lot of time and energy in a testing platform.

Step 2 – Find Beta Testers

Now that you have the tools to do the job, where do you find the people to do the testing? Here are a few ideas…

Forums and Communities

The first place that most developers think of, when it comes to finding beta testers, is public forums. While this is not a bad idea, it probably isn’t the most efficient use of your time.
While you can certainly find a few, very supportive app testers on these forums, there are also a lot of Debbie Downers on these sites too. They just want to talk crap about everyone and everything. If you are willing to tolerate that, then go for it.
Forums like iPhoneDevSDK are a good place to start for iOS apps.
Private communities are usually much better regulated and a more constructive use of your time, in my opinion.
Of course, we have Bluecloud Select, which we feel has the best members ever.
But we are also a little biased 🙂
The bottom line is if you are going to go this route, test several different sites and see what works best for you. But there are other options for getting more testers…
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Facebook Ads

If you have some money to spend, Facebook ads can be the fastest way to get targeted feedback. Like my buddy JP says, you aren’t paying for advertising, you are paying for data.
When people click your ads, they are not only potential beta testers, but they are also giving you more data points. Is this an app that people are interested in? What features in your app are the most appealing? Which demographics are interested in your app?
Facebook ads can give you this information…and much more.
To get started with Facebook ads, read my blog post.

Use Sites Like PreApps

Preapps vote ups
Websites like PreApps can be a great way to get beta testers for your app. It can also show you what people like in these communities by the number of votes each app gets.
You might get turned on to a new marketing angle or feature idea.

Social Media

If you have a following on social media, be sure to ask for beta testers. Since these people are into your apps already, it should be easy to get a few quality testers.

Ask People You Meet

ask people you meet
Finally, don’t overlook the obvious. Ask your friends, co-workers, people you meet at parties…wherever.
Getting feedback from random people can give you fresh perspectives from people outside the app world. You might be surprised and what you discover.

Step 3 – Iterate Based on Feedback

Now that you have some feedback on your app, it is time to leverage the time you spent beta testing. Create a list and prioritize your app updates.
At this point, it is also useful to revisit reviews of similar apps to see if there are any similar requests from users of other apps.  Yes, you did this in the market research step, but since you are going to be making some updates to your app anyway, why not go back over those reviews again?
There may be new reviews or something that you missed. 
After you have your list of changes prioritized, there is nothing left to do but go execute. 


Beta testing can be the difference between having a super successful app and having an app that falls by the wayside. The more effort you put into creating an app that people want, the greater your chances of success.
Even if you have already launched your app, it’s still not too late to beta test.
Make your next update awesome!
Also be sure to add all of your beta testers to an email list so you can notify them when when your update is launched, and thank them for their efforts. They are also an instant source of downloads from people who are already interested in the app. 
So get started right now…your success depends on it.   
Got anything to add? We would love to hear your strategies in the comments below…

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