“Beta-testing” is a term that is kicked around in the vernacular and in the popular culture, but it is actually a part of the system design and deployment work of IT professionals that is taken very seriously by the most successful IT designers.
Beta-testing refers to the stage in design when the system is first used by those for whom the system is intended. As it is not in production yet, the size of the beta-testing group is small, and the designers select members of the user population to join the group.
Beta-testers get early access to the system and they are expected to use the system as they would when it is deployed, and some designers direct beta-testers, “try to break it.” A good beta-tester will take the time to use the system on multiple occasions and keep detailed notes on the experience.
Beta-testing ends when the designers convene the testers to gather information about their experience. One of the best strategies for collecting information from the beta-testers is a focus group. Together, the group can identify more and more important problems with the current version of the system, especially if the designer provide a live version of the system so the group can all see exactly the same functionality.
Good data collection is also organized so that it is not a “bitch session.” Many IT leaders find two questions:
- What can we do to make this more effective?
- What can we do to make it easier to use?
Will lead to better system going into production.