Alpha Testing vs Beta Testing: Everything you need to know (2023)

Many tests are carried out throughout a software’s life cycle, each serving a unique purpose. These tests ensure the delivery of high-quality, bug-free releases. Among them are alpha and beta testing, which helps build confidence in product launch and market success. Both are user acceptance testing carried out towards the end of a product life cycle.

While alpha testing helps you validate the quality of your software, beta testing allows you to obtain real-world feedback, ensuring your product is ready for the consumer market.

Both testing types are important and crucial to the product’s success. However, there is a difference in the way both tests are executed. This post will explore their essential differences, strategies, criteria, and goals.

Table Of Contents

  • 1 What is Alpha testing?
    • 1.1 What is the Alpha testing process?
    • 1.2 Entry and Exit Criteria of Alpha testing
  • 2 What is Beta Testing?
    • 2.1 What are the different types of beta testing?
    • 2.2 Entry and Exit Criteria of Beta Testing
  • 3 Key differences: Alpha and Beta Testing
    • 3.1 Let’s have a look at the comparison table to see how they differ:
  • 4 Which one to choose: Alpha or Beta Testing?
  • 5 Frequently Asked Questions
    • 5.1 Why is alpha testing used?
    • 5.2 How long does Alpha and Beta testing take?
    • 5.3 What comes first, alpha or beta testing?

What is Alpha testing?

Alpha testing is performed before the product releases to identify errors or bugs. It is carried out in a controlled or lab environment by an internal QA team. The aim is to ensure software quality before it goes into production.

Evident from its name, Alpha testing is performed during the early stages of product development. It is conducted after system testing but long before beta testing. The testers are usually the organization’s employees, such as the QA team, engineers, or product managers. Using white box and black box techniques, the testers simulate end users’ experience by carrying out tasks the latter might likely perform.

Alpha testing employs both white box and black box testing. That means not only does it check the system’s internal structure or design but also ensures input and output functionality.

What is the Alpha testing process?

Alpha testing is rolled out in two phases:

  • In the first phase, software developers, performing white box testing, catch bugs or issues using specific debugging tools or software.
  • In the second phase, the QA team performs black-box testing and examines the application’s overall functionality.

Entry and Exit Criteria of Alpha testing

Certain conditions must be fulfilled before any testing takes place. These are the entry criteria. Similarly, specific requirements must be met to conclude the testing phase; this refers to exit criteria.

The entry criteria for alpha testing are:

  • Business requirements or software specifications documentation
  • Test cases for all requirements
  • Testing environment setup
  • QA build ready for execution
  • No urgent bugs present
  • A test management tool to upload test cases and log issues
  • Testing team with decent knowledge of the software

The Exit Criteria for alpha testing are:

  • All planned test cases have been performed and passed.
  • All critical issues have been resolved.
  • No additional features are to be added.
  • A test summary report is ready to be delivered.

Once the alpha testing is completed, the application moves on to beta testing.

What is Beta Testing?

Here comes the final testing stage – Beta Testing, where a select group of users tries out the application. The goal is to gauge customer satisfaction, ensuring the app is ready for the end user.

Real users in their actual environment perform beta testing. At this point, the beta version of the software is released to a few external users who provide feedback on the application’s design, functionality, and overall quality. These inputs help reduce the risks of app failure, ensuring the software performs as intended in the real environment.

What are the different types of beta testing?

  • Traditional beta testing: Here, the app is released to a target audience that provides feedback to the developing team.
  • Technical beta testing: The app is available to the organization’s internal employees or technical staff. They further provide their opinions and suggestions for development.
  • Public beta testing: The team releases the application through online channels to the public. Changes and improvements to the product are made as a result of customer input and data.
  • Focused beta testing: Here, the software is made available to a select number of users, who provide feedback and suggestions on testing specific features.
  • Post-release beta testing: The entire application is released to the consumer market for purchase. Any feedback or data collected is further used to improve future releases.

Entry and Exit Criteria of Beta Testing

The Entry Criteria for beta testing are:

  • Positive results from alpha testing.
  • Environment ready to release applications in public.
  • Beta sites are ready for installation.
  • A tool to collect feedback and suggestions

The Exit Criteria for beta testing are:

  • All kinds of bugs (major and minor) have been fixed.
  • A report of all critical bugs has been created.
  • Feedback reports from the target users are ready.
  • All the raised issues have been notified to developers.

Key differences: Alpha and Beta Testing

  • Alpha testing primarily takes place within the organization, whereas Beta testing takes place in the user’s environment.
  • Only functionality and usability are checked during Alpha Testing, whereas usability, functionality, security, and dependability are all thoroughly tested during Beta Testing.
  • Long execution cycles may be required for Alpha Testing, but Beta Testing can be completed in a matter of weeks.
  • Internal organisation employees perform Alpha Testing, whereas users perform Beta Testing.

Let’s have a look at the comparison table to see how they differ:

CriterionAlpha TestingBeta Testing
TestersInternal employees of the organizationA sample group of end-users who aren’t part of organization
EnvironmentTakes place in a controlled or lab environmentDoesn’t require any specific lab environment
PerformedWithin the organization or at the developer’s siteAt the client’s location or with end users
Time of testingBefore launching the product for releaseAt the time of product marketing
ValidationChecks for functionality, internal design, and system requirementsChecks for reliability and security in detail
GoalsEnsures product quality and design, making it ready for beta testingEvaluate customer satisfaction for full release
Testing TypeCovers black-box and white-box testingCovers black-box testing
DurationIncludes multiple test cycles, each for 1-2 weeks, varying with the number of issuesA few test cycles are required, depending on user’s feedback
After testingDevelopers immediately work on any identified issues or bugsFeedback received is usually implemented as future versions of product

Which one to choose: Alpha or Beta Testing?

Looking at the differences, beta testing may seem to be more essential! And why not? After all, it helps collect genuine feedback from real users. Does that mean you can ignore alpha testing? Well, not really.

Although alpha and beta testing depend on real users and different team inputs, distinct processes and goals drive them. Combined, both testing types enhance a product’s performance and lifespan.

So, instead of focusing only on alpha or beta testing, we recommend you include both testing stages in your software development lifecycle. You may start with alpha testing after the system testing phase, fix and resolve all the critical issues, and proceed to the beta testing stage to get actionable insights from end users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is alpha testing used?

Alpha testing is used to identify and resolve all bugs or issues before the app is released to public. The aim is to ensure the app’s quality.

How long does Alpha and Beta testing take?

Alpha testing typically takes 1-2 weeks per test cycle, depending on how many issues are discovered and how many new features are released. It is not uncommon for the total Alpha phase to be 3-5 times the length of the following Beta phase.

The duration of beta testing depends on test objectives. Usually, the testers spend 1-3 weeks, which again varies with the size of the app.

What comes first, alpha or beta testing?

Alpha testing comes first! The internal members of the organization perform this testing. Once the alpha testing is done, the application proceeds to the beta testing phase.

Beta testing releases a beta version of an application to a small group of real users. They try out the app for a specific period; based on their usage and experience and provide feedback to the organization.

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Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated: 01/30/2023

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