If you’ve convinced some people to be beta testers for your product, you are already way ahead of most product development teams. Now your challenge is to convince your beta testers to give you feedback. Many beta testers are interested in gaining first access to a new product but not so keen on actually giving feedback.

Get those beta testers talking to you… Get those beta testers talking to you…

As the product owner, you’ll need to convince your beta testers to give feedback. Here are some techniques you can use.

1. Ask at the right time

The three best times to ask for feedback are:

  1. In a “thanks for being a beta tester” email. When giving someone access to your beta version, state clearly that, more than anything, you want feedback.
  2. While someone is using your beta version. Make sure your product has an obvious way to directly give feedback. For a web app, this could be a “Submit feedback” link on every page. For a mobile app, put this link in your settings screen or on your welcome screen.
  3. Soon after someone uses your product for the first time. Automate the sending of an email for each beta tester’s first time signing in to your product. This email should thank them and remind them how important it is to you to get feedback.

In all three cases, make it clear exactly how to give feedback. Don’t make the user have to search for the best means to give feedback.

2. Make it easy to give feedback

Your beta testers are doing you a favour by testing your product. Remember this, and remember that they are always just one click away from the many distractions offered by the Internet. Your beta testers need a way to give you feedback almost as soon as they think of it.

Don’t force your beta testers to go through a series of complicated steps. Make your minimum feedback requirement no more than a single sentence. Of course, you should also make it possible for the user to give more detail where appropriate.

Avoid having a complicated signup process for a feedback gathering tool. The process of signing up can be enough for the beta tester to lose interest in giving feedback. It changes their mental context from “I really want to give this feedback” to “what password should I use?”

3. Acknowledge the feedback

When a user gives feedback, they’ve helped you out. No matter how positive or negative their feedback, no matter how creative their suggestions, you should thank them and show that you are listening.

If you are sending a newsletter to your beta testers or showing a change log at startup, thank your most prolific beta testers by name in the newsletter or change log. Most of us appreciate receiving some public acknowledgement.

If your feedback tool allows it, use it to add an appreciative comment to the beta tester’s feedback.

4. Iterate quickly

During a beta testing period, you can improve your product rapidly because your user base understands your product is prone to rapid, breaking changes. Take advantage of this and act quickly on some of the feedback you get from beta testers. Release frequent updates that include changes suggested by beta testers. Many beta testers will lose interest before too long, so by iterating quickly you’ll get a chance to get those changes tested and retested.

How quickly should you iterate? I’d suggest daily during the initial part of your beta-testing program.

5. Use the right feedback management tool

If your beta program is successful, you’ll get swamped with feedback. Make sure in advance you have decided on how users should submit feedback. Here are some options:

  1. Feature Upvote. We make Feature Upvote which we think is perfect for managing feedback from beta testers. Users don’t need to create accounts, can vote on existing suggestions, you get notified of all new feedback, other users can comment directly on each suggestion, and you mark each feedback as “under consideration”, “planned”, and “done”. But clearly we are biased. So let’s continue this list with some other options.
  2. Email. The easiest thing for a beta tester is to click on a “mailto:” link or to reply to an email from you. Even if you don’t use email as your primary means of collecting feedback, you should still accept feedback via email. In this case you would manually copy their feedback into your feedback management tool.
  3. Google Sheets. If you use this approach, you’d give all your beta testers “edit” access to a shared Google Sheets doc. Just about everyone already has a Google account, so your users won’t need to sign up for anything. Make sure the sheet clearly states how users should add suggestions.
  4. Bug tracking software, such as Jira. This is a good option for an in-house product, where your beta testers also happen to be employees of your company. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for products with a wider user base.

Whichever option you choose, make sure to remove any barriers that make it harder than necessary for users to give feedback.