What is Alpha Test (Example)
March 7, 2022 Edwin Kooistra
The prevalence of alpha tests is becoming an industry-accepted practice, especially in the tech sector for innovative and new products. Let’s look at what an alpha test is and why alpha testing matters compared to beta testing.
What is Alpha Test (Definition)?
By definition, an alpha test or alpha testing is a kind of acceptance testing. It is conducted for experiential purposes to identify possible issues and bugs in the product or software. This is done before the product is put out for use to the end-user.
The main objective of conducting an alpha test is basically to perform the tasks and activities that a regular end user would on the product or service. These tasks are performed in the usual expected manner, tested, and then identified for possible issues or glitches within the process.
Identifying these issues at a stage right before release to the end customer is very beneficial, and it helps to remove these bugs and deliver a high-quality product to the end-user. Alpha testing is named because it is done relatively early in the product development process. The alpha product then moves to the next stage, known as beta testing.
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Why Does the Alpha Test Matter?
Alpha tests have gained traction and importance due to various reasons. The first and foremost reason behind its importance is that you are conducting comprehensive product testing for quality control purposes.
Secondly, alpha tests include both white and black box testing. These techniques incorporate methods for testing and checking both input and outputs in various scenarios. As the test is done in an environment that is very close to reality, it helps add in particular improvements in the software. Thus, improving the overall user experience and quality.
Alpha testing also helps check the consistency of the system and the overall framework on which it is developed. As the product is tested in identical to real scenarios, it also helps determine its usability and how the product or software can further be improved for the end-user experience.
Lastly, conducting an alpha test helps in reducing the time required for any relevant adjustment or rework in the product or service. Additionally, it also reduces customer delivery time by recognizing bugs at an earlier stage to be repaired before moving on to beta testing.
Alpha Testing vs. Beta Testing
We often compare alpha testing versus beta testing and alpha product versus beta product. Let’s explore the critical differences between alpha and beta testing and how and when they are required to be done.
Alpha testing is performed by individuals from within the organization, whereas end users are approached for beta testing. The same applies to the facility or location of the testing. While alpha testing is conducted at the production site, beta testing is done at the end users’ convenience.
Usually, alpha testing does not perform security tests and other critical reliability tests. In beta testing, they are made part of the protocol and are focused on. Similarly, alpha testing focuses on white and black box testing, whereas beta testing excludes white box testing techniques.
Now coming to time durations, alpha testing requires extensive time frames, whereas beta testing requires a much shorter time. Lastly, the issues identified during the alpha testing phase are mediated immediately in the product. Unlike beta testing, where the feedback is collected from the end-users, it takes time to be incorporated into the final product.
Who Is Involved in the Process?
When it comes to the conducting of alpha tests, the QA experts, as well as the engineers and other testers that are involved in the process, are organizational or internal employees. The real strength of alpha tests is that the testers are internal stakeholders from within the organization, generally playing a part in the product development.
This internal employee approach not only ensures a quick response to identified bugs and possible issues with the product but also helps improve internal organizational processes and efficiency. Not only that, but it is also a cost-free process in terms of finances to be invested in testers and helps provide an exhilarating user experience to your internal employees as well. A sense of ownership also prevails.
Alpha Test Best Practices
Let’s throw some light on the best alpha test practices adopted in the industry that is considered the golden standard for the efficiency and productivity of alpha testing.
- Test lab environment and set up before beginning.
- Develop test cases for all the requirements under different scenarios.
- Ensure testing on and using systems and tools that the end-user will use, not on what is readily available to you within the organization.
- Lock the software code before beginning alpha testing.
- Develop a robust traceability mechanism to ensure accountability and easy traceback of bugs and errors.
- Put your business rules to the test as well when conducting alpha tests.
- Choose the right set of internal testers from the organization, usually individuals that match the end-user profile the best.
- Always document evidence and results and prepare reports and summaries for future reference.
- Ensure that all test cases have been executed and passed.
- All severe bugs and issues need to be fixed and closed before officially signing off on the process.
Example of an Alpha Test
IBM is known for its robust and efficient alpha testing system. Using its MaaS360 system for support, it distributes its enterprise software solutions and android based enterprise apps for alpha testing and, at times, even beta testing at the same time. None of the enterprise software solutions come into being without going through extensive alpha testing.
The in-house internal support system helps track the alpha tests’ progress, collect feedback, and transfer it directly to the administrators for improvement in the product, side by side as the tests are rendered.
Alpha tests not only help us in the early identification of bugs and issues for a tech product, but they are also a suitable mechanism for improving your business processes. These tests involve the internal stakeholders while they’re focusing on achieving a common goal and help enhance cross-functional coordination and, of course, reduce operationally and rework costs.