Hi folks. Today, I am deviating off the previous series to talk about something else that I was thinking about this morning. Not to worry. For those who have started to follow my exhaustive series on using physical devices with apps in peace and harmony, I’ll be back with part three soon. I still have some tests to run and I’ll keep notes so that I may report back to you on my findings. On to today’s topic.
Within the last few months, I’ve been given an opportunity to beta test some apps. I always wanted to do this, but was afraid of two things; I was afraid an app would mess up my iPad and I didn’t know if I had the technical know-how to report back to the developer on my test results. The second one was fairly easy to overcome, as the developers with which I’ve been able to work have been good with communications. The first one, well, the jury is still out, but so far, so good.
When I first recognized the iPad and the iOS platform to be a potentially viable platform in which to create and perform music, I always dreamed of being a part of the creation and development of music apps. I would love to develop my own, but lack the knowledge and attention span to program code. Most likely, I’d start the first line of code and….SQUIRREL!!!! That would be all the farther I got. I’m reminded of a passage I read in a biography of Geoff Emerick(famed Beatles engineer) about how John Lennon would describe how he heard a sound, by saying things like, “I want to sound like a Dalai Lama chanting from a mountain”, and he’d have to translate that into a technical way to reproduce that description(in stated example, Geoff routed John’s vocals through a rotating speaker). Luckily, there is a special place in the world for folks like me, you know, the people who think they are tech savvy, but in reality, only know enough to be dangerous. That place is called beta tester.
I’ve only had four experiences thus far, in beta testing(app developers, this is my calling card), and three of the four have been quite positive. Only one time, did I not care for the app, nor did I receive a reply from my feedback. That’s okay though, just because the test didn’t go all that great doesn’t mean it was a bad experience. Most likely, the beta test served as a focus group survey to see how well the app would be received by the community. As for the other three, Not only did I like the apps, the communication with the developer was very simple. Basically, breaking it down, I tested three apps that were brand new, and one app that was a huge upgrade to its prior version. Of the three new apps, one didn’t test well, and I think is either still being developed, or has been scrapped, due to poor reception. The second one tested well, with a few minor glitches, all repaired before release, and was released. The third, I only started to test this past week, but so far, I’ve not had any troubles, and when communicating my test results, I asked a few questions pertaining to the intent of the developer on how the app operates. I received a reply pretty quickly and had my questions answered. I expect this app to be out soon and once it is, I tend to give it a good shakedown on a video and here on this blog. The app that was an update was an app that I had already purchased, but was testing the implementation of a new feature that took the app to a new level. Again, I experienced only one problem and provided feedback to the developer, to which he preplied and thus, fixed the issue.
So, what is the point to this blog post? Other than sharing my experience with testing, I’d like to put it out there to developers that I want to test more often(there’s the plug), so if you are doing something, feel free to contact me at email@example.com and I will be happy to beta test an app. The other bit is, I wanted to help others get into beta testing apps with some helpful tips I’ve learned.
Okay, so does only testing four apps make me some kind of expert? Absolutely not, but I find that common sense and a professional approach help out a lot when doing this, as I’ve not been told I’m a jerk or anything. All I can do is give you tips based off of my personal experiences and the feedback I have received from them.
As a beta tester, I’ve found that there are a few things you need in order to be successful at testing. The first thing needed is the Test Flight app. It’s free and it allows the developer to transfer their prototype to the tester. The other tool needed is optional, but makes sense to have it, and that’s having an interest in the app you’re testing. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. I am a musician, so it makes perfect sense to test music apps, but sometimes, it helps to be more specific in your chosen interest. For instance, the app that I tested that didn’t really appeal to me that much was not geared towards my specific needs, because it was, in my opinion, geared towards musicians who needed a quick solution for songwriting and having a need for a generic part. So it stands to reason that if you are testing an app, make sure you have some type of investment in the idea; ask yourself, “Would I use this app regularly?” Another thing that goes a long way during testing is respect and courtesy. Again, that is obvious, but more specifically, try to understand what the developer’s intention was in creating the app. If you’re not sure, ask the developer some questions about what it is they are trying to accomplish. In my experience, having an understanding of what it is the developer is trying to do makes testing easier. Usually, in the Test Flight app, the developer has specific instructions on what it is that needs tested. It’s best to honor the instructions, but in one occasion, I had a few feature suggestions to offer, so I asked him if he had considered these features. He had, and we discussed them over a conversation. He knew, because of his involvement with many other users, that said features were going to be requested. He also communicated his acknowledgement of those requests and would consider putting them in future updates.
There is a downside to beta testing apps, and that would be bugs. I’m super worried that testing an app on my main iPad, where I have tons of synth patches and projects going on, and I’m not entirely sure they are backed up properly, will wipe out all my hard work. Next to losing the iPad(which I’ve done), having a buggy prototype app wiping out your data is the worst. Fortunately, that’s never happened to me. There was a time when I was asked to beta test an app, and the developer asked that the testers delete all the other apps and data on their iPads. I protested that one, as I had a lot going on within my iPad and did not want to delete anything. I think that’s why I didn’t end up getting an invite(it was also my first time testing and didn’t know I needed Test Flight, they may have sent me an invite, but I never got it). It’s probably a good idea to have a secondary iPad just for testing, that way, your data would be safe from harm when testing.
The plusses in testing, is that you get to play with new toys before anyone else. If you like the app, you will be using it on a regular basis AND you’ll already be good with it. That’s great for people like me, because when it is released, I already know how to use it enough to demo it on a video or review it in this blog. Most of the time, the tester will get a promo code for the app as a thank you from the developer, as per their discretion. Don’t expect it to happen, but if they do give you the promo code, always be grateful to the developer. It builds a relationship with them and they can count on you.
All in all, I have had a very fun time and positive experience in beta testing. I hope I get to do more of it. it provides a great service to the developer and it helps build relationships between the developers and users.
As always, thanks for reading and happy apping.
Developers, if you would like me to test your apps, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org