What is Alpha Testing? – An introduction

Alpha testing is a form of acceptance testing conducted towards the end of the development cycle. The objective is to review and confirm that the built product is ready for the market and being exposed to a larger audience. So what is alpha testing? It’s the final set of tests performed before releasing any software to be used by the public.

Alpha testing helps in evaluating stability and can identify if there are any significant usability problems in a product. This form of testing assesses the system as an end-user with the aim of identifying potential production problems early during the development stage. It requires simulating the behavior of a real-time user while testing, and attempting to run through every possible user flow. This kind of testing offers an idea of how the system will function after being released to the end-users. An alpha test also ensures that the product works as intended and performs everything as expected.

Alpha testing is an essential process within all product development companies. When it comes to functional testing, testers examine all the currently developed features and reported bugs for each functionality. This kind of testing centers more on usability, which helps with prioritizing reported bugs in real terms. This allows developers to focus their attention on the more critical bugs while leaving the non-critical off their schedule. Overall, this kind of testing helps to perfect the final product.

How is Alpha Testing Conducted

Alpha testing takes place in a staged or non-production environment, commonly referred to as the developer’s site. Testers are drawn from the testing environment as an internal activity and it does not involve consulting external or beta users.

Alpha testing follows similar processes to other testing. It begins with planning the test, designing scenarios, executing, and bug logging. A testing group is appointed, which will involve product owners, developers, and testers. Alpha testing occurs after all other types of internal testing have been completed. By now, the system will be in a stable state, ready to run real-life scenarios. The intention is to measure the system’s quality and performance while at the same time providing insights for future enhancements.

What is Alpha Testing

The team shares feedback with the developers, which can be addressed quickly by the developers and made available for retesting and additional testing. Once all issues have been addressed with no additional changes required, alpha testing can be marked complete. Sometimes sign-off is given despite a few minor bugs still open that the team agree can be fixed post-release. A major criterion to be noted is there should not be any major bugs left open.

Tips to Optimize Alpha Testing

The below tips will help you to optimize your alpha testing:

  • Test Using Realistic Data: Unlike other types of software testing where data is generated for testing purposes, alpha testing is at its most beneficial if realistic information is made available for testing.
  • Focus on User Experience: During software testing, the aim is to ensure the system works as expected, but this approach is not necessarily the main concern for the future user. A system that works but is not in a usable state is of no use. While defining the alpha testing test cases, be sure to cover aspects that involve different user roles and the experience they would have when using the software. The product must be easy for them to use.
  • Avoid Logging Duplicate Bugs: Since Alpha Testing takes place close to release, some defects may have been logged previously and deferred for fixing during a later stage. Consult earlier test reports to avoid reporting the same bugs again. Developers never like the same bugs reported back.
  • Involve the Customer Support Representative: The customer support team interacts with real users and understands any user problems. By involving a customer service representative during alpha testing, a more informed customer viewpoint can be achieved. Simultaneously, by allowing them to become more familiar with the finished product, they will be better placed to handle future user concerns.
  • Involve a new set of testers: Alpha testing is about how the system responds to user requests. Because testers involved all the way through will already understand the product, they may inadvertantly overlook certain user flows because of their familiarity with the product. Using fresh sets of eyes will provide better value. For alpha testing to be advantageous, it is good to avoid using the same testers who performed other functional and system testing.
  • Learn While You Test: Alpha testing provides an excellent opportunity to thoroughly know the system. It is a fact that testers gain knowledge about the ins and outs of an application so they can test adequately. This kind of testing exposes them to specific scenarios that can be challenging to think of when they have performed functional or integration testing on other products. Their experience of function testing and then from the viewpoint of a user through alpha testing will  improve their learning curve so their wider understanding can be utilized in future testing.

Conclusion

Alpha testing is an essential step in overall software development and the QA lifecycle. However, the process is often overlooked  when the list of planned tests drawn up. Many organizations prefer to skip this kind of testing and move straight to run beta tests. Since alpha tests help identify critical real-world issues, they offer a way to learn about potential problems ahead of time that might arise when the product is released for use by the wider public.

Author

Priya Rani

An Enthusiastic QA Expert who loves to share knowledge and experience through blogging.