When the software has reached an approved level of functionality and stability it can be released for user trials. Alpha testing (the first trial) is performed by users under the supervision of the software developers. Beta testing (the second trial) is undertaken by users in their normal work environment.
If your software is sensitive or confidential, testers should sign Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) prior to being provided with your software. The form should make them aware of the benefits the software may confer (that is, it does x) and that after the Beta test is complete, they'll be presented with a free release copy. They should also be advised that there's always a chance that the test software might crash their system.
Selecting test groups is a sensitive business. You want them to be representative of your market, and they should fit the following criteria:
♦ Fall within your prospects' age range
♦ Have a suitable level of computer competence
♦ Be using the operating systems and hardware for which your program is designed
♦ Need your program
♦ Work in a firm of the target market size (the style of their organization, academic, commercial, informal, or tightly structured, may also be a factor)
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