A Large-Scale Comparative Study of Beta Testers and Standard Users

Vlasta Stavova, Lenka Dedkova, Martin Ukrop, Vashek Matyas

Beta testers are the first end users outside a software company to use its product. They have been used for decades and are rightly credited not only with finding and reporting bugs, but also with improving general product usability through their feedback and/or the ways they use the product. In this paper, we investigate whether beta testers represent standard users well enough to allow for the extrapolation of testing data to standard users. We have investigated records of beta testers and standard users of home security solution developed by the IT security software provider ESET. With more than 600 000 participants from more than 180 countries, we present what we believe to be the first large-scale comparison between standard users and beta testers. We compared several aspects of both populations, such as hardware, operating system, country of origin and EULA reading time, all taken from system data. Other attributes, such as age, gender, privacy perception and computer proficiency self-evaluation, were available thanks to a user questionnaire. We conclude that - at least in our study - beta users represent standard users well in terms of hardware and operating system in large scale beta testing. However, populations differ significantly in the distribution of users and testers between countries. This may cause a problem when a testing includes localization and usability issues that may be influenced by regional differences.

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