Skip to main content

TestFlight and the Importance of a Private Beta

The most important thing about the product is making sure it addresses the customer need.  I wanted to share my experience with one tool that made it easy to distribute and get feedback for an iOS app.  You should use this or similar tools for your application or you will run a risk of shipping a dud.

You can have the best architecture, you can have the sleekest styles and the coolest user interface, but if you can’t get the users to use your app – it’s not worth much.  To minimize the risk of shipping a dud because of wrong features or system incompatibility I highly recommend that you conduct a private beta using a tool like TestFlight.  If you are building an iOS app, TestFlight allows you to upload a build of your app and then invite your beta testers to try the app out.

  1. The first thing to do is to sign up for a TestFlight account.  Once you have set up an account you can start inviting members of your team.
  2. When your team joins you can gather their device identifiers (UDID).  You need the device identifiers because your private build is only going to be allowed to run on a few devices. 
  3. The testers then get a notification and sign up for TestFlight, upon joining they can connect their device and supply their UDID.
  4. After your beta testers have uploaded their UDIDs you will need to go back to the Apple developer portal and upload the new UDIDs so that you can create a profile that includes the new devices.
  5. In XCode -> Preference -> Accounts -> View Details you will need to referesh the profile so that you have a provisioning profile with the latest UDIDs.
  6. Next time you build and export an IPA it should be installable on the testers devices.  Upload the IPA file to TestFlight and notify beta testers about the new build. 
  7. Testers then follow the link from the e-mail or from the TestFlight website to get the latest build and it downloads directly to their phone.

You can see that the process is a little bit involved, but I believe that’s the best you can do with the current iOS distribution architecture.  There are a few things that will happen as a result of the private beta: some people will not install your app, some people will install it and encounter problems, some people will install it and ask for features, some people will install it and want to know when they can get the final version.

All of those events are useful:

  • If no one goes through the trouble of installing your app, you are probably not addressing an existing business need – it’s time to get back to talking to customers and learning more about their problem space.
  • When customers encounter problems it means that your testing needs to expand and you might need to add coverage on systems and devices you haven’t tried before.
  • Feature requests are good too, it means that people were interested enough to try it out but need something else for a complete solution.
  • If your customers ask you when they can get the final version you’ve hit the jackpot – your app will actually help someone.

Do not skip the private beta.  You do not want to spend marketing dollars or time before you got some feedback on your app.  When you finally launch with good feedback you will have customer testimonials and the right feature set.  You can market your successes and your users will help you.


PS: if you have feedback I'd love to hear from  you on Twitter @mikebz
PPS: If you like this post you might also enjoy: "Don't hate on Startup Code" and "So you want to start a mobile app business"

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

SDET / QA Engineer Interview Checklist

After interviewing and hiring hundreds of engineers over the past 12+  years I have come up with a few checklists.  I wanted to share one of those with you so you could conduct comprehensive interviews of QA Engineers for your team.

I use this checklist when I review incoming resumes and during the interview.  It keeps me from missing areas that ensure a good team and technology fit.  I hope you make good use of them.  If you think there are good questions or topics that I have missed - get in touch with me!

SDE/T or QA Engineer interview checklist from Mike Borozdin
If you like this checklist you might want to check out these posts:
Emotional Intelligence in Software Teams  and Good-bye manual tester, hello crowdsourcing!

Two Critical Questions for Your Next Interview

I’ve interviewed probably over 500 engineering and management candidates over the last several years.  There have been a lot of really smart people who have applied at DocuSign, Microsoft and Tempo Automation. A surprising number of them didn’t have a clear answer to these two essential questions:

Why are you interested in joining our team?Why should we be interested in you? 
If you are an applicant, having a prepared answer for these questions is critical.  If you are a hiring manager, you should ask them and have a clear answer to these questions at the end of the first interaction with your future team mate.

In a field where work is somewhat predictable and static, those questions are less critical, but in software development perseverance, ingenuity and focus make all the difference. These are the two main questions that will separate a subpar and a superb hire.

When I discuss those two questions with an applicant I try to go below the surface.  Generic answers like “it says you ar…

Ego in Your Decision Making

Oxford dictionary defines Ego as: “a person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance”. It says that it is “responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.” For a lot of us techies those were really important functions that probably served us very well early in our career.  We had to be assertive, we had to choose a coding style guide, pick our frameworks and “be decisive”.  However when it comes to engineering management the same things that used to help might be turning into a liability.

When my job changed from writing code to creating an environment where the best code is written - it took me a while to understand how my ego was holding me back.  I kept applying the old tricks - defining the architecture, the final design and task priority.  What ended up happening is those things led me to turn off a lot of the best and brightest people on my early teams.

I remember the feelings of being aggravated when I had to go over an explain my decisions and get buy …