Beta testing is a vital part of the app development process, and Google knows it. Today, the company made improvements to the Google Play Store's beta testing services with new features that should help developers get their apps to market quicker and cleaner.
Google has offered beta testing via the Google Play DeveloperTrack this API Console for two years now. The company says 80% of developers with popular apps take advantage of beta testing to ensure their apps perform as desired before release. Developers can distribute early versions of apps as either alphas or betas, but there are limitations. For example, beta app testers aren't able review or rate apps in the Play Store.
Google said today's changes to the Google Play Developer Console are based directly on developer feedback and will let app writers more effectively run beta programs.
To start, Google is adding an open beta tool. With this, any user will be able to join an app beta with a single click. Google says open beta testing is good for testing apps with larger numbers of users. Even so, Google will let developers control open betas through download limits if they wish.
Closed betas are included now, too. Developers who want to manage their beta with a greater degree of discretion can choose closed betas, which provide access to app downloads via email address. This way developers will be able to pick who receives invitations to the beta and, eventually, the download link.
Developers will still be able to take advantage of the existing beta methodology, which involves closed betas through Google+ communities or Google Groups. Google said developers can run closed betas via Google+ and then expand them to open betas through the Play Store while maintaining the same testing group.
Vector Unit used beta testing to fine-tune the performance of its Beach Buggy Racing app ahead of its broad release in the Play Store. Vector Unit co-founder Matt Small offers a few best practices for beta-testing apps.
For example, Small suggests limiting sensitive builds to closed betas where testers are invited via email. Developers should always take the time to set expectations about buggy performance, and encourage testers to provide critical feedback rather than vitriolic complaints. Small also believes it is important to respond quickly and enable Google Play Game Services for access to more advanced features, such as leaderboards.
Google believes the additions to the Google Play Developer Console will make beta testing apps easier, and help developers gather the valuable feedback they need to conduct successful tests.
Developers can learn more here.