What is Alpha Testing? An Early Alarm for Defects
Alpha Testing is a Pre-release activity and one of the types of Acceptance Testing. Here, testing activity is carried out in a much-controlled manner and it is not accessible by the end-users/market.
A newly developed product or updated product undergoes Alpha testing in the Testing environment (which is formally called Developer’s site). Testing is carried out to simulate real-time behavior to match the usage of the product by the end-users in the market.
This article briefs about meaning, need, strategies and procedure of Alpha Testing in an easily understandable way.
What is Alpha Testing?
Alpha Testing is actually a methodology to assess the quality and stability of a product under test in the testing environment.
This phase mainly focuses on:
- Uncover show stopper bugs/major bugs (Specifically in corner areas)
- Usability Issues
- Feature gaps
- Compatibility/Inter-operability Issues
Feedback from the team which involved in Alpha Test is gathered to evaluate the Product’s quality and stability, and any suggestions to improve the product are considered.
And the main question that arises in Alpha Testing is “Does the Product Work?”.
This testing is always necessary for the products that are planned to undergo Beta Testing (most of the times, the Alpha test is omitted and directly the phase skips to Beta Testing, which is not mostly recommended).
The reasons behind conducting this test are:
- Bugs directly coming from the later phases (Beta Testing phase/after Production launch) leave a bad remark on the product and the reputation is lost on the organization that developed the product. Also, these bugs cause delays in Production launch, more effort (both time and resource) is required in fixing them.
- Encourage different sectors within the organization (sales, management, etc) to use the product and experience it. They are also encouraged to provide feedback, suggestions to improve the product which actually helps to increase the quality of the product.
- As this phase will capture the upcoming concerns that end-users have, we can build a strong Support system for the product right after the Production Launch.
- Feature Gaps can be covered or planned for the subsequent releases.
When is Alpha Testing Done?
This testing usually occurs right after the System Testing Phase/or during System Testing when a product is 70% – 90% complete which is nothing but before Beta Testing Phase.
Again this testing occurs in Phases:
- Pre-Alpha Testing: Product’s UI is ready but features are not yet implemented completely. This stage is usually where the decision on what features to go into the product is still being conducted. Proto-type of a product is continuously reviewed and analyzed for more enhancements.
- Alpha Testing: Working Product is ready for testing where the initial round of QA is already almost done.
Alpha Test usually takes place in cycles which are commonly known as Test Cycles, each of which will be of about 1 – 2 weeks. The number of cycles depends on the features included for testing and the number of issues uncovered during this test phase.
Usually, Acceptance Tests and few System test cases to support the Acceptance Tests are considered for execution.
Stakeholders and Participants
Stakeholders of Alpha Testing phase will usually be the Engineers (in-house developers), Quality Assurance Team, and the Product Management Team.
Participants in this testing will be testers (usually):
- Subject Matter Expertise in the area of domain.
- One who knows the Product well.
- Those who were involved in System Testing Phase as well.
- From different related technical environments (Technical experts)
Sometimes, customers or identified end-users may participate in testing the Alpha version of the product.
Either White-box or Black-box testing techniques or the combination of both can be adopted. Also, Acceptance tests can be preferred to be automated as this involves multiple cycles and the tests could be repetitive in each cycle. Acceptance Tests run in this cycle are referred as Alpha Tests.
Alpha Testing Strategy
Like any other testing phase, even this type of testing has the Strategy where goals and plans are well-defined.
- Approach to perform this testing activity is decided and the procedures are documented in a Test Plan.
- Features and its precise tests to be performed are identified and marked for cycles.
- Testing techniques – Black-box, White-box etc are decided to be performed in a suitable manner.
- Tests to be Automated are identified and worked upon.
- Way to report the bugs, usability issues, status are all kept as ready templates and are reviewed for correctness.
The sequence followed from Tester’s point of view:
- Gather and review the Functional Requirements from all possible documents available.
- Clear ambiguities, queries at the earliest on the functional requirements.
- Design Alpha Test Plan and review it for completeness, correctness etc.
- Design Alpha Tests for identified features – Let it be a comprehensive and precise one.
- Review Alpha Tests for coverage, necessity, traceability.
- Identify Alpha Tests for each test cycles (it’s OK even it has to be repeated for many cycles).
- Execute Alpha Tests once the Alpha version of the product is available for testing.
- Log the defects – Both Functional and UI.
- Retest the defects once fixed.
Entry Criteria for Alpha Test:
- Requirement specification documents should be frozen.
- System Testing should be:
- Completed and Signed-Off if Alpha testing is starting upon completion of System Testing.
- 70% – 90% complete and assurance to go ahead with Alpha Testing.
- Participants should be identified and trained for the product (if they are new to the product).
- Alpha Tests should be designed and reviewed.
- Traceability should be achieved for all the functional requirements.
- Testing environment should be set up and confirm the stability.
- Build for Alpha version of the product should be ready and launched with complete Release Notes.
- All the Showstopper bugs and major functional bugs should be fixed.
- All the test cycles should be complete.
- All the Alpha Tests identified for testing should be executed and Passed.
- Features are frozen at the end of Alpha Test (i.e., no additional features, no modifications to existing features, no dropping of the existing features).
- Alpha Test Summary Report.
- Alpha test formal Sign-Off.
Benefits of this testing
There are several benefits of this testing. Few of which are given below.
- An organization is exposed to the product much early to experience and leverage it.
- It helps to gain confidence in the product and leads to the launch of Beta version of it for testing.
- Costly mistakes and disasters can be avoided before reaching wider audience ie. when released for Beta Testing.
- Helps to understand the factors that impact the successful release of a product.
Usage of Alpha Testing at the early stage in Software Development Life Cycle provides a better insight into the product. It always helps to understand the target users’ point of view and experience while using the product.
Performing Alpha Testing formally and strictly helps to meet its objectives successfully and leads to Customer’s happiness. I hope that this article would have given you additional information about Alpha Testing.
Let us know your thoughts/suggestions in the comments section below.