A beta tester is someone who tests a product before it is released. Product testers help companies identify weak points in their products that could cause consumer frustration. They also identify specific issues that need to be corrected before a product can be released. Typically, these individuals test several incarnations of a product until it is deemed ready for release. They most commonly work with electronics and software.
Most beta testers will testify that their job is exciting, especially since testers have access to cutting edge products before they are released to the public. As much as it is satisfying, the job can also be demanding. Testers often work with the same product for hours and may have to repeat tasks many times. To ensure that the product will hold up, a beta tester will often use the product beyond its normal usage.
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Some people work for companies that specialize in beta testing services. They may be sent products for home review, or they may work in a lab environment so that their work can be easily charted and monitored. Because they work with products that have not been released yet, they usually have to sign confidentiality waivers to protect the company's product for competitors. Someone who is a beta tester may not be able to discuss their projects with others for this reason. In other cases, testers are employed by specific companies that like to test their products in-house. The same confidentiality restrictions typically apply.
Depending on the stage that the product development process is in, a beta tester may be given a product and told to perform specific tasks, or he or she may explore the product more generally. He must think about the features that a consumer might want or need, and if the features are hard to access, are not intuitive, or are nonexistent, he typically makes a note of it. The tester also takes note of flaws in the product, like instabilities in software that cause it to hang, terminate itself, or behave in other unexpected ways.
It can be expensive to send products through beta testing, but most companies feel that the cost is worth it because it ensures that consumers will have fewer problems. Learning about and fixing issues with a product before release allows companies to avoid customer dissatisfaction and product recalls. Companies want to ensure that their products are durable, reliable and work as expected.