Alpha Testing in Software Testing

What is Alpha Testing?

Alpha testing is the initial phase of validating whether a new product will perform as expected. Alpha tests are carried out early in the development process by internal staff and are followed up with beta tests, in which a sampling of the intended audience actually tries the product out.

Products typically go through several stages of trial prior to their release to a mainstream audience. The alpha test phase is closely associated with proof of concept (POC) efforts.

Using the first two letters of the Greek alphabet to differentiate internal testing from customer-facing testing originated with software development, but the labels are now used by product engineers in many industries.

Phases of Alpha Testing

Alpha testing is one of the most common software testing strategy used in software development. Its specially used by product development organizations.

This test takes place at the developer’s site. Developers observe the users and note problems.
Alpha testing is testing of an application when development is about to complete. Minor design changes can still be made as a result of alpha testing.

Alpha testing is typically performed by a group that is independent of the design team, but still within the company, e.g. in-house software test engineers, or software QA engineers.

Alpha testing is final testing before the software is released to the general public. It has two phases:

  • In the first phase of alpha testing, the software is tested by in-house developers. They use either debugger software, or hardware-assisted debuggers. The goal is to catch bugs quickly.
  • In the second phase of alpha testing, the software is handed over to the software QA staff, for additional testing in an environment that is similar to the intended use.

Alpha testing is simulated or actual operational testing by potential users/customers or an independent test team at the developers’ site. Alpha testing is often employed for off-the-shelf software as a form of internal acceptance testing, before the software goes to beta testing.

When Does Alpha Testing Take Place Within the Product Lifecycle?

Alpha Testing predominantly occurs during the development stage when your product is 60%-80% complete. Before you begin Alpha Testing, you should already have completed concept validation, iterative usability testing, and initial QA and engineering testing to ensure the product is generally stable.

After passing the initial QA tests, you should also make sure selective features are working correctly and there’s a relatively low risk of any blocking issues.

To be more specific, while quality assurance teams focus on professional white box testing in controlled environments with automated acceptance tests, Alpha Tests focus on customer and employee black box testing in real environments to gather feedback on the experience of the product.

Entry Criteria

  • Business requirement and Software requirement documents.
  • Test cases for the whole software.
  • Test environment set up for the execution of the above test cases.
  • Tool set up for the defect logging and test result updation.
  • Traceability matrix in order to ensure that each test requirement is covered.

Exit Criteria

  • All the test cases created for Alpha testing are covered.
  • Delivery of testing status reports.
  • All the major issues/ critical functionalities have been covered.
  • Make sure that the logged issues have been fixed by the development team and retesting has been done by testers.
  • Sign off from Alpha testing.

Advantages of Alpha Testing

  • Helps to uncover bugs that were not found during previous testing activities
  • Better view of product usage and reliability
  • Analyze possible risks during and after launch of the product
  • Helps to be prepared for future customer support
  • Helps to build customer faith on the product
  • Maintenance Cost reduction as the bugs are identified and fixed before Beta / Production launch
  • Easy Test Management

Disadvantages of Alpha Testing

  • Not all the functionality of the product is expected to be tested
  • Only Business requirements are scoped