How long should a beta be?

5 May 2009 - 4:41pm
7 years ago
2 replies
756 reads
Amy Silvers

I'm working on a plan for a possible beta release of a site, and I'd
like to hear from others who have done the same. If you've worked on
a site that had a beta phase prior to a redesign or other major
change, how long did the beta last? Was there a predetermined
rationale for keeping the beta going for that length of time, or was
it more a matter of keeping the beta up until the new site was ready
to go?

My feeling is that there is no optimum length for a beta, and that
it's too context-dependent to come up with even a rule of thumb.
Obviously, it's possible to have a beta be too short-lived to tell
you anything valuable. But I'm wondering if others think it's
possible for betas to go on for too long--if the law of diminishing
returns kicks in at some point. (And then there's the case of Gmail,
with its apparently permanent beta--but I'm sure there's some
perfectly good reason for leaving it that way.)

All anecdotes, experiences, opinions, etc., greatly appreciated.



5 May 2009 - 4:43pm

Judging by your webmail provider, five years. minimum.

~ yoni

Jonathan S. Knoll
email: jonathan at
twitter: @yoni

5 May 2009 - 7:06pm
Murray Eaton

The purpose of a Beta is to get a mostly completed application in
front of a select representative group of users for feedback on
usability and design. Functionality should have been identified
during delta's and alpha's at the least.

As such, the length of the beta depends on how complete and "close
to the mark" your application is. If customers find it just what
they were after, then obviously its going to be a short beta.
However, if they find it cumbersome then you are going to need
iterative releases addressing their concerns.

On average, a beta should be 3-6 months. Any more than that and you
will quickly find your development budget vaporizing before your

If you are one of the lucky ones who got it right the first time,
then you can always end the beta early. It all depends on your
confidence and budget really.

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