The Reason Why You Shouldn’t Beta An App May Surprise You

© HBO 2016
Looked at from a growth hacking perspective, the beta process is quite possibly fatal to an app’s growth.

Stop the presses, you can learn something from watching TV?!?

Silicon Valley, the HBO show about tech startups, hits the nail on the head sometimes. (For those who haven’t watched season three, spoiler alert). In the latest season, we see the intrepid Pied Piper in a beta for their consumer platform. While the beta results are good, the actual release is poor and flops on its face.

I’m currently in beta for an iOS app called Venn (bit.ly.com/VennApp), a way to discover, find, save & share curated recommendations. And the fictitious Pied Piper failings got me thinking. Conventional wisdom dictates to put an app into beta (“pre-release”). On iOS, this involves Testflight and iTunes Connect. Why is this conventional wisdom?

Looked at from a growth hacking perspective, I think the beta process is quite possibly fatal to an app’s growth. Why? Think of the steps it takes to get a user. And how this effects user acquisition funnel. Let’s examine three situations:

Situation One: Social Media or Google Adwords Channels

The steps are: (1) Click on ad; (2) Go to landing page; (3) Input email (if not more information); (4) Tap sign me up; (5) This may require a confirmation opt-in email (… and then you add someone to Testflight); (6) Get a Testflight email; (7) Download TestFlight; and (8) Download the app (horray). That’s eight steps.

Situation Two: Direct Outreach Channel

The steps are: (1) Get a user’s email; (2) they need to accept Testflight invitation; (3) download Testflight; and (4) download your app. That’s four steps.

Situation Three: App Store Distribution

App store distribution gets rid of SEVEN STEPS in situation one, and THREE STEPS in situation two. Expansive user acquisition funnels are #lame, am I right?

In addition to reducing steps, I have anecdotally found that potential users are less familiar with Testflight and it’s harder to get them to update the beta, which is another impediment. Finally, Apple UX for developers with iTunes Connect and Testflight is very, very challenging.

App Store Distribution > Beta? Weigh in.

I think we can learn a lot from Pied Piper’s failings. I also think we can draw on the above analysis to really examine the underlying merits of a traditional beta. I can’t see how the benefits of a beta outweigh the tremendous cost to your user acquisition funnel. I’d love to hear your thoughts. (PS — if Erlich Bachman were around, he’d totally agree with me :) ) (PPS — Richard Hendrix is not my biggest fan :( )

About Elon : Elon is a full stack developer, UI/UX designer, data architect, growth hacker, attorney and musician. He is Lead iOS Developer of Venn (iOS, download here), a way to discover, find, save and share curated recommendations. You can connect with him on Twitter, Linkedin or at e@vennn.io.