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Hopefully this question works here... During a meeting, we realized our team didn't have consensus on what a pilot test was vs what a beta test was - or when it occurs, and who it's with. Some online explanations weren't as crystal clear as I think we need.

As we near launch of a mobile app, and have a customer partner to test with - What is the difference between these two steps, and where should they exist in the process. I'm used to Pilot being to find issues, glitches, etc before going to Beta, and Beta is just before production launch, to make sure the solution meets needs. But maybe I've misunderstood.

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    My understanding matches yours. I've also heard of Alpha instead of Pilot, which is when the product is really rough. Beta is for a wider audience, before it goes to the general population.
    – Izquierdo
    Commented Oct 2, 2023 at 18:26

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The difference is actually really simple: Pilot testing is done in a controlled environment (like your own company) where you can study the product design and participants in a really controlled manner. Pilot is one of the main QA techniques.

Beta testing is released on the wild, and you can't control many of the variables, which in term provides another kind of useful information.

Usually, if you are going to perform both, Pilot comes before Beta. Also note that Beta applies always to a product design, but Pilot testing can be used in different scenarios and it's very common in UX research (for example, you can do pilot testing to test a survey to capture any eventual problems or questions you might be forgetting)

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