Running a Beta on Windows Phone

As many of you know, over the past couple of months I’ve been developing Foundbite for Windows Phone 8 and running a beta version of the app which has around 800 users. While nowhere close to the number of beta testers that apps like 6tag and Instance had, the testers have provided just as much value and it’s been great receiving and acting on it. Through running the beta I’ve used several tools which might well be useful to others looking to run a beta on Windows Phone.

Getting People Interested

So you need beta testers, where do you find them? Being part of AppCampus I was in a lucky position and able to drum up interest through their social media channels. However, the two other biggest channels I received sign-ups from were WPCentral and WMPoweruser.

WMPoweruser just requires you to draft up a post on your own but is definitely worth the effort. Although the site’s content isn’t close to the standard of WPCentral many Windows Phone users read it, especially in emerging markets. If you can reach out to the guys at WPCentral and see if they are interested in covering the launch of the beta. We were lucky enough to get a great bit of coverage from Rich Edmonds at the start and a month into the beta.

Dealing With Signups

I’ve noticed developers using all manner of tools to collect beta signups including having to email the developer directly, Google Docs, tweeting or posting in a forum. These are all far from ideal. Not only do you not have a list of all the people interested in using your app but any time you wish to send them an email you have to copy and paste all those names into an email to BCC.

May I now introduce MailChimp.

MailChimp is a emailing marketing service that allows people to sign up to your beta using a nice sign-up form, collect info about them such as name or device type if they chose to give it, it’ll then give you a nice list of your signups which you can easily send an email to should you need it. Best of all MailChimp is free. Yep, free. The only condition is that you don’t send more than 12,000 emails a month – a limit I didn’t come close to.

MailChimp also allows you to segment the list of testers. For example, users were signing up to the Foundbite beta every day and I didn’t want to miss adding anyone on or send people a signup email repeatedly. Segmenting the users by date, adding them on, sending them an email, then the next day sending emails to the users that were added since the last email was sent worked well for this use case.


Getting users from MailChimp into the Windows Phone developer centre

After getting articles up on WPCentral and WMPoweruser I had quite the influx of users and lots of emails to enter into the Windows Phone developer centre. Each email has to be added to a semi-colon delimited list which can be a bit tiresome.

To make this process easier I made a little Windows Forms app that takes in a CSV form (which you can export from MailChimp or Google Docs), verifies all of the emails and then pastes them to the clipboard separated by semi-colons. Download and find out more about it here.

Windows Phone Email Beta Helper

Windows Phone Email Beta Helper


Make it easy for people to give you feedback

In Foundbite, from any page of the app a user in two clicks a user can send an email asking for help or to report a bug. This has been really instrumental in getting some really useful feedback from the app.

In the app the user can just slide up the menu to send feedback.

In the app the user can just slide up the menu to send feedback.

The emails are sent to a Uservoice account where I can see all the support requests and also provide users with a forum where they can vote for features and prioritise them for development. Best of all, it’s free for a single user.

It’d be great to hear if anyone else has any experiences running a beta on Windows Phone and any tools they’ve used to help them.


Windows Phone Beta Email Helper

Whilst running the Foundbite beta I found it a little bit annoying importing users that have signed up (through my Mailchimp mailing list) by copying and pasting from an open CSV in Excel and then having to add add a semi-colon at the end of each line in the Windows Phone developer centre.

Thankfully the beta has been pretty well received and after carrying out this laboured process several times, it dawned on me that I could probably make a program to do this for me. So I did.  True story.

With the helper you can import a csv file of emails from any source Excel, Mailchimp, Google Docs etc. and it will churn out a list of comma delimited emails. I also added some email verification code to ensure that no invalid emails get added.

Dead simple really.

Open CSV file containing email data and rename column to “email”:

Windows Phone Beta Email Helper

Open the Helper, select the csv file and there you are:

Windows Phone Beta Email Helper

If there’s an invalid email, it’ll flag it up:


Any programmer worth his/her salt can probably make it in far less time than me, but since I have, why bother?

Download a .zip containing  the Windows Forms Helper