Is it that time of year again? The time when you turn up your thermostat, drive countless circles in the mall parking lot, finalize your travel itinerary, and overindulge in just about everything. Itís the holiday season!

For some people, Beta and Usability testing may sound like a fun way to spend their free time off of work (or school), but the reality is, many people donít anticipate the amount of time that the holidays may demand from them.

There are certain variables that you should weigh before deciding whether or not itís a good idea for you to commit to a Beta and Usability test around the holidays. These factors make for a very interesting time of year for Beta and Usability testing. Letís take a closer look.

First of all, the holidays are crazy and unpredictable. One of the most challenging obstacles that Beta and Usability managers deal with every day is maintaining a steady rate of participation amongst our testers.

This becomes exponentially more difficult when you throw in the many distractions that the holidays bring. Family gatherings, travel, shopping, holiday parties, not to mention all the shiny new things youíll receive that may completely divert your attention from the product youíre supposed to be testing.

Also, we do understand that our Beta and Usability testers lead normal, busy lives, so you need to be sensitive to everything that may keep you from participating. For example, if you know youíre going to be traveling and away from home, you may not want to apply for our Beta and Usability opportunity this time around.

If you do decide to partake in a Beta and Usability test, you should know that we don't expect you to actively participate on the actual day of a major holiday.

However, on the days before and after, you should certainly expect to log in and give feedback when possible. Because of these unproductive days, we often will choose not to run our tests during this time or extend our test to run longer to make up for the lost days.

We have to consider that our staff will probably be off during the holidays, as well, so we may decide that it makes sense to put a test on hold and wait until after the new year.

As a result, be prepared for us to change schedules or extend tests during the holidays as things change. Do your best to be flexible and communicate regularly with your Beta and Usability manager.

The fact of the matter is, the holidays can be a very tricky time of year to participate in a Beta and Usability test. You should first evaluate your plans for the holidays, then decide whether or not youíll be able to budget the time to participate in a test.

If you simply donít see yourself having enough spare time to actively engage in the test, just wait until the new year to apply. We promise there will be lots of opportunities that will need your help.