You may have noticed the addition of a beta label on the top left of all pages on my site. If you're not familiar with the jargon, a beta version of a website, product or app is essentially a version that's mostly there but still has some bugs, modifications or adjustments to be fixed, based on feedback from real world testing.
Surely you can test it before making it public?
Yes you could do that, however, it's often difficult to recreate some testing conditions, for example for websites, you can't predict how platforms like Wordpress will behave when loading pages over mobile phone networks or you might want to optimise the site for speed on the live server rather than the testing environment on your computer.
The second disadvantage of doing this is that you miss valuable feedback from real life people / situations. I had a soft launch for my site two weeks ago and in that time I've received valuable feedback from friends and clients who've experienced it on a range of devices and network speeds.The feedback not only highlights areas for improvement but it can also highlight areas that have been executed well, think of it as a pat on the back.
@timngwena came across your site (I'm on TH too) and love love love your site— AJ.Munive. (@aj_munive) October 10, 2013
This has helped optimise the site based on real needs rather than issues which in reality make a marginal difference to a user's experience and as for the pat on the back, that inspires the developer(s) to push on (don't under estimate the pat on the back, it can be the difference between meeting your deadline and pushing it back a week).
All too often, we strive to get it right the first time around
Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that what your launch shouldn't have high standards, that's still important, you don't want the kind of fallout that Blackberry and the American Government have been dealing with in the last few weeks. That said, you do have to make some room for real life analytics, a chance for your audience (especially the loyal early adopters) to give you feedback and be part of your product's success, a chance to test your theories and assumptions before you push them out to your entire audience.
So what's between v 0.2 and v1 for timngwena.com?
Between version 0.2 to 0.5 I will mostly focus on how content is displayed and then subsequent versions will see the addition of some nice to haves that I've sketched out in my notebook (image above). The full road map looks like this:
- v 0.3 Optimisation of portfolio and blog followed by upload of remaining offline content.
- v 0.4 Update to 'About' and 'Contact' page (revised icons and copy).
- v 0.5 Tablet specific optimisations for odd resolutions (courtesy of 'Phablets' and Android).
- v 0.6 Instagram wall (really excited about this).
- v 0.7 Case Study and custom full page design (for featuring thinking behind my work).
- v 0.8 (keeping this free just in case)
- v 0.9 Final optimisations and validation
- v1 Final release. Site comes out of beta (until version 1.1 as we work up to version 2).
Post your thoughts or questions about beta products below.