Beta Testing in the Web 2.0 World

November 15, 2006

beta test
n.

The final stage in the testing of new software before its commercial release, conducted by testers other than its developers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/betatest

I’ve been involved in the IT space for many years now, and the definition above was clearly supported in the traditional software development lifecycle. It seems like every product I run across now has a Beta disclaimer on their site. A Beta test obviously doesn’t have to be non-public anymore either. The entire world can now be considered Beta testers. And when is a product not considered Beta anymore? A product can be in Beta for several months, if not years. If we are now moving into the Web 2.0 world, should Web 1.0 be considered as one really long Beta test?

Why am I pondering this? The SplashCast crew is currently conducting internal QA testing and, as Alex mentioned yesterday, we will be ready for “Beta testing” soon. What does that mean to us? Well, the first few weeks will be very limited and available only to a small group of invited testers. This will allow us to get very personalized feedback and enable us to correct or change anything in the product that we missed or is not quite as intuitive as it should be. This fits my definition of a Beta test.

Then, we will open up our “Beta test” to a much larger group of “Beta testers” that have signed up via our web site. Given the nature of the SplashCast product, this essentially means the product is now public. Granted, it will be under continuous improvement based on user feedback. So when does it stop being a Beta product?

What does Beta mean to you? I believe a new lexicon is desperately needed. Any suggestions?

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Love Those Users

November 14, 2006

I read at snipperoo today that today is world usability day. Snipperoo, I hear you on that one. We’re getting ready for our beta and usability is a word that comes up a lot around here. Will Splashcast be easy enough for people? How can we make it more simple?

Snipperoo has these nuggets for us to consider:

Imagine if you couldn’t figure out how to upload videos on YouTube
Imagine if Google seemed too complex
Imagine if using Tivo was as hard as using your VCR
Imagine if your iPod intimidated you
Imagine if customizing your Avatar wasn’t any fun
Imagine if you couldn’t figure out how to comment on this post
Imagine if buying offline was more convenient
Imagine if classifieds were easier than Craigslist
Imagine if the buttons on your mobile device didn’t work
Imagine if running a blog was only for techies
Imagine if your bank teller was faster than your ATM
Imagine if del.icio.us wasn’t
Imagine if I couldn’t figure out how to publish this post

Imagine if all agencies and our clients took usability seriously?

A product, service or brand experience that isn’t usable is like a barking dog without teeth.  All bark, no bite and highly annoying.

We’ll do our first usability testing in a few weeks. We’ll have our fair share of geeks coming in to check out Splashcast. But I want people who know nothing about tech to give Splashcast a try. People who say: “Well,  is that what you mean when I click send and it goes off into space?”

Exactly. Space. Rocket ships. Distant planets. That’s where it goes. Your Splashcast goes off in a rocket ship and lands on web sites. If we can make it easy enough for people so they get it and use galactic metaphors to get their head around the concept, well, that’s fine by me.

Beam me up, Scotty. :-).