Part 2: Concerning Beta Releases
(This is the 2nd part in an ongoing series on the Mobile App Development Process)
Going back to my Commandments of Mobile App Building, when it comes to managing the app development process you need to focus on doing less, releasing quickly, getting feedback and then turning the crank and doing it all over again. Your first release will generally take the longest to complete since you are starting form nothing. Do not expect your app to be ‘done’ after one release; it takes much iteration before you will reach a point where you’ll believe it’s done. These intermediary releases of an unfinished mobile app are commonly referred to as “Beta” releases. (Beta is the second letter in the Greek alphabet and a commonly used term in software development for an unfinished product)
Typically with a team of 2 engineers, a simple Social Networking mobile app usually takes 2-3 months before the first Beta version is released. Usually, the first Beta isn’t very polished, and I am often hesitant to show it to too many people, because I am honestly embarrassed by it.
However, the first Beta demonstrates the essence of the app, even if it’s a rough and unpolished form. By demonstrating a basic scenario, and watching how other people use and react to it we can validate the assumptions we’ve made about why people would want to use the app and if they would come back to using it. Far from being a public release, the first release of our app is usually private and restricted to a few hand picked people who we work with personally to see how they use the app.Instead of releasing it to the App Store, usually we release Betas using TestFlight. TestFlight is a free online portal you can use to distribute Beta releases of your app to a select group of testers without having to submit it to the App Store.
You shouldn’t expect, nor should you attempt, your app to go viral during its early Beta releases. The truth of Betas is that they are very rough, they are buggy, and generally don’t serve to make a great first impression to a user who doesn’t know its a Beta release. Thus, even before you release you first Beta, you should start selecting amongst your friends, colleagues and classmates those who you think will want to use your Beta.
Next in the series, PART 3: PLANNING A MOBILE APP RELEASE