About Beta Testing
We receive quite a few requests from people who want to help us to beta-test new features. While we really appreciate the offer of help, logistically this is pretty hard to set up:
- We typically develop many different features at the same time. These features are at different stages of development at any given time - some are complete; some work with minor deficiencies; some only have bits and pieces implemented; still others are in the earliest stages. This makes the process of testing specific features a bit like walking on a minefield: you have to know what to look at, what to ignore, what to avoid. The testers also have to deal with issues like development server downtime - e.g. someone's new code crashed the whole system. We feel that subjecting even the most helpful and patient of our clients to this is not a good idea.
- Due to this, we could only start involving our clients in beta-testing when the new version is in the final 'regression testing' stage. The next hurdle is that starting beta-testing at this stage would add at least several weeks to the development schedule - and probably more.
- There is also a security consideration - access to our development environments is only possible from our offices. We have tried in the past to provide access to beta-testers by IP addresses, but that was time consuming and painful - especially with dynamic IP addresses and varied locations from which people wanted to access the system.
- Finally, the process of receiving comments, collecting them in a central place and responding to them takes a lot of effort. Our latest attempt used Google Docs - which has great tools for online collaboration in documents - but even that was very time consuming to maintain.
All in all, our previous attempts of beta-testing with clients were not too exciting - lots of effort invested for not that much to show for it. So we will keep experimenting with various approaches to involve our clients. For the next version 4.4 we have decided to try collecting feedback earlier, in a different fashion, as outlined below.
Version 4.4 Status Report
We have created three forum posts for the main features for Version 4.4 which provide a description and a number of screenshots for current work-in-progress and/or design mockups:
I would really appreciate if our clients interested in these changes could take some time to review the posts and share comments on our forums.
In addition to the main enhancements listed above, version 4.4 will include a number of other things:
- Another set of new website themes (templates) - 'Business'
- Date fields
- Field explanations
- Navigate to next/previous member/contact in the current list when viewing a particular record details
- Ability to force sending scheduled event reminders at any time (right now you can at most schedule them to go the next day)
- Route event emails for a given event to a particular person ('event manager')
- Add/remove email recipients manually (vs. always starting with a search)
We Need Your Input for future versions
A couple of complex questions were raised by some of our clients and are being analyzed by our product design team for future updates. At this stage we do not have a clear enough 'big picture' understanding of the issue to make intelligent decisions. I would really love to hear from more people on these:
- What workflow emails are really needed and which ones can be eliminated for various transactions, also depending on the payment method (online/manual)
- What are the situations and scenarios when Wild Apricot's financial functionality (invoicing/payments) is not needed / should be modified/hidden/deactivated?
What is most appreciated in these cases are detailed descriptions of how your organization works / would ideally like to see Wild Apricot work.
Are you a web designer involved in customizing Wild Apricot based websites? We would love to hear from you and get connected. Frank, the Fresh Apricot, leads this effort so feel free to get in touch - use the regular support channels, just make sure to mention specifically that you are a designer and would like to connect with Frank.
Some other resources for designers:
- Introduce yourself on this forum to get exposure to potential clients - and connect with our product design team
- Check out the Wild Apricot design showcase for inspiration and demonstration of custom(ized) designs implemented by some of our clients
- Designer tutorials
- Cool tweaks examples from other designers