This blog will look at the concept “Perpetual Beta”, the sixth of eight patterns as defined by Tim O’Reilly. In the current internet age, applications and softwares doesnt just rely on CD or install update packages. When devices and programs are connected to the Internet, applications they are no longer software artifacts, they are ongoing services. Development teams for these application should engage the users to be real-time testers, and structure the service to reveal how people use your product.
Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It’s no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a “Beta” logo for years at a time.
Benefits for this pattern includes:
- Faster time to market — using actual users to test your application/software
- Reduced risk — real time feedback
- Closer relationship with customers
- Real-time data to make quantifiable decisions
- Increased responsiveness
Ebay is an online auction and shopping website where people can sell electronics, cars and many other things. Ebay was founded in 1995, since then Ebay has become the leading auction site on the internet. Throughout the past 18 years Ebay has been though many changes, particularly in the UX area. So does Ebay close down during updates? No! Whilst, going to my Ebay account recently i felt something was wrong my listings weren’t showing up, this was because of Ebay doing maintenance work to improve the application for its users. Here are best practices that ebay has adopted in relation to practices that Professor Jason Watson’s from QUT pointed out during “Perpetual Beta” lecture.
(1) Release early and release often
Since its launch Ebay has been through many changes, it is said Ebay deploys a new version roughly every 2 weeks. Since Ebay is such a popular application used by many, it is essential that Ebay releases a new version to fix bugs, improve user experience and implement new features. We also have to remember that Ebay is also now accessible via smartphones by downloading the Ebay app.
(2) Engage users as co-developers and real-time testers
What better way of getting feedback and monitoring Ebay’s users use of the application then engaging users to help with the development of Ebay. One way Ebay has adopt is to have an image on the right hand side of the scroll bar that says “Tell us what you think”. This is a way of getting feedback.
(3) Instrument your product
(4) Incrementally create new products
Since using Ebay i have seen numerious new features being added on to the Ebay application. New features includes having recommendations based on previous items viewed, changes in feedback and many more.
5) Make operations a core competency
Ebay takes users data and feedback to provide users with much better experience. Ongoing day-to-day management of data and services play a large part in where Ebay is at right now.
Ebay’s use of Perpetual data has helped them continue to improve their application to adapt to the users needs. By monitoring and collecting data from users use of Ebay itself this allows fast and efficient changes without the need for huge downtime.