Guest post written by Aaron Franklin, co-founder of an application designed to end procrastination and forgetting.

LazyMeter has now been in beta for 7 weeks. Our first cohort of first users have already completed hundreds of actions using LazyMeter. After being told repeatedly to “just get to beta”, I now know why:

  • Extra Motivation: Having users adds purpose and urgency, so our pace has increased significantly.
  • Better Prioritization: Instead of guessing what to build next, we listen to our users. Our top priorities have changed, and we’ve discovered important features we hadn’t planned.
  • Validate Usability: What you think makes perfect sense can be completely misunderstood. The sooner you solve usability challenges at the core of your design, the better.
  • Improve Messaging: Beta isn’t just a test of a product – it’s also a test of its messaging. Beta helps you fine-tune your messaging so users get hooked on their first visit.
  • Data: Beyond user feedback, there’s a lot to be learned from monitoring usage patterns.

Some lessons we’ve learned from our beta:

  • Set realistic expectations. Many outside the industry will not recognize the meaning of the word ‘beta’.
  • Encourage negative feedback. Especially if your users include friends and family, you need to make them comfortable providing negative feedback. Ask “If you’re using it, what can be improved? If you’re not using it, why not?”
  • Don’t just ask for feedback – hunt it down. Speak with the users who aren’t responding to your requests feedback – they’ll have some of the best insights.
  • Listen. It’s easy to respond to feedback by explaining how something works, or why you did it that way. Don’t just respond to feedback – seriously consider if something should be changed.
  • Find patterns. If you get the same feedback or question more than once, take serious note.
  • Parent-proof your product. The user interface needs to be natural, and also backed up by detailed documentation from day 1. If your parents can figure out your product, your target audience will have an even better experience.
  • Beta is just the beginning. We have a lot of work to do.

We are making improvements based on the first group’s feedback, and then we’ll open up to a second cohort. Thanks to those who have been waiting patiently.  I’ll share more details about LazyMeter as we approach a more broad release.

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