Saturday, March 11, 2006

unpaid beta testing and 7 sins of beta versions

I'm about worn out. Why? Beta testing problematic new software, with no pay. This is hard, frustrating, boring, annoying work.

Current Beta Tests:

A = excellant quality, simple, high usability, gets all jobs done quickly, recommendable, deserving of unpaid passionate promotion, worthy of being defended and championed

B = okay, nice, fairly easy to use, moderately fast, gets most jobs done, needs work to be really great and recommendable, almost ready for unpaid passionate promotion

C = mediocre, barely acceptable, needs much work, but good potential

D = failure, bad interface or incomplete documentation, hard to use, difficult to figure out, no Help page, Contact page is buried, worthy of disrespect, warnings, flaming, etc.

F = so wretched, it will be uninstalled, flame them if they wasted your time and treated you shabbily, avoid like the plague

* The Petition Site (no grade yet)

* Skype (Grade: A+)

* Odeo (Grade: C)

* Awasu (Grade: B)

* Krugle (no grade yet)

* Squidoo (Grade: D)

* Swicki (Grade: A, then C, pending fixes)

* CoComment (Grade: D)

* Jot Spot Wiki (Grade: C)

* TechRepublic Blog (Grade: C)

* Audacity (Grade: B)

* Firefox (Grade: D)

* Adobe Reader (Grade: F)

* Avant Browser (Grade: A, then F, uninstalled, but will try a second time)

EDIT UPDATE: I uninstalled Avant, then installed a newer build. Same problem: no browser chrome (Start, Back, File, View, etc.). Zero exo-site navigation. Then I moved the cursor toward top of browser window. Voila! Top browser chrome appears...sometimes. So hiding the user's browser control panel is somehow "innovation", "benefit", "feature"?

Avant disables, or conceals, which amounts to almost the same, all your web navigation functions? Don't you love being disable, and having to work counter-intuitively?

As I type this, and move cursor toward left edge, mysterious browser tool bar of some sort keeps popping up vertically, along the left edge of browser window.

Sorry Avant, but my initial ecstasy is now your bad. The honeymoon is over. Build 40 or whatever you're up to sucks.

Avant is fast, and retarded. When will any software engineer ever do something right? I mean, a whole product?

* Bloglet (Grade: C)

* Pollhost (Grade: C)

* Frappr (Grade: D)

* MySpace (Grade: D)

* Easy Web Stats Visitors Online Counter (Grade: A)

* MS Office Live (no grade yet)

* iTunes (Grade: A)

* Feedburner (Grade: C)

* Sony AcidXpress Softsynth (Grade: F)

Even software providers you respect commit...

The 7 sins of software:

(1) No clickable promo badge (Odeo does astonishing job at providing these)

(2) Buried Contact info

(3) No Help or Tutorial page, insufficient FAQ

(4) Insufficient user content creation/management functions

(5) Ability for users to commit Catastrophic Error, unrecoverable mistakes, with no Undo, Restore, Clear Edits, or Revert to Default options

(6) Poor technical documentation, inconsistency in terminology, user manual unavailable, forums provided to avoid email or tech rep chat channels.

(7) Poor beta tester relations, including expectation of profound and probing analyis...for free...when these software providers should just hire a usability analyst instead.

Yeah, with all 7 of those dysfunctionalities, and more, beta testing is a chore and a bore.

But somebody has to tell these engineers what they've done wrong. And for some reason, they will not hire a usability tester/analyst, they dump the job on early adaptors.

Most early adaptor/beta testers just dump a product that doesn't work right, without reporting back to the provider.

Beta versions are getting more sloppy, buggy, and annoying, while the competition is getting more intense. If a user doesn't like one product, it's easy to find competitive providers simply by Googling the technology, like "VoIP" or "customized search engines".

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