RPR is going beta. Even though the application has been called everything from deserving of a Webby to D.O.A., this is the first time it will be used, by REALTORS, whose opinions are the ones that matter most in our world. So at long last, we will receive the suggestions, feedback, praise and criticism that we have been waiting for. We are eager for it all.
I thought it might be helpful to introduce everyone in our user community to the concept of beta testing and explain it in more detail to the uninitiated. Most of the some 600 beta testers are new to the technology world, but this is where they get to join our development team. But don’t feel left out. Testing marks the start of the collection of feedback, not the end. So even if you aren’t a part of the beta, when we’re done with the testing, we are at the start of our development life cycle. We want the feedback to continue to flow.
I come from a software development background. I worked at a mapping software company with a devoted following, and it was the kind of place where people fight to be the first to see what’s coming in the new release. It’s an honor, really. These beta testers answer to the call with great verve! They provide loads of feedback to the developers, and the errors they discover and report ultimately make the final application better for everyone.
That said, beta testing is hard work. Testers have to really dive into the application to get the most out of it. And in doing so, they discover mistakes, called “bugs,” in the software and data that require developers to go back and fix things. They won’t necessarily see these fixes right away; we’ll fix them and then group a bunch of fixes together to form a new release. When we release an update to the beta site, we’ll do our best to let the testers know everything that we’ve fixed. This will help them to see how we’re progressing against the input that they have provided to us.
Testers might also find that that they do not understand how something works, and that’s called a “usability issue.” For these issues, it’s best for us to hear from the testers about what they expected to happen, and what happened instead. We’ll look for cases where users have issues or expectations in common, as those often represent a major stumbling block. On the other hand, there will be individual users who report a unique or challenging problem, which still makes a very good point, and those too will be tackled.
Finally, testers might have ideas for features that are not on the site that would be great to see there. These are called “enhancements.” A software developer loves to know what testers think the site should do or could do that it’s not doing. Since Realtors are the ones who will use this application every day, and none of us here on the product team is a Realtor, this will be the most valuable feedback we get.
Sometimes bugs, usability issues and enhancements are easy to fix. Other times, they are hard, and will take thought or time. We’ll do our best to keep everyone posted through this site about what we are hearing and how it’s coming along.
Like they say over at Google: “Testing Rocks!” So happy testing!