[DELETEAgile Software Development] Rapid Software Releases: A Critique

April 4, 2007

It’s all the rage – build stuff quickly and get it out there quickly, see what plays, what doesn’t, and change in the next release cycle. Yes, I get that things need to move more quickly than the old 6-8 month design and development process (I’m talking Web sites).

But as a somewhat early-adopter user, it’s starting to get to me. When Tabblo released a new photo-book creator in “beta”, I had to first email them to ask what was beta. Because if I was going to spend hours uploading and arranging the photos in their neat little application, it had better work. (In this case, it did brilliantly, which is why it’s so tempting to try new things every now and then.)

When I tried to use Upcoming.org‘s private event functionality, because I’m too cool for Evite, the experience was abysmal. Suffice to say there are strangers who think they were invited to my party.

These sites take a fair amount of time investment. To hit up against a fatal bug after the time has been put in, and/or after the social content has become public, is frustrating. And in an environment where reputation matters, I don’t need the Web site I’m using to make me look lame.

I urge these agile sites to think hard before releasing something without testing it. Because once it’s up, some of us Internet explorers will want to try it out. It’s hard to shed the last vestiges of belief that if it’s live, it must be working.

What seems to get lost in agile development is user research and testing. Additionally, the only people you can design for when you haven’t researched your audience are… people just like you. Two of my friends were just laid off from an agilely developed social content site that never had a vision or target audience and eventually withered away from disuse.

Obviously, some of the best innovations and disruptive technologies come from projects that were untethered by ‘what the user wants’ or can understand. But not every Web site is bringing something so amazing that it should claim this exemption. And, conversely, sometimes knowing the audience deeply can result in a highly refined design you wouldn’t get otherwise.

Either way, unripened fruit just tastes bad. In a way that makes one a little wistful of what could be.

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6 Responses to “[DELETEAgile Software Development] Rapid Software Releases: A Critique”

  1. emilyshaw Says:

    Guess who this is? Mysterygirl! That’s right!

    Did you buy a book from the Tabblo site? I was thinking about making one (or possibly several) on Blurb, but if you’ve had a good experience with these other people let me know.

  2. emilyshaw Says:

    Actually, it’s not 4:09 pm. It’s 12:09. That’s EST, you wordpress.com.

  3. rekha6 Says:

    I did make and buy a photo book. I had it sent directly to the recipients who say it is beautiful. Be sure to search for coupons…there are lots floating around.

  4. phil Says:

    What you’re experiencing has nothing to do with Agile software development methods. What you’re seeing is the reality of startups where you’re obligated to release buggy half baked code to your users. If you wait until something is close to perfect, you’ve waited too long. These delays add up and ultimately harm you, especially if you have any competitors.

    However, there’s obviously a point where you can release features that aren’t ready, for sure. Finding that point is a bit of an art, but in both cases above (Upcoming and Tabblo), the companies made out quiet well in spite of the problems that you experienced, so I’d suggest that in aggregate, their decisions about when to release seem to be pretty good.

  5. rekha6 Says:

    Good to know. Is there a term for this other kind of rapid-release behavior? In the meantime, I’ll tweak the title so as not to mislead. That said, I do wonder about the ability of Agile development to keep user needs in mind…

  6. John Says:

    by giving such comprehensive feedback are you not acting doing exactly as they would want and thus perpetuating their lazy development?


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