Building in Public 10: Running a Beta Program
The first week of May marked the start of our 8 week beta program for our creator app. We had set out to build a version of Steppen just for our content creators. In the creator app, creators can build workouts, see who is in their community and monetise their content. But before we got too into the build we wanted to make sure we
- knew who we were building for
- deeply understood the problems we were solving
- ensure we were building stuff people actually wanted!
So we decided to run a beta program. The program ran as follows
- Went for 8 weeks with about 30 content creators
- Each week we’d get on call with the creators and chat through a specific part of the app // specific problem we were looking into
- Calls would go for 15 minutes (but nearly always went closer to 30 minutes)
- after each call we’d send share key findings with the wider team in a channel on slack
This post will run through
- How we organised and the logistics around running a beta program
- What we learnt and changes we made to the product roadmap as a result of our conversations
- Why I’d ultimately HIGHLY recommend running a beta program and why I think it was a game changer for us as company
- How we are thinking to embed the beta process into our company culture and process
Setting Up A Beta Program
When we went through the mammoth task of separating out the member and creator experience we realised we had A LOT of unknowns on both sides. To de-risk the creator app we opted to run a beta program.
I was in charge with running this project. I naturally (like most things I am tasked with doing, welcome to start up life) had absolutely no idea how to run a beta program So my first step was to figure that out… After a bunch of googling I figured out the general jist of a beta program and what we needed to do to get set up. Namely:
- Determine our clear goals of the program
- Based on our goals determine a good structure for how we should run the program
These were our goals — they are pretty high level but clear enough to influence how we should set the program up
Goals → Beta Program Structure
Based on our goals I realised we would want our beta testing to ensure
- We saw how the creators used the app
- Maximise face time to build personal relationships with testers
- Ensure we CLEARLY communicated what we were testing each week and key lessons and changes we’d make based on creator feedback
We were lucky to have an awesome partner in Clean Health who provided 20 beta testers as part of the program. This is a summary of how we ran the program
The most annoying part of the beta program was getting everyone set up… adding everyone to test flight and google play beta 😠 We eventually managed. I decided to give us a 1 week buffer between the program starting and us actually testing the app (it was needed), week 1 served as an introductory week. The full weekly breakdown can be seen here 👇
How a Typical Week Ran
- On the Wednesday the next week’s questions would be due , the person responsible for that week would write them up and then share them with the team.
- The questions sat above our list of testers which made it easy to copy and paste for each session
- You can view the template we used for our weekly questions here
- Each Thursday I would let all the testers know what was upcoming
- We’d set up a key findings board which had 4 columns
- UX improvements
- Future improvements
- We’d go through the testing sessions
- We’d aim to record all the testing sessions and write notes for each tester. Sessions I’d find particularly useful I would get other members in the team to watch
- At the end of the session we’d send a summary of the session into #user-information slack channel
- We’d note down any important points in key findings
- You can view the template we’d use for each tester here (where notes where held)
- At end of the week the product team would go through key points together, add to backlog and adjust our priorities as required
- We’d then present key learnings to the team at our weekly all hands we would always just use the below template slide
- We’d also share our learnings with the beta testers in our FB group
What We Learnt
Fitness creators care a lot about workout programs
- This is how most creators are looking to monetise → but we did not have that in our short term roadmap
- So we adjusted quickly and to make sure we had that in our July 1 launch deadline
- This was 💯 the right decision → I actually don’t know how we thought we could launch with this before… shows the POWER of a strong user feedback loop
- It was a super quick turn around from prod to get this product (probably our most complex and biggest piece ever) ready but we did (and from beta calls we did it really well). We got programs ready from discovery to a state ready for devs in less then two working weeks… 💪
The exact personas we are building for and clarity on the problem we are solving 😃
- This meant we could prioritise and better filter through the HUGE amount of information we were getting
- Knowing what to double down on and ignore is super important — you cannot do everything, you certainly cannot do everything well
Product marketing super important!
- Comms with creators highlighting new features and how to use them needs to be part of the product process
- We started writing release notes and making posts in FB group as a result
- We will also be setting up creator resources which outline a bunch of how to’s in the product
The People In Our Beta Program
Here is a little taste of some of amazing people who were in our beta program
- Lewis Arnold → UK based PT is using over 8 different SAS tools to run his business. He is spending over 1000 pounds a month on subscriptions… 👀
- Tamieka → Tassie based PT: When asked about what she thinks of Steppen: “it’s personalised for fitness which i really love i feel like it will be all round an incredible platform for all fitness people. I have already been talking about it- I have a class before and after this call. I always tell the people leaving and joining my class I am working with this great company Steppen! I am hoping for me it will be my porthole for everything rather then communication on a bunch of different platform it will all be through Steppen and i can share workouts with my clients here”
- Shir Atzmon: Has 100k followers on TT and has previously partnered with other influencers to sell workout programs as PDFs. Now Shir is looking to set up her own business so she can control the entire process herself.
- Talia Newfield: 19 year old just finished her nutrition course and is now learning how to be a PT. Has an IG account for fitness and is keen to get set up as a coach and monetising her content. After doing the beta program with us she was inspired to set up her own mini beta program practising with clients before she starts charging.
Quotes I Loved ❤️
Here are some of my fave quotes from the beta program which nicely summarises the good vibes of the program.
- Beta tester (in final session) “thank you so much for having me- been so awesome” Me: we are the ones who should be thanking u….!!
- Beta test final session: “i absolutely loved it, i really appreciated being part of this. I really love this initiative — I have been sharing it on my IG and getting a lot of traction there…”if you need any insights please do not hesitate to hit me up I really want to see this get off the ground”
- Beta tester randomly in one of our sessions: “i’m really excited but i cannot really explain why → i think because you are getting input from everyone it’s evolving into the platform i need and want”
- Beta tester on monetising online: The biggest barrier for making money from program online was time — “but with Steppen a lot of that is built in for me so it’s much more seamless.” …I’ve seen a lot of good coaches do big launches & nothing happens — we cant compete with the bigger creators in this are so one on one coaching has a better ROI”
- Creator on why they love Steppen “its probably not a single feature → but it’s overall → it’s just so much easier, myPTHub you could only really do on desktop. [Steppen] it’s just so simple and i can do it on my phone.
- Beta tester during our week on workout creation: “you guys are like Tylenol you will take the pain away and make things so much easier”
How We Will Continue To Embed Beta Testing In Our Culture
Our final beta testing call wrapped up last week — we used this call to get feedback about how the program ran and how we could improve it. I was surprised by how much the creator’s loved the process and felt they had learnt from it. Every single creator I asked if they would like to continue to be involved in product discussions and directions gave an enthusiastic yes!!
We will continue to keep creators in the loop as follows
- This sending product questions and designs for feedback text bi-weekly, this will be embedded into the analysis part of our new release rollout
- Getting on call with creators about once a month to get in depth opinion about new things we are looking at. For big projects we will look to run mini beta programs with a closed group of selected testers
- Product updates in our facebook group
Why I’d HIGHLY Recommend Running a Beta Program
We ended up with 43 creators in the beta program (then because of drop out and realising some creators were not the right fit landed closer to 30 creators by the program’s conclusion). I personally sat in on 20 creator calls a week (and at the peak 30 lol- that was a crazy week).
The amount of information we collected each week was incredible. It meant we were able to make product decisions with WAY more information then ever before. Resultantly we were making better, more informed and higher certainty decisions. Which ultimately should be leading to stronger product and business outcomes.
Personally I am really proud of how the beta program ran. Since starting Steppen I think this is my best and most impactful work. I loved getting on call with our creators and developing personal relationships with them. I loved hearing the same problem and workshopping with creators live how we can solve it.
I cannot recommend more for founders and team members to run programs like this. The muscle and practice of talking to users is essential part of building something people want. I can now say we were not doing a good enough job of this until our beta program. With the program concluding we need to take beta testing spirit into all product decisions.
Until next time!