The beta tester team
At the end of the previous blog post things didn’t look too good – we could not find enough beta testers and I was a bit low.
Finding beta testers was very important for me – I needed constructive feedback and also make the app as stable as possible. iOS 8 itself was a wreck at that time and especially keyboard extensions were plagued by constant crashes, freezes, and strange bugs (more about those in a future post) so I wanted to make sure that we do everything that’s in our power to make a great product to compensate for Apple’s own mess.
On December 8th, 2014 I was talking to Ray Wenderlich and he asked whether my email attracted enough people to beta test. I said we could do with more and he was kind enough to propose to tweet about this matter.
This is what he blasted to his 37,000+ followers:
— Ray Wenderlich (@rwenderlich)
The tweet got 3 favorites and 3 retweets within the next hour or so. To be honest I expected a bigger response but lucky for us people also started messaging me in Twitter because they wanted to participate in the Doodle Doodle beta.
When we got few more people signed Ray tweeted:
Thanks to all who volunteered to help out @icanzilb with beta testing his app, he’s set now – that will really help, we appreciate it! :]
— Ray Wenderlich (@rwenderlich)
The beta tester team spread from Canada, to the Nederlands, from Italy to Malaysia. Most important – we had testers owning each device and screen resolution in multiple configurations which was great!
The first beta version
When I agreed with each beta tester over email how the beta testing is going to go I also asked them for their device UDIDs.
The easiest way to explain beta testers how to get their UDID is to send them to this handy website – http://get.udid.io/. They only need to open this page on their device, install the provisioning profile allowing the page to get their UDID and then they can automatically send the UDID over to your email. Nice.
UDID page: http://get.udid.io/
Once I had all UDIDs and made sure that our prototype more works than not I’ve made a special build for the beta testers and sent it around.
Here’s how the start screen of that first beta looked like:
The beta version was programmed to expire after 1 month. We didn’t want old betas to linger around on users’ devices. The beta testers would anyways have all betas send to them and upon launch a promo code to claim the app from the App Store for free.
For the beta test I (naturally) wanted to go with Apple’s new TestFlight distribution service. I’ve used TestFlight before for distributing over-the-air test builds so I thought it would be a great idea to give Apple’s version a try.
Note: Apple already killed TestFlight’s app by the time I’m writing this.
It turned out Apple made a what used to be a simple process a complicated off-putting procedure. What I didn’t know was that to distribute beta builds through TestFlight you need to go through Apple’s review process. For whatever reason Apple both wanted to allow you to send around unfinished apps but also restrict you in this.
I said NO and turned back to another service we’ve used in the past. HockeyApp (recently acquired by Microsoft) works in a very similar way to TestFlight and as a security/safety bonus is made by a company in Germany. (Therefore you can trust them with your stuff.)
HockeyApp http://hockeyapp.net/ is a paid online service (starting at 10$/month), which you can cancel monthly. I just cancel my subscription when I don’t have active beta testing campaigns and then re-start it when need to send adhoc builds again. Simple, plain website that just works – I recommend it.
One last point to mention about the first build – just before sending the email announcement to all beta testers I figured out that probably not all of them knew how to install the keyboard on their iPhone.
I mean – Apple has made the procedure unreasonably complicated and scary – and actually not so many end users know how to do it. It’s just not intuitive – it’s almost as if users are not supposed to install keyboards.
So I threw in a PS to the first beta version email. If you are writing something similar to the user of your app check how detailed the write up is – don’t assume any user knows anything about iOS or iPhone
PS: How to enable a custom keyboard on iOS?
1) Install the app
2) Open the iOS Settings app
3) Select General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards -> Add New Keyboard … -> Doodle Doodle
4) This will add “Doodle Doodle Ext – Doodle Doodle” to the list of installed keyboards
5) Tap “Doodle Doodle Ext – Doodle Doodle” and switch “Allow Full Access” to ON
6) Choose “Allow” – we need this permission to be able to copy the emoticons to the clipboard
Now you can open Messages or Facebook Messager and when in a text field press the little “globe” key to cycle through your installed keyboards. One of them is the Doodle Doodle keyboard – tap an emoticon to copy it to the clipboard, and then tap into the message text field to paste it. Enjoy!
In the next days the issue of the installation instructions kept bothering me. If an experienced iOS user has difficulty finding how to install and enable keyboards what would the novice users do? And having the users not being able to install the keyboard would have totally resulted in a disaster.
So I came up with a different way to explain the process to the actually app users. More about this in the next post.