This post is part of the Bootstrapped Startup 50 series. The goal for the BS50 series is to cover everything that matters when bootstrapping a new startup. The posts are sequential, so it wouldn’t hurt to read from the beginning if you’re just joining in.
In the last installment of the BS50 we talked about why having a cofounder might now be a great idea. Now we’re getting ready to start thinking about actually building a product and how to plan for that initial alpha release. Alpha (or 1.0, beta, etc.) is what I call the first working release that you show to customers.
What Should The Alpha Include?
I’m a big believer in the fact that you should never show anything to your customers that is incomplete or less than your best. Design doesn’t necessarily have to be pixel perfect at alpha time, but the functionality needs to be there. Your alpha release needs to fulfill the promise that you are making to your customers. This isn’t to say that you need to spend month after month in development time trying to nail your implementation… I would rather you remove a few features that aren’t as essential and start working with customers as soon as possible.
Less Is More When It Comes To Features
The most important aspect of your alpha release is that it absolutely has to work. It’s more important to have just a few well-implemented features than have a full-featured app that still has some rough edges.
When you’re planning out your alpha you should first focus on your primary features. If you’re building a web app for managing social media then get that correct before you move on to less important features like payments, account management, etc. You can use an app that doesn’t accept payments when talking to a potential customer, but you can’t make a single sale if you don’t have a working product. Having the important features functional allows you to continually market your product while it’s still in development.
Preparing For Consistent Iteration
It’s important to consider your future product plans when nailing down what’s to be included in the alpha. You want your alpha release to be a stable platform on which you will build your future features and make adjustments. So be sure to not add in things that you’ll want to remove later. I’m a proponent of rapid iteration on your product in the early stages, so having a code base that makes it easy to bolt on new features is highly beneficial.
What are your thoughts on alpha releases? Are you in favor of more features or quicker customer interaction? Next up in the series we’ll be talking about about the importance of design.