KeyStore Explorer 4.1 – Beta Test Update, Some Thoughts on User Feedback

Last month I announced a beta test programme for KeyStore Explorer 4.1. The concept of user base driven beta testing is a new one for the KeyStore Explorer (KSE) project. Previously I have made do with my own (very extensive) pre-release testing. However, doing this testing alone was starting to bother me as I am not a day-to-day user of the tool. With some trepidation I therefore decided to take the plunge and set up the beta test programme. One month on I am glad I did.

The response so far has been very good. A handful of users have signed up and started using beta 1. One major bug was identified by a volunteer tester and has been fixed for beta 2 which I pushed out yesterday. In the process of investigating that bug I myself found a couple of minor issues which have also been addressed. This in itself would justify the beta programme for me. However, there has been another important pay-off: enhancement requests.

I have always stated on the KSE website that I am open to enhancement requests via the site’s contact form. However, I have received relatively few suggestions over the life of the project (a handful a year). Most of these have made it into KSE in one form or another or were already on the next version’s backlog as they were natural evolutions of the current feature set. I got to thinking that perhaps the users did not expect more from the tool, that it was mature enough and served their needs efficiently. The beta testers have shown me that this is not the case.

The beta test users have been making lots of suggestions as to how KSE can be improved. I have been taken aback by the amount of feedback I have received in such a short space of time. The great thing is that the suggestions are solid because they come from real users of the tool. I will attempt to incorporate some of these in 4.1. However, those that don’t make it in will be added to 4.2.

The lesson I have learned from this experience is that I can only elicit feedback from the user base if I make the effort to directly communicate with them. Simply sticking a contact form on the website and saying that I welcome feedback is not enough. It is too impersonal and reminiscent of the forms that appear on many corporate websites. Sites where requests appear to be being sent directly to /dev/null for all the response you get.

The beta test programme and my recent blogging about KSE have certainly been steps in the right direction. I will also look into other ways to engage KSE’s users going forward.

So if you want a say in the future direction of KSE then let me know. You can use my impersonal contact form or just leave a comment on any of the KSE blog posts. I do read enhancement requests and, where they make sense for the wider user base, implement them.

Also, I am still accepting beta testers. Nothing would make me happier than for you to break KSE. The more the merrier.

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