How GreatAlbum private beta has gone much differently than expected

Author Erik

Date 05 - 07 -21

Reading Time 10 minutes

When you read articles by experts on how to launch your product, they all say you should be able to build and launch your minimum viable product (MVP) within weeks or months, so you can gather user feedback quickly and determine if you have any hope of achieving product-market fit (PMF).  I knew this, and yet our journey for GreatAlbum has still grossly violated this guideline. Some of the factors were by choice, and some very unexpected.  

Built MVP; Launched Private Beta

When I assembled a small team to develop the GreatAlbum MVP, I thought it would take us about six months to get the MVP up and running. I knew it would be longer than experts recommend, because my team would be learning Drupal on the job, with help from an expert consultant. And then of course COVID impacted the team's productivity. So, it took us 8-9 months to launch our MVP in November 2020.

Priorities from User Feedback

At that point, we ramped up our first 15-20 users and we did start to get some good feedback. From that, we knew there were three major features that were missing:

  1. Media Import: While users could manually link individual pictures from Google, we needed to create much more scalable ways to import and organize media from Google Photos 

  2. In-Line Comments: The content streams on the home page and on album pages needed to allow users to comment on content right in those streams, rather than having to click into the content item and comment there

  3. Notifications: Users needed to be able to specify when they wanted to receive notifications about new content, comments, likes, follows, etc. - either in the app or by email

Media Import

We already knew that we would have to build the Media Import functionality, so we developed a custom module that we launched in February. 

Rebuild on OpenSocial

With the other two, we looked at options to use contributed modules or to build our own. In the end, we decided the best course was to take advantage of the great social functionality that the OpenSocial distribution of Drupal has developed over the past five years. Unfortunately that meant taking all the functionality and theming we had developed on native Drupal and porting it over to an installation of OpenSocial distribution. So, in February, we paused our Private Beta and got to work on this.

Beta5 & Beta6 Sprints

Our Beta5 Sprint installed OpenSocial and extended the architecture/functionality with additional content types (Articles, Individuals, Places), relationships between two content types, and views to display them within and across albums. Oh, and we also renamed Groups to Albums (see why).  Then our Beta6 Sprint introduced Media Types (which don't exist in OpenSocial), media views and relationships with other content.

Restarting Private Beta

We're nearing the completion of porting GreatAlbum onto an OpenSocial distribution, and really excited to restart our Private Beta program with much more robust user engagement and feedback. This Private Beta has taken far longer than we expected to evolve, and we've probably made as many mistakes as we've avoided, but it's just part of our journey.

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