A soft launch is the release of a product or service to a limited audience as a method to:
- Focus effort and budget on product/service development rather than promotion;
- Gather information on product’s/service’s usage and acceptance;
- Test functionalities and guide future developments, namely what features to add or to drop;
- Detect major usability flaws with real users in real use-cases.
As developers, we are often asked to share our views on new business ideas and challenged to present a proposal. Preparing a thorough proposal for something "new" can be quite problematic and in some cases we strongly recommend our clients to do a Soft Launch:
(1) If the current information allows us to build an initial, low risk version that addresses major core needs, we can present a reliable quote and deadlines for a soft launch version. This is the case when functionalities, technology and workflow are already known ground.
(2) If some functionalities are at this stage insufficiently specified, with too many options still “open” (completely different solutions with different degrees of complexity and cost), we strongly believe that further interaction is needed to understand exactly what needs to be done.
(3) If some functionalities require the use of new technology then a more in-depth analysis, research and tests are needed (in some cases we might need to develop a new solution from scratch; in other cases it may be better to integrate an already tested solution or service).
If conditions (2) and (3) are met we also advise our clients to perform a more thorough study. Most of our clients are happy to pay for a detailed and accurate analysis because it enables them to have a better control over the project (e.g. deadlines and budget). These project evaluations provide an accurate and useful report on the work that needs to be done with a high level of confidence in terms of cost estimates, technical assurance and realistic deadlines. That's why we charge for it.
Meanwhile, all project stakeholders can benefit from trustworthy feedback from initial users engaged with the soft launch version and use that knowledge to make better decisions for the next stages.