Beta is Not an Excuse to Make a Poor Product: Lessons Learned from Google+

November 8, 2011

This week Google rolled out pages for Google+. A mad rush to register pages has been happening since the announcement. However, as soon as social media enthusiasts began creating pages they noticed major flaws in the service. For example, companies cannot assign administrative right to the page so for the time being, one person owns the company page. This might be okay for a small business, but it’s not ideal for larger companies. Google also says that someone cannot be tagged in a page post unless they “circle” the page first. I tested this assumption and found it to be inaccurate.

Alas, this is not a post about Google+. It’s actually a post about doing things right.

It appears that Google has been in such a rush to answer the calls from users to have brands on G+ that it created a messy and less than finished product.   Of course, technology evolves and functionality can always be added, but what happened with Google appears that they missed some obvious things that competitors like Facebook and LinkedIn faced in the past. They don’t seem to be learning from the mistakes of others and the result is sloppy work.

Imagine if this was a project that you were working on for a client or your employer. Would it be acceptable to launch a “rough draft” and then finish it later? Would is be alright to state that certain privacy settings are in place when they really aren’t? Would your client be understanding as you fix some basic functionality?

I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs biography and am learning what an excessive perfectionist he was. His hyper-attention to detail produced cutting-edge, clean products.  I admit that I haven’t read a biography on Google’s CEO, Larry Page, yet from interviews that I have seen, I know that he is a smart, smart man. Larry Page and Google just don’t seem to be as precise as Steve Job and Apple. Again, I don’t want to harp on Google.  I am merely suggesting that perhaps we, as business professionals, can learn some lessons from comparing two figures and companies who have launched very visible and often critiqued products.   We can see the difference that striving for perfection makes. Perhaps not everyone can create the next iPod, but perhaps you can create something better than the competition. Perhaps you can learn to launch products, submit proposals, create events that are beautiful, finished products and not beta versions of your best.

So when is beta appropriate?

My thoughts are that beta is what you and your company think is a finished product, but want input from others to make it better. When you are too close to something it is difficult to see the flaws. However, your products and service represent you and they should be your best effort materialized.  Rushing something to meet the pressures of the marketplace can easily backfire and hurt your reputation.  Beta is a chance to make a good product or service better, not to take the easy way out by producing a work-in-progress.

So what lessons can we learn from Google+ and the weaknesses that should have never been made public? What can you do to improve the quality of your work so that when you launch it you are producing your best?