1. It helps prioritize features. As designers and developers, the features we think are important are quite often irrelevant to our target audience.
  2. The earlier you catch a problem, the easier it is to fix it.
  3. The diversity of users and situational contexts is amazing. While we might be in our target audience, we are not the entire target audience. it’s important to cover the breadth of users who will use your app in ways that you never imagined.
  4. It dramatically increases your focus and motivation. Once people are using your application, you begin to see it in a completely different light. Every release becomes an exciting milestone instead of simply another step on the path.

Of course, there’s always a risk that the app might be so rough around the edges that people immediately dismiss it. Fortunately, this is easy to solve by slowly phasing people into the beta. Start with friends who are more forgiving and more invested in helping you succeed. Then slowly expand the beta as you feel more comfortable.

The priority of planned features for Sifter has shifted fairly dramatically since opening it up to people that aren’t me. I’ve heard many different perspectives and been inspired to create solutions I could have never envisioned on my own.

Looking back, not finding a way to launch something within the first two months is the single largest mistake I’ve made with Sifter. It’s worked out well, but I definitely wish I could have been getting feedback sooner. It’s made a world of difference in helping Sifter evolve to where it is now.

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