What we can learn from Gmail.
For years after its initial release (remember when you had to be invited?), Gmail was in "beta", or the software equivalent of "previews". Only recently did Google strip the beta moniker from its logo on Gmail, Calendar and a lot of its other products.
Could a consumer have told the difference over the last 5 years? Not likely. Beta was just Google's way of protecting itself, yes, but also its way of saying, "We are committed to changes on a daily basis until we make our product better, and then we'll figure out even more stuff to change until we can better it still."
Not a bad way to think about any product, don't you think?
I heard a Web Marketing Guru speak about how to design a website, and he said that websites are never final; great websites are in a state of perpetual beta.
He was right, of course. By studying analytics, conversion rates, etc. we should be making constant changes to our designs to make even the smallest of improvements (increasing an surfer's time on the site, whether they sign up for email lists, etc.). A small improvement a day adds up to a monstrous improvement in a year. Your website will be a conversion machine!
But why not apply perpetual beta to other things as well?
Your advertising campaign should be in perpetual beta. You should constantly be looking at your results, making adjusting, surveying, modifying, and beta-ring your campaign.
Well, shows, as opposed to movies and books, are in perpetual beta. Films get shot, edited and released, and are never tinkered with again. Books are written, edited and published, and are pretty final. But plays and musicals change a bit each night with each audience and new actors, etc. And that's what makes them exciting. You can always find a way to improve.
What about non-show stuff?
Well, if you're a yoga-ite, then you're in perpetual beta; always stretching, extending, reaching for more.
And you know what else? Without getting too self-helpy . . . our lives are in perpetual beta.
It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work to take long intense looks at ourselves, our products, our campaigns, and push ourselves to make improvements . . . and then start over again. It ain't easy
But being in a state of perpetual beta is what leads us to professional and personal success.