Last Friday was the official re-launch of Citykollen.se, the social calendar that we built for Stockholm City. It’s still a bit shaky in places (a Beta!) but a thousand times better than last time. We got a lot of criticism last time concerning both the technical structure and launching such an un-finished site. Some of it was fair and square (and helped us a lot), some wasn’t really applicable in the real world of client work in that time frame that we had. But it got me thinking.
I thought I’d write a bit about how client work differs from making your own web app. I find it difficult to find the right level of transparency when working with information and plans that are crucial to the company’s business. When we launched the site the first time we knew that it was far from finished. The main reason for still doing it was that we had information that a competitor was about to launch something similar. And as they would have had more resources it was decided that we needed all the advantages we could get. Being the first mover, for example. As it happened the competitor never did launch a new site, but that’s beside the point.
Anyway, to try and make the most of the early start Stockholm City decided to only market the site towards to a chosen few, i.e the people actually arranging the events that we wanted to have in the system. Adrian, responsible for the newspapers current event calendar, spoke to them regularly in order to make sure that the new version was built the way that they wished. But in order to let them have something to comment on we had to release something.
Private beta you might say? Well, with the information that we had that wasn’t really an option. And even if it was, why always hide everything until it works? The amount of people in Sweden knowledgeable about these matters are quite few, and I reckoned that the site would reach them one way or another. I also knew that they would come with valuable comments, though harsh in places. But in the spirit of openness and transparency, shouldn’t it be encouraged to open projects up for _everyone to comment, not just the chosen few of a private beta?
The combination of opening sites up prematurely combined with having to hold information back that was crucial to our decisions made us look like, well, idiots. I still can’t tell you everything today. It’s a hard nut to crack and if you have any ideas on how to approach it I’d be more that happy to read them.