Lessons from the Fall: Beta Test Hell

The Current HTTS Website: Undead and still coming for me.

The Current HTTS Website: Undead and still coming for me.

To see if I could make things easier for writers using the How To Think Sideways site, (still with the shop locked while it awaits installation of the interim site), I put together a beta test site using a theme I thought would help, and a plugin I REALLY thought would help. (Both theme and plugin shall remain nameless because I have no desire to rip apart the work of others.)

One of the writers who did the beta test contacted me after reading my post-beta analysis (link opens in new tab), worried that if I got so few responses from so many folks who had actually joined the beta test, he had no hope of anyone ever finding his work.

Not so.

Here is my reply to him:


Hi, BOB, (name changed to my all-time favorite fall-back name to protect the innocent)

I spent the weekend down with a migraine that I still have. More on that in a minute.

As for the beta test, I think what happened was fatigue.

I built the site and sent folks in to give me comments in the form at the end of the first test class.

People went in and did the comments in the form.

The form didn’t work.

I sent everyone back in to do the comments in the form again after “fixing” it.

The form didn’t work.

I set up a page for comments, and the people who had already done the damn thing twice thought, “Fuck it, I’ve already done the damn thing twice,” and didn’t comment a third time.

But I could only use the comments I had, and the comments I had were not sufficient to demonstrate to me that repainting my current sinking ship was valid use of my time.

I’d already wasted about a week building the beta, and my long-suffering testers had made two attempts using software I was hoping would make life easier for everyone on the current site, and had received resounding proof that the plugin I’d hoped would fix things would in fact… NOT.

And this process, which has a lot in common with most of my experience with building my own sites—and which is why I don’t WANT to build my own sites anymore—gave me the migraine that I still can’t shake.

Which is further proof that I need to focus on writing, let Dan do the software end of things, and make life less hideous for my head.


I wanted to let folks know where things stand right now.

Dan is running ahead of schedule, and may have the fixed interim site up on HowToThinkSideways.com as early as tonight. If he does, I’ll go into the help desk, grab all the ON HOLD tickets, and fix each of those accounts tomorrow morning. AND open the shop.

Even if he doesn’t, we are very close, and will be using the same URL for now.

The new site will go live when Dan is done building my new software, and not in a half-assed fashion beforehand.

So now I’m getting back to Episodes 3 and 4 of Tale From The Longview, so that I can get Module Four of How To Write A Series started.

Onward, migraine in tow.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

7 comments… add one
  • Margaret Jun 1, 2015 @ 15:50

    Sigh. Sorry, I’m one of the ones who did it first and not the second or third time. I was off at BayCon, and could only manage the one run before I left, so there’s that possibility too of timing against other people’s invisible schedules :). They were short run tests.

    Frustrating it didn’t work, but absolutely thankful for Dan who will let you focus on what is your sweet spot :).

  • Dan Allen May 27, 2015 @ 6:31

    The fix will be in this morning, Eastern Time US.

  • Kyralae May 26, 2015 @ 10:42

    Holly, I have to give you respect and kudos for keeping on trying to make the site better for everyone. Making a site is not as easy as all the demo videos show it to be and is a lot of work and fiddling to keep up with all the updates and changes that happen to browser ware as you go along. I built and maintained 12 websites for about 7 years before I got out of the biz. One big lesson learned is set your format and keep it there…don’t try to keep tweaking on it to satisfy all of your customers. They have a responsibility to learn to use something and after a few times it will be comfortable for them.

    I’m glad you saw the light and are going back to what you do so very well…write and teach. Best wishes and I hope the decision relieves the stress and migraine.

    • Dan Allen May 27, 2015 @ 6:30

      On Holly keeping on:

      When I was first getting to know Holly, a white tornado I know, told me “Holly is dynamic.” When I heard a tornado call Holly “dynamic”, it grabbed my attention and has held on every since. Among other things, it means Holly amazes me every day with her pace and wisdom. I am looking forward to her system being fixed and I hope it will contribute to a lessening of her migraines

    • Holly May 27, 2015 @ 9:35

      Thanks, Kyralae.

      I cannot begin to describe how happy I will be to put the sites into Dan’s hands and focus on writing: both fiction and courses.

      I suspect the stress relief from stepping away from website design and maintenance, which I’ve been doing non-stop since 1996 simply as a means to an end, and not because I enjoy it, will give me some significant improvements in health and headache-relief.

      • Holly May 27, 2015 @ 9:39

        It will for damn sure speed up my productivity.

        • Kyralae May 27, 2015 @ 12:04

          Glad my words were positive for you. I was one of those in my workplace that was the go-to to get it done and it kept piling up till I hit a wall. My brain shut down…they drove me home cause I was incoherent. The docs pulled me out of the workplace for 6 months to heal. When I went back they still had my primary job for me but had hired 3 new employees to fill the other stuff I was doing. Yeah, over achiever overload. Write with joy and let others help.

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