In my post back on November 9th, I indicated that I have been busily coding away on an "Alpha" release. The Alpha1 went live this morning and is an early preview release suitable for consumption by very forgiving audiences (i.e., my own family). The release contains first phase core functionality and a very bare bones user interface. In the earlier post, I confidently declared that the release would be available "before Thanksgiving at the latest". Doh! Did I really say Thanksgiving? I meant Christmas! Okay, I have to confess that I missed the deadline by 11 days. You can rest assurred that my tardy delivery is not going unpunished: the CEO has cut my salary in half and my business partner has given me several severe reprimands. Nonetheless, my spirits remain high, and I look forward to a plethora of suggestions and bug reports from my family. I've already compiled a lengthy list on my own.
In honor of the Alpha release milestone, I have updated the FamZoo Web site from being a straight redirect to my blog to being a very simple splash page:
You'll notice that I incorporated some feedback on the logo from Mark, Ben, Shawn, and several others (many thanks!). I ditched the striped tail idea - keeping it clean and simple and removing any possibility of competition for attention between the lettering and the icon. I widened the chimney a bit. And I aligned the bottom of the paw-in-house icon with the baseline of the FamZoo lettering while adding some spacing between the two. Despite all my prior rationalizations for insetting the "F" beneath the eaves of the house, aligning the bottom edges just feels more balanced visually. I also want to thank Morgan at Designs That Work for the vectorized version of the paw-in-house icon which he kindly supplied free of charge. As a vector graphic, it can be scaled smoothly in PaintShop Pro and still look crisp at any size. (Morgan says it only took him a few minutes, so he did not feel good about charging me despite my offer to do so. Of course, it would have taken me a long time to figure out how to do it properly, and I think this qualifies as a perfect example of "mensch behavior" as described in entry #2 here. Thanks Morgan.)
I am also considering going with a more rounded font and perhaps using VAG Rundschrift Light: Despite its trendy Web 2.0 status, I still think this is a clean and appropriate font and I plan to try it out with the logo this week.
So, what's next on the release front? Having been a huge fan and practitioner of iterative development for many years, I plan on doing a succession of preview releases while gradually widening the audience of handpicked participants over the next few months. (Note: If you are interested in participating in one of the FamZoo preview releases, please send me an email at "info at famzoo dot com".) Provided that the exposure and expectations are properly contained, I think getting something crude but usable in the hands of protypical users as early on as possible and then incrementally refining it based on feedback is a superior model for building great products. This is consistent with the spirit of entry #3 in Guy Kawasaki's "Art of Bootstrapping" list: a maxim he calls "Ship Then Test". Of course, as an engineer who believes fervently in the importance and responsibility of rigorous testing, I would never call it that. (I'm sure Guy was just trying to be provocative, being a marketing/evangelist type person and all.) No, I would not wish untested sofware on anybody - not even my own family!