Dev

Using Feature Flags to Run Betas

Mar 08, 2017

Lately, we’ve been releasing most of our larger features as betas first. We do this in order to launch an MVP of the feature, then have people test it while we incrementally improve upon it. For invoicing, we ran betas for line items, invoice logos, and sending invoices. Currently, we’re running betas for time tracking and accepting payments through Stripe. We use “feature flags” to toggle these betas.

In all honesty, there’s not much involved in implementing feature flags. On the user model, we have a features column, which is an array of strings. Each string is a key that we use to identify a beta (invoicing, time_tracking, etc.). When a user asks to be part of a beta, we simply add the beta key to the features column and they’re good to go.

On the front-end, all we need to do is show or hide features based on whether the keys exist in the user’s features array. For the Stripe beta, we enable the ability to authorize the integration. For the time tracking beta, we simply show the tab for the time tracking section. This way, the backend never needs to know about anything.

Well, almost never.

So far, the only beta that was tricky to toggle was invoices with line items. Previously, we only had invoices with a total amount, so the line item beta required the backend to handle both types of invoices. Still, this was easy because it simply meant calculating a total for line item users and manually entering a total for everyone else. After that beta, we decided to only release betas with a simple toggle on the front-end.

For customer support, we use Intercom, which lets us tag users with specific properties. We tag beta users with the features that they’re testing and we segment them to send messages to only the testers. For our time tracking beta, we created an automated onboarding message that appears when beta users visit the time tracking section for the first time. This has been incredibly helpful for setting expectations and listing the sub-features that we’re actively working on.

As we release new betas and people request to be a part of them, using Intercom tags, we can easily see if the person has tested a previous beta. If someone has tested multiple betas, we could easily message them when a new beta is ready to test.

Because betas have a “private“ feel, most people assume that we limit the number of “spots”. We actually welcome anyone who asks. As long as they’re well-aware that the feature is in-progress and might have a few loose ends, we’re always open to another set of eyes.

If you’re interested in testing any of our new features, hit me up inside Cushion and I’ll invite you to the beta.

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Archive

  1. Restructuring an Evolving App: Part 1
    Design
  2. My Typical Week as a Founder
    Story
  3. Building Components in a Sandbox
    Dev
  4. Reactive Time with Vue.js
    Dev
  5. Visualizing Daylight Saving Time
    Dev
  6. Recording Screencast GIFs
    Dev
  7. Writing a Job Listing
    Story
  8. Using Feature Flags to Run Betas
    Dev
  9. Our First Company Lunch
    Story
  10. How to embed Vue.js & Vuex inside an AngularJS app... wait what?
    Dev
  11. Funding Cushion
    Story
  12. Hiring a Team of Freelancers
    Story
  13. Taking a Real Break From Work
    Story
  14. Slack as a Notification Center
    Dev
  15. Document Your Features
    Story
  16. 300
    Story
  17. Vacations
    Design
  18. Offering Discounts
    Design
  19. Waves of Traffic
    Story
  20. Less Blogging, More Journaling
    Story
  21. Retention Through Useful Features
    Design
  22. The Onboarding Checklist
    Design
  23. Spreading the Word
    Story
  24. From Beta to Launch - The Subdomain
    Dev
  25. From Beta to Launch - Sign up
    Design
  26. From Beta to Launch - Messaging
    Design
  27. Launch
    Story
  28. Authenticating with 3rd Party Services
    Dev
  29. Intro to Integrations
    Design
  30. Inspiration vs Imitation
    Story
  31. The Emotional Rollercoaster
    Story
  32. Designing Project Blocks
    Design
  33. Everything in Increments
    Story
  34. Deleting Your Account
    Design
  35. Designing the Subscription Page
    Design
  36. Rewriting the Timeline
    Dev
  37. Restructuring the Individual Project Page
    Design
  38. Project Blocks
    Story
  39. Redesigning the Homepage
    Design
  40. Multiple Timelines
    Design
  41. Archiving and Estimate Differences
    Design
  42. Multiple Financial Goals
    Design
  43. Zooming in on the Timeline
    Design
  44. Currency
    Dev
  45. Preferences, Accounts, and a Typeface Change
    Design
  46. Sending Out the First Email
    Story
  47. Currency Inputs, Notifications, and Invoice Nets
    Design
  48. Dots and Lines
    Design
  49. Calculating in the Database and Revealing Tendencies
    Dev
  50. Improved Form UX
    Design
  51. Cushion is Online
    Story
  52. Schedule Timeline Patterns
    Design
  53. A Slimmer Schedule Timeline
    Design
  54. The Schedule Timeline
    Design
  55. Plugging in Real Data for the First Time
    Design
  56. Transitions and Project Lists
    Design
  57. Death to Modals
    Design
  58. The Individual Project Page
    Design
  59. Estimated Incomes and Talks with Other Freelancers
    Story
  60. Statuses to Lists and the Paid Beta
    Story
  61. The Timeline
    Story
  62. Invoice Terminology
    Dev
  63. Modal Forms
    Dev
  64. Wiring the Backend to the Frontend
    Dev
  65. Balancing Design and Dev
    Story
  66. Timecop, Monocle, and Vagrant
    Dev
  67. Going with Ruby and Sinatra
    Dev
  68. Ditching local-first and trying out Node.js
    Dev
  69. Switching to AngularJS
    Dev
  70. Building the Table with Vue.js
    Dev
  71. Clients, Projects, and Invoices
    Dev
  72. Introduction
    Story

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