I was finally able to launch my new product, Multi Bit Shift, a Flex multiple file upload applet complete with a Rails plugin to ease the integration. I learned a lot from this project, since this is the first that I have made use of project management software, in particular FogBugz, which I would highly recommend.
In particular, I learned that I grossly underestimated the amount of time required to produce proper documentation, the MBS website, and the product screencasts. Proper documentation is really what separates real, professional products from amateur contributions, so it is absolutely vital to dedicate whatever time is necessary to make sure everything is both well and thoroughly documented.
The website, and to a lesser extent the screencasts were also quite time consuming. I had my company, Compucated Solutions produce the design and integrate it with software that I wrote to manage the site. I am very pleased with the design and presentation at this point, but I must admit that I did spend considerable time writing and formatting content, as well as coding up the necessary software bits. I look at this kind of as an investment though, because when I go to release software in the future I have a very flexible engine that I can now quickly roll products out on.
The screencasts were also quite time consuming. I ultimately settled on the TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio product, as recommended by Jeff Atwood to produce the video. I am quite pleased by the results although I would like to be able to set the background color of the video files, and perhaps tweak the appearance a bit. While the software was a little pricey at $299 considering there are lots of competitors and viable alternatives, I ultimately settled on this particular product because it does what it does so very well. If you need to produce screencasts, seriously consider Camtasia, it is worth the premium. If you don’t need to produce screencasts, I suggest that you reconsider because they are a really excellent way to quickly convey complex information.
Besides just creating the screencasts, I also decided to make use of Amazon’s Simple Storage Service to host them. While I probably have ample bandwidth to host the screencasts on my equipment, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the users would have a better user experience if they were hosted by someone else. I have to say that, at this point, I am extremely impressed by the Amazon S3 service. It’s fast, reliable, flexible, easy to use, and inexpensive. I’m currently using the Firefox S3Fox plugin to manage the storage space. It really doesn’t get much easier.
All said and done, I believe I spent just as much, or even more time, documenting and launching this software than I actually did on the design and coding. In the future, I believe I’ll have to give much more thought in the product planning stages to the actual launch requirements (like a website, screencasts, docs, etc…) and the time required for their production.