I think it is fair to say that software testing doesn’t always go smoothly. Sure, with Chrome OS we have the Beta, Developer and Canary channels for experiments to happen in, but the user base in those pre-release channels is quite small when you look at the user base whole. Even though features trickle down through these different channels, it doesn’t mean that things will get delivered down to the Stable channel without hiccups. Just look at the issues that plagued Chrome OS 91.
What if there was a better way? What if there was a way to test a new feature in a way that only tested people that actually aim to use said feature? That would be pretty sweet, right? After all, if I’m a user that never intends on using some new feature, I’m likely not a great test bed for that feature. Best to only surface the new feature to individuals that are interested in it if you can, right? But how do you go about doing that? How do you go about seeding a new feature out for testing to a subset of users without taking a poll or conducting some sort of upfront research? Are you tired of all these questions, yet?
Judging user intent
In a new commit surrounding the upcoming (and perhaps a bit divisive) Bento Bar that will be the persistent Virtual Desk UI on the top of your screen, it looks like the Chrome team is ready to roll out the feature to users. We’ve talked about this feature before and even covered a fix to the feature just yesterday that looks to precede its upcoming release. I’ve not tested it out yet in my daily workflow, but my guess is we’ll see it pop up whenever Google gets around to releasing Chrome OS 92.
According to this change, it looks like the new Bento Bar will only be appearing to those users who add, remove or rename a desk after July 27th and until September 7th. So, instead of rolling this persistent new piece of UI out to everyone, it will only appear to those who actually use Virtual Desks on their devices. After testing and feedback, I’m sure they will be able to figure out if the majority of users simply switch it off out of the gate or if they actually utilize it. After gathering the data, we’ll likely see a full-blown version of the Bento Bar in Chrome OS 93 in mid-September that is either switched on by default, hidden out of the box, or removed from the equation entirely.
Overall, I really like this strategy for a UI element that has the potential to be off-putting for some users. In its current form, the Bento Bar can be hidden if so chosen by the user, but I really like this method of polling only the users who actually leverage Virtual Desks instead of getting feedback from those who don’t bother with the feature in the first place. Again, I’ve not used the Bento Bar yet on my daily Chromebook, so I can’t decide if I’ll like or hate this addition to the Virtual Desk experience. It looks like it will show up for me when the feature rolls off the line – likely in Chrome OS 92 any day now – and I’ll know more then.