May 06, 2022 / Craft CMS

Why we don’t launch on beta versions of Craft CMS

Beta Craft CMS long

The beta release of Craft 4 and Craft Commerce 4 looks great, but here’s why webdna won’t launch new sites on it straight away.

As we previously mentioned, we have very much looked forward to the launch of the beta versions of Craft 4 and Craft Commerce 4. The control panel has load speed improvements, it has collections, new user management functionality, better asset management and conditional fields, as well as plenty of other new features. So, why haven’t we stopped working on Craft 3 and Craft Commerce 3 and started building on Craft 4? It is not that we are frightened of change, in fact, we are probably the most excited about the change. It is because we are frightened of things that don’t work as they should!

Bugs and feature creep

As any developer will know, it does not matter how much you test and re-test, it is very hard to stop little bugs (sometimes not even so little) from getting through the net and into the wild. That is the purpose of a beta release, to help find the bugs that the developers and internal and external quality assurance (QA) team at Pixel and Tonic have not spotted. There are always some things that just don’t quite work as they should. Unexpected user actions, edge use cases and of course just the mistakes. That is why development houses like webdna are actively using Craft 4 and Craft Commerce 4 to make sure that we are helping to find those bugs. The other thing that we find with beta releases is that they tend to be missing some features and functionality that will be available in the first stable releases. To launch using a beta would mean creating that sort of functionality ourselves which is often time-consuming and can lead to issues once we migrate the site to the first stable release candidate.

How soon is too soon?

It is not just beta releases that we avoid for live sites. We also tend to avoid the first couple of release candidates because like early versions of iOS and Android, Craft will still carry a few bugs that we don’t want to have a negative impact on our clients' websites. So we wait. We do internal development on the early versions, we learn the ropes, report the bugs and feature holes, and sometimes even suggest code to fix the problems, and we make sure that our team is fully up to speed with the changes. This is especially important for us as a significant amount of money moves through our e-commerce websites each day, a relatively small bug could cause tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of lost revenue to our clients. And that is just not our style.

Proof by exception

Like all good rules, we only apply this one when it is right! Shortly before Craft 2 was launched, we rebuilt a complicated multi-site e-commerce website for our client Walford Timber. Walford Timber is a bricks and mortar sawmill and timber yard that expanded to include three retail sites, each with its own website. Craft 1 did not provide the functionality that we needed to be able to build such a complex site, so we developed and launched it on Craft 2 beta. That process was not without its challenges but, in the end, it proved to be the right option to enable the team in Walford to deliver the site their customers need. We launched it with some features that we had built ourselves and then relegated those features as they were replaced by inbuilt functionality that had a better upgrade path.

We have eagerly anticipated Craft 4 and Craft Commerce 4, but don’t expect to find us releasing sites on it until the middle to end of the summer 2022 - so that we can ensure that all of the wrinkles are ironed out and that our sites continue to work hard for our clients without any bugs and with the minimum possible disruption.

Sam Birch
Technical Director webdna

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you with your project, why not get in touch to arrange a chat.