Review of Monzo's Android Beta, Release Notes & Use of Labs! 👨‍💻

Heya everybody! :wave: Specifically the Android users among us :wink: (And of course the Android dev team over at Monzo!)


I’ve been running Monzo on my Android device(s) since September 2016 (technically I installed it several months prior but that was when the app consisted of a queue with an excited Hot Chip at the end telling me to hang on until the app was launched on Android :joy::hot_coral_heart:)

As many of you know, I have been keeping track of Monzo (Android) beta changelogs for a looong time: Monzo for Android - Beta Channel Changelog

It’s been exciting, I love keeping up to date with the changes and it’s fun to scroll back through 18 months worth of screenshots, changes and discussion :smiley: but I have started to notice something… Something I don’t like and would truly love to see Monzo change :crossed_fingers: that would be the way Monzo handle both Beta’s and Labs experiments!! :eyes:

I’m not going to sit here and hate on Monzo :hot_coral_heart: They’re doing amazing things, they take feedback onboard and I hope this is another case of that :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: Haha! I’ll start with the Beta.


Monzo Beta for Android:

Like I said a second ago, the Beta is great and I’m always digging around inside the decompiled Apk over on Monzo’s Slack :innocent: It’s nice to get some features a week early but here’s one thing I’d love to see be improved: Release Notes!

They have gotten a lot better, less animal facts and more, well, facts :smile: But often times a beta gets pushed out with what I’ll call ‘wishy-washy’ notes… I know that Monzo can’t drop every last bit of info into these notes but I’d imagine there’s some internal release notes (for the Android team) and then public release notes. Anything under NDA can be discounted - i.e. detailed info about upcoming releases, partnerships, labs, etc.

Any user facing change should feature prominently at the top of the release notes for beta users! :smile: The thing with the Beta is it’s intentional… I don’t have any statistics :bar_chart: but I am pretty certain that nobody accidentally joins the beta channel for Monzo :joy: You would certainly notice that you were doing so, hence you know what you’re in for (or so I would believe).

I can’t speak for every user but I think that as a Beta tester volunteer I’d be super happy with a bullet point list of high-level changes

  • We updated the settings page
  • The card freeze graphic was updated
  • Feature X was removed
  • Feature Y was added…

I wouldn’t expect this week’s release to say “Finished off all the Interest on Savings pots work”, not until Monzo as a whole was ready to sign off on that, i.e. with a Blog post and via Labs or a switch in the backend to enable it for all customers (staggered roll-out I’m sure). :honey_pot:

But Beta should be another avenue to have outsourced testing & feedback from a small-ish user base. The custom app icon is a great example! It was executed perfectly IMO :tada: They pushed out a change, it broke for some customers and the same day (iirc?), if not next day, a fix was rolled out reverting that change! :grin: I missed the awesome logos :joy: But that’s what a beta is there for, break it for the users who know by telling them exactly what’s changed. That way we know what to test :wink:

I am being a bit harsh here, the release notes have been miles better than how much wood a woodchuck can chuck :laughing:


Labs Experiments

This has been a hot topic a few times, the way that Labs experiments are handled. :thinking:

It’s been discussed several times but I won’t start reading through all of that - I will no doubt be repeating things which have been said in the past but I really think it needs to be said again :see_no_evil: I’ll try to put my own little spin on it though so it doesn’t feel like Déjà vu :innocent:

  1. Labs needs to last longer
  2. Labs experiments need to be iterated on a bit more
  3. Labs feedback needs to be acted on* (*within reason, don’t turn v1.0 into v7.0 just to get it out of Labs! But definitely put v0.5 into Labs and take it out once it hits v1.0… Not v0.9)

Isn’t it awesome when you see a new experiment in the Labs menu? :wink: I don’t know about everybody else but I think it’s awesome! :tada: It’s exciting getting to try something new and have the ability to shape its development with feedback which always gets acknowledged! :hot_coral_heart:

I think adjective which best describes Labs as a whole would be rushed. From a business point of view I can understand that; you don’t want to sit on a feature for too long because people will lose interest, it also can’t stay in Labs for too long because people who don’t enable it will eventually feel like they’re missing out… There needs to be a middle ground :smile: I think taking advantage of the beta & TF releases of the apps (meaning Android & iOS devs working more closely) and iterating on v0.5 of ‘the feature’ in Labs would be great. :grin: Progress gets pushed out 1 week after everybody’s had their chance to poke at it and give feedback, then they see some changes made. Once everything is bug free and Monzo are happy that it’s hit v1.0 then push it out to the masses. :+1:

Pot goals was an example, I saw my screen fill up with suggestions and feedback but it almost seemed as if the attitude was “it’s done enough” … “ship it” despite there being loads of really fab suggestions, most of which still haven’t been seen yet. :sob: I think my favourite one was the bar colour, going from red to green as it fills up :chart_with_upwards_trend: it could even be the Monzo colours :joy: Coral for <25% light yellow for <50%, blue for <99% and then green once it’s filled :tada:

Then there’s more complicated things, which absolutely don’t need to be in v1.0 (but could be) such as an ETA on your goal… "If you continue to save the £X.xx every 7 days, it’ll take you “9” weeks to fill your pot. :grin:


I don’t want to ramble on :sweat_smile: (I think that ship has sailed :ship:) but so many people are willing to help test feature and releases for Monzo. I cannot say that about any other bank :joy:
What I’m not trying to do here is knock what Monzo are doing :innocent: Scheduled, deadlines and targets need to be met but I think that rushing things out is risky, I won’t call them half baked but certain things could certainly do with a bit more time in the oven :man_cook::yum:

It would be brilliant to see things hit Labs and stay in there until they’re polished & refined, not just getting it out there to say that it’s done :grin:

TL;DR

Monzo could handle betas better, leave things in labs a little longer to polish them up before shipping and try to utilise the many willing beta channel users to test features before they get released to the masses :tada::hot_coral_heart:

Labs is a fantastic idea, just needs to be used more effectively, same goes for the beta channel on Android :wink:

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Agree with your post @nexusmaniac and thanks for sharing here. I wish there was little less emphasis on those emojis though. They distract me.

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Great write up Marcus :heart_eyes:

I’d like to see a Monzo response if anyone has the time, especially to the labs and beta uses points

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Sorry :see_no_evil:… You should’ve seen the first draft! :sweat_smile:

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Brilliant write up and analysis!

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Great writeup and I believe it echos what a lot of us are thinking :slight_smile:
I agree with 95% only with an ios twist

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Hi Marcus,

Thanks for this post, we really appreciate the time you’ve taken to share this feedback - and the detail you’ve provided!

First up, thanks for being an Android beta tester. We’re glad you’re happier with the release notes atm. We’ve been working on making sure they’re useful for our testers but we hear that you’d like even more information. So we’ll work on that.

Usually we have staff versions of release notes, which we ‘tidy up’ for the public releases and betas. But maybe we could explore giving you more of the raw info - where we can. Because as you say, it’s not always possible.

And we hear you on Labs too. Labs has been great for us to get feedback on things from our community before they’re released more widely. But we haven’t always done the best job of communicating how it works.

We want to improve this too, by being clearer about why something is in Labs, what kind of feedback we expect from the community, and what it means when something comes out of Labs. Expect more on this soon.

So we agree with you. There’s always room for improvement (even the Beta program is itself, in a perpetual beta!) and we’ll work to make things better.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Let’s keep talking.

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I definitely feel like the labs process is improving all the time.

A few of the recent ones like Bill Splitting and 3D Secure have been really well run with a main person from Monzo providing regular feedback to the community and things which were changed during labs listed in the out-of-labs blog post.

The fact that these were all things asked for by the community and then acted upon makes me really look forward to the labs of the future.

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It’s been just over a month :calendar: I’ve been keeping the Android changelog thread alive and well but I figured I’d revisit the thoughts that I’d posted here and maybe respond to your awesome reply @cookywook :grin:

I love the Android team and everything they do but changelogs are still lacking some classic Monzo awesomeness, if they matched the TestFlight levels of detail then I think it’d be perfect :blush: But sadly it’s not quite there yet :thinking: I’m gonna drop a poll below to see how people feel about them but as an example - I’ve got this evening’s beta changelog:

It’s quite basic, brings back a fun fact though which is always nice :yum:

However this is the changelog that can be constructed after decompiling the app and taking a peak at the real changes :eyes:


For the most part I think that could’ve been pasted into the changelog and published to the play store :grin: Maybe keep locked pots hushed until iOS is ready (assuming it’s not) and then have it roll out after a blog post from Monzo :blush: but besides that I don’t see why the changelogs need to be so cut down - anybody who signed up for the beta channel did so (hopefully) knowingly :joy: so the theory is that they’re just as curious about all the little bits that’ve changed & been fixed between this week and last :smiley:

Heck, I reported a small bug last week:

And @edwoollard fixed it but there was no mention of it anywhere else :eyes: I reckon it would be cool for folks to know, not to the level of “I fixed the capitalisation of Tabs” but certainly things that’re a bit wonky that’re now sorted :blush:

But that’s enough “I” for one post :sweat_smile: Here’s a poll - I wonder how everybody else feels about Android beta changelogs :blush:

  • Keep the changelogs as they are (but add more animal facts :wink:)
  • Add a sensible amount of details (excluding NDA / undready things :eyes:)
  • Post a line-by-line breakdown of every single change :nerd_face:

0 voters

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I think the coder in me loves the idea of more detail!

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