My community is looking into replacing our old message forums. We have found three new platforms that we'd like to try, but we can't figure out a way to do so that allows
- A full test of each platform. We want to be able to test the full work flows for both users, moderators and administrators.
- During the tests, we don't want to develop a "beta test" clique that has access to the new system and fluants it over the users that are not part of each test.
- Testing of the major functionalies of each platform. We want to migrate due to the lack of certain features and we want to test these new features on the new platforms effectively.
What is the best way to set up an effective test, without major disruptions to the community during the testing phase. We are already anticipating that disruption during the final migration to whichever platform we decide on ("who moved my cheese?!"). We'd like to keep that disruption almost non-existant during these tests.
How have other communities gone about this?