Be the early adopters of your product
When launching a startup we have a vast variety of third party tools to choose from. Using tools made by others has been a key to the progress of humanity and accounts for everything we currently know and have. What we are able to build today is only possible thanks to the tools made for us yesterday. But is this the only way? At Frontendy we decided to take a different approach and concentrate on using our barely existing solution for its own development instead of only relying on the existing tools. The idea was to become our own early adopters and use the first version of the product we are developing to get an insight on how others might use it. The results that we achieved and the experience we got was quite surprising even to us: it turned out that using your own solution can be a key to building a great product.
Become your early adopters and use the first version of your product
to get insights on how others might use it
Frontendy is a web platform for rapid web application development. We kick-start you with an infrastructure and all you have to build are web components specific to your business. If you think of the frontend of your SaaS application as an iceberg, its biggest part is under water, and users only see the graphical interface. The part that is invisible to users is a complex architecture full of different building blocks that our platform provides as a service.
Through our past working experience we found that many companies don’t participate in dogfooding. Companies sell their solution to customers, yet they don’t see the need in using it themselves. Some use competitor’s product as a solution, others wait until their product is fully functional, but this might never happen. Instead of waiting why not start using? You don’t necessarily need a complete solution right away and sometimes even an early prototype will benefit you. This way you will understand your product better and give your customers even more confidence to buy it.
“Dogfooding”, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to validate the quality and capabilities of the product”
Dogfooding some products can be fairly straightforward. When you are building a search engine all you have to do is start searching for things you indexed. You can integrate your search in to an internal tool and before you know it you’ll be eating your own dog food. But what if you are building a code editor? At which point do you stop coding in the old editor and start using your own creation? Initially we did not fully understand how we were going to run our own platform on itself. We knew that to get started we needed Frontendy to have minimal functionality and after a day of work we were able to create the foundation needed for us to become the first users.
Stone tools were made with stone tools
Frontendy platform is an actual web application, so we decided to build it with the earliest version of the platform itself. It was not an easy task due to the nested complexity of the problem. How do you build something with itself? If you think about it that is exactly how the first stone tools where crafted. With that thought in mind we got to work.
We first started by creating the key component to our application, the user’s navigation tree. Navigation tree displays your application’s screens and shows the user flow links between them. After mapping out the exact navigation structure of Frontendy in this tree we started working on the component essential to screen editing. At this stage we decided to build a screen that gave users full control of their component’s code similar to Codepen or JSFiddle. This component allowed us to use our product while solving any UX related issues and bugs. We were now able to build sections and other components for Frontendy by using our own screen editor. However we still could not develop some of the more complex features or solve infrastructure problems with the screen editor at this time. In this experiment our goal was not to use our platform for everything in the development process, the key was to use it as much as we could. As we progress, we will rely on it more and eventually use Frontendy as a complete solution for supporting itself.
After spending some time with Frontendy as a tool we confirmed that it is never too early to start ‘eating’ your own product. From our early adoption of our platform to todays development of MVP, we gained more confidence in the idea of ‘dogfooding’. The greatest benefit that we learned during this experiment is proper understanding how initial users might utilize Frontendy. We became the early adopters to see if what we were building is is even usable, after all this is something we were creating for ourselves to begin with. It turned out that Frontendy is not just usable but also fun to use. Today we chose to build with our platform and this approach to web development has become natural for us.
Most companies take a more standard approach to ‘dogfooding’ by using a complete version of their solution. This gives their current and future users good support about the product choice they are making. In the future when our platform evolves into something people really want we will continue to use the ‘dogfooding’ principals to create the same benefits for our users as well. We suggest you to give it a try, use your solution as early as you can and it will give you a head start in your journey of building a great product like it did for us at Frontendy.
Would your customers trust you if you didn’t eat at your own restaurant?