Myth #1 - My app is too specific. I need a home-made admin.

Tim Astier
Nov 22, 2016 · 4 min read

The Forest project started with the idea to build the best admin interface and make it available as a service for all developers and business teams.

As daily users of modern apps, we have developed high expectations for great UI/X. Surprisingly, common ideas that are prevailing in modern software development are nowhere to be found when it comes to admin interfaces (or back-offices).

This series illustrates common myths about admins. It is dedicated to people who believe that more attention should be given to those often left-behind applications, as well as to their end-users. Let’s give more love to admins!

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Building an admin interface from scratch is a common choice

There is a strong belief that an admin interface needs to be built from scratch in order to adapt to custom business logics. Here is a typical reaction from a developer when hearing about the Admin as a Service idea:

Listen, this idea sounds great, but my app is too specific to use a third-party admin. You see, the admin needs to match my specific business workflows. We get constant feedbacks from operation teams and it would be difficult to implement everything in a third party solution that we didn’t architect fully.

During our ideation phase, we had a lot of interviews with companies that were kind enough to show us the admin interface they had developed. We noticed that there were two main cases:

  • Case #1: the UI/X was terrible. Of course no one can blame developers to give priority to the user-facing part of their application. We just felt sorry for the business team.
  • Case #2: the UI/X was not too bad, but the developers obviously spent too much time on building their admin. I don’t think this is the correct strategy for companies working with limited resources and whose success depends on happy end-users.

We obviously also found well-thought admins that had been developed in a reasonable amount of time, but those were a really small minority.

Those results made us wonder what was wrong with admin development. Here is what we found:

Most people are just constantly reinventing the wheel

We noticed that about 80% of the features needed in an admin interface are generic. Here is a list of features that are almost always present in admin interfaces:

  • List views, Pagination system
  • Detail views, Navigation through relationships
  • Search, Filters
  • CRUD operations, Data import/export
  • Permissions management, Audit trail
  • Dashboards, KPIs

The fun part is that those innocent and generic features are the source of most of the problems related to admin development. Developers spend most of their time developing them, they are often poorly realized and the related maintenance time is not well anticipated.

There are many things you don’t necessary think about when you start building an admin. For example, you think having a search feature is necessary. Then you realize that you should add filters. Finally a teammate tells you he wants to filter data based on the “created_at” field. You quickly end up spending a ridiculous amount of time on questions such as: “how should I define operators to filter data depending on a date-type attribute?”.

Developers get constant feedback from the business team, asking for small improvements or modifications. As any application, an admin interface can always be improved. Are you really ready to split your maintenance efforts between your main app and your admin interface?

You don’t imagine the number of testimonials we got from employees saying that their admin interface was a real shame and completely outdated compared to their actual business needs. This is quite problematic, as a poor admin UI/X dramatically decreases the efficiency of teams in charge of operations. Keep in mind that some people spend most of their time working in the admin interface.

We believe teams deserve a great admin interface

We started the Forest project to empower business teams with a beautiful and powerful admin interface and free developers from the painful work of always reinventing the wheel.

Our team is doing its best to develop the best admin interface. As this admin is our main product, every detail matter. We strive to create a great experience for our end-users.

We’ve made all the work for you when it comes to generic features. And for the remaining 20% features that are specific to your app, you’re free to add them smoothly on top of Forest, as you would have done with your hand-made admin project. Our promise is to get started in minutes with a new admin for your project.

If you’re excited by this concept and believe your application deserves a great admin interface, welcome to the Forest (it’s free).

If you found this useful, please click that ❤ below :)

Thanks for reading — I’m Timothée Astier, a French entrepreneur passionate about startups, tech, Chinese culture, chess and rock-climbing. Making mistakes is how I learn new things. Feel free to share your ideas or suggest modifications. Wish you pleasure and success in your projects!

Forest Admin

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