After months of thoughtful design, careful development, and tireless QA, we’d just launched our product. My colleague and I were sitting on the floor of the trade show when someone asked, “Did you talk to anyone before you built this?”
All of the tests had passed and the app looked great, but we’d overlooked one small issue: A key user-supplied measurement needed four decimal precision, and we only used three.
A trivial but very embarrassing error.
We’ve all had instances both small and large where we present the big reveal of a feature but are greeted with awkward, uncomfortable silence. The best way of avoiding these types of instances is to ship early and often. Developers at FAANG companies are constantly running thousands of tests on features, but you don’t need a huge team to gather feedback faster. Instead, consider the below free or low-cost tools to shipping code more quickly.
Services like Netlify and Heroku offer you the chance to create “preview apps” using the code from a specific pull request. With a few button clicks, you’re able to get a whole new version of your app tied to a specific pull-request URL. As you update the PR, these services rebuild your app, letting you share them with other developers, designers, support, QA, and even with the people who wear blazers.
I find that getting code in front of colleagues as early as possible is the best way to avoid coding yourself into a corner. Without some structure, though, multiple pull requests hanging around in Github can get confusing. A few tools to keep you more organized:
- Draft Pull Requests: A new feature in Github allows users to create “draft” pull requests that can’t be merged. A great way of communicating this is something in progress. Related: You can install the Github WIP Probot to prevent merging pull requests with “WIP” in the title/description.
- Pull Reminders: Another interesting tool for teams using Github is Pull Reminders, which connects to Slack to automatically send notifications to users who are tagged as “reviewers” on pull requests. It’s a great way to engage colleagues and, better yet, Pull Panda is now entirely free after being acquired by Github.
As you merge in all those pull requests, a great way to keep your team and various stakeholders informed is by creating and sending regular changelogs. Distributing a list of all your app updates is especially helpful to your sales and support colleagues deeply engaged with your product changes (after all, they spend the most time with customers). A few tools to help out:
- Automatic Changelog Generators: Tools like Github Changelog Generator and Release Drafter can create releases right in Github.
- Next Release.io: Automatically generates and shares release notes based on your Github pull requests. You’ll be able to search, filter, and share your app’s history of changes with just a few quick key strokes.