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Robert Schleinhege for IONOS

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Eat Your Own Dogfood: I Hosted My Father's Brewery Website on My Own Hosting Product

Hi, I'm Robert. I'm the Product Owner of Deploy Now, a fresh new hosting product by IONOS. The idea of Deploy Now is to make hosting and coding a seamless process by enabling instant deploys from GitHub. For now, it's pretty much what GitHub Pages does, but we want to expand its functionalities to make it a real hosting service.

The importance of "eat your own dogfood"

As a Product Owner, I'm not a software developer. So basically, I'm not the target group of Deploy Now. My daily job is to make prio decisions and shape the product's vision - based on what I believe customers want. Of course, I can allways interview customers about their experience or ask my dev colleagues about their opinions to get behind the target groups needs. But depending on the methods you choose to get customer insights, you always create a smaller or larger bias between what is meant and what you understood.

I believe that the least error-prone method is to use your products yourself, on real projects: Eat your own dogfood! Nothing describes the experience of using a product better than making the experience of using a product.

About my project

As using Deploy Now in a personal project is more of a weekend thing, I wanted it to be something fun - it shouldn't feel like extra work. And I think that's fair since the majority of my users also use Deploy Now for their hobby projects.

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Luckily, my father recently founded a little local brewery together with a friend and they didn't have a website back then. And of course, beer is fun - so I picked this as my project. I'm sorry that the website is in german, but I think you can guess what it's about. A little bit of story telling, a description of the different types of beers they produce and a list of locations where you can purchase it.

Coding and deploying

I decided to build a simple static one pager with HTML and CSS, as I don't need any dynamic elements like payment processes or a CMS. Maybe one day if they decide to open a shop or blog, but not yet. After some research, I decided to use Tailwind CSS and to reuse some modules from tailblocks.cc to not spend too much time on styling.

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The objective of Deploy Now is to make coding and hosting a seamless thing, so I set up a project in Deploy Now right after I created my repository. I opened two tabs in my browser: One showed the website hosted on Deploy Now (users get a free preview domain) - and the second tab showed the local version. Every five to ten local commits, I did a Git push and checked the website on line. This was real fun.

Going online with my site that early allowed me to send the link to by dad to get some feedback. He appreciated having a preview and checked the links on various devices. He recognized my site was not quite mobile friendly, so I tried to make it more responsive. After some iterations, we were both happy and I purhased and connected an IONOS domain. You can check out my site under papenburgerbrauerei.de.

If you like the project and you would like to create a similar site by yourself, you can just click the button below:

Deploy to IONOS

Lessons learned

So dispite my father being happy about this nice family story - what did I learn from this?

  • Better understanding of the overall workflow: Getting an impression of the steps you go through when creating a new project, the ratio between local and remote commits and the challenge to view multiple tabs and screens in parallel gave me a better understanding of the product experience and context.
  • Preview links and Staging Deployments are useful: Since I've connected a domain, my father's site is getting around 100 visitors each day. When working on new content or modules, I don't want to harm their experience. This is why I decided to open a seperate feature branch for changes like this - hosted on a Staging Deployment. This was the first real feature we created for Deploy Now - and it was totally worth it.
  • Techies could make fun of you, but you'll learn from it: Being a product guy in tech, you sometimes have a hard time working together with devs that have more tech knowledge than you. On the morning after I've put my site live, the dev team recognized my name in the admin tool and of course instantly checked my repo. I got some comments on my technical incapabilities and received a bunch of pull requests :-)
  • If you wouldn't use your own product, you are doing something wrong: So the big question is - would I use my own product if I were a neutral customer? Tough question. Of course it has it's teething problems, but all key functionalites work great. I would love to see visitor statistics in the dashboard directly without the need to install Google Analytics. This might be a topic for our backlog.

If Deploy Now sounds interesting to you, I would love to hear your feedback. You can sign up for free. And if you should pay my beatiful hometown Papenburg a visit one day, feel free to grab a beer at my father's brewery :-)

How about you? Do you use the products your company is building?

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