/ Stories

Is This Thing On?

A couple of weeks ago we shipped one of the most significant updates to HelpDocs since the software was but a glint in Jake and Jarratt’s eyes.

And we barely mentioned it.

I mean we sent out an Intercom broadcast message and an email to our users/subscribers.

I guess this sort of counts as mentioning it too.

But before the release we didn’t say a word.

Not a peep. 🤐

We didn’t make any promises. We didn’t give any hints as to when a new release would be shipped. We didn’t suggest what features would ship.

Nothing.

And I think it had unintended consequences. As the feedback after we did ship wasn’t quite what we expected.

So Why the Change?

Over the past year, our focus has been squarely on building a great product. One that our customers love to use and their customers find useful.

A product that can scale with our users. One that’ll become an integral part of their success.

I think we have, too. 💪

We’ve done it by shipping. Shipping quick. Shipping often.

We’ve shipped bug fixes within hours of them being reported. A bunch of tweaks here and there to make usability a lot better. Features upon features on an almost weekly basis.

User management and Permissioning. Stale. Clips. To name a few.

We’ve shipped as a result of customer requests. We’ve shipped because it felt right.

We’ve built out our integrations. Extended the software by partnering with a bunch of third parties. Doorbell. Front. Slack. Hotjar.

Point is we shipped. Then we shipped some more. And then when we were done, we shipped even more for shits and giggles.

And it worked!

More features packed out our arsenal ticking more boxes for more customers. Some customers we knew already. We’d addressed some pain points and they were happy.

Others were new and just happened to fall in love with the software. ❤️

It’s not the be-all and end-all of everything. But over the past year our growth has been incredible. Our user base has increased to a level we never really expected.

From individuals with a few FAQs to big customers with massive teams and vast knowledge bases overflowing with reams of internal and external documentation.

This isn’t to brag. I just wanna add a little context for our recent overhaul.

The point is we scaled fast.

But we felt we were letting the product down. The dashboard felt tired and kinda old. Like we’d outgrown it.

It had scaled with the features just not well enough. It just wasn’t hitting the quality mark we wanted to. Or that we felt our users deserved.

And for a few of our users—particularly those with substantial knowledge bases—it was getting slower.

Clunkier.

And before long we realized HelpDocs needed a revamp.

So rather than sit back and let things go to hell we decided to fix it.

The Good, the Meh, the What the Hell?

Speed was probably our number one guiding light.

Everything was structured around making things faster. Improving load times. Making the whole thing a lot easier to understand.

Editing speed. Load speed. And less complicated ways to do simple tasks like updating meta information.

We added a better way to load articles. A new color-coded content hierarchy layout. We made the text editor experience so much more zen.

I mean it’s beautiful. 😍

And when we were happy with it. When we felt it reflected where we are now. We shipped it.

And that’s when things got weird.

We didn’t get the immediate feedback we thought we’d get. In fact, we didn’t get much. Not at first.

Before we shipped such a colossal update, it’s fair to say we were apprehensive. Worried whether or not our user base would be excited or utterly disgusted by our fresh coat of paint and the new power under the hood.

The truth is we got neither. Not really.

There was no real outpouring of appreciation like we’d seen with other feature releases. A couple of messages followed by some constructive criticism. But that was kinda it. 🤷‍♂️

But there wasn’t the backlash either. Not to the extent you might expect.

A few surprises here and there. A couple of bug reports. Features we had to drop for a minute while we shipped.

It was just kinda…meh! 🤷‍♂️

Disproportionately so for such a massive visual update.

Big Co. Appearances Mean Big Co. Feedback

On reflection, it feels like we’re sailing in strange waters right now. And I think a lot of it boils down to us not looking like a scrappy 3-person company.

I mean, we do in some cases. But for the most part we could be seen as a 5, 10, or 100-person team and nobody would bat an eyelid.

By and large, if you don’t know much about the company and just used the product you’d be forgiven for assuming there was a massive team behind it.

Not just one either. A team of teams. Teams of devs. Teams of support pros ready and waiting to take your call. Teams of marketers and salespeople champing at the bit to up-sell.

You’d be wrong. But forgiven 🤗

At times it feels like this kind of assumption is pretty widely adopted. And as a result, I’ve felt a distinct shift in the attitude from our customer base. Not in a negative way. It’s just different.

I’m reminded of the old saying, “You only see a Police officer when something’s wrong.”

I think the same is right across the board. I, for one, rarely contact a company unless I have an issue.

Feedback is bug reports. Support requests. And yes, the occasional complaint. 🙈

Does being seen as a larger company encourage negativity? I can’t help but feel like the mechanisms just aren’t there to support positive reinforcement.

It’s rare I’ll give a pat on the back and a “Good job team.”

On reflection, perhaps that’s something I can change.

Is This Thing On?
Share this