Monday, November 19, 2012

Easy to use gets the views

I know it's been repeated again and again: make your product easy to use.  This is rather easy in theory but practice proves time and time again that making an "easy" product is anything but.  For example, take my recent experience with Heroku and Nodejitsu.  I've got a small node.js app I've made for a class that I wanted to demo online (rather than drag my PC-as-a-server around).  I looked into both Heroku and Nodejitsu but ultimately decided to go with Heroku because I had an account there from three years ago (logging into that was a bit surreal).  If you're wondering what "Google strikes" are, check here.

After logging in, I was redirected to the "my apps" section of the control panel.  I could see the one app I'd created ages ago.  I then spent an embarrassingly long amount of time looking for the "new app" button.  I ended up needing Google to find the "new app" walkthrough.  Strike one.

The first half of the walkthrough was fairly simple.  Turns out I could only create a new app through my Terminal.  I installed Heroku, set everything up with git, and created my new app.  All went well.  Until, of course, I tried to do anything with my new app, namely update code.  The tutorial had Heroku adding itself as a git remote.  Turns out it didn't.  After hashing through a few options (and Google strikes two and three), I finally gave up on the automated method and added it myself.

Thanks to this brilliant problem-solving, I got an entirely new error.  Google strike four.  I discovered that Heroku expected me to add an RSA key manually.  Oops.  My app FINALLY was pushed to Heroku....and died.  Heroku helpfully told me to check my logs.  My fifth and final Google strike was committed trying to find my logs.

Heroku was supposed to be the darling of YCombinator.  I'm a huge fan of YC and was willing to give it the benefit of a doubt.  Sadly, my experience was not very good.  Looking for another option, I found Nodjitsu.  The experience was incredible.

Like most users, I don't like creating an account to try out something.  Nodejitsu created a system that didn't feel like I was creating an account.  I had the jitsu CLI tool installed before it even asked me for a password.  The instructions provided were concise and clear.  There were two issues during setup, both of them mine.  Both times, jitsu pointed out the source of my error and told me what might have been causing it.  When I finally fixed my problems, the app uploaded cleanly (and Nodejitsu automatically incremented my version, something I always forget to do).

There were still issues (I needed to set up a database) but overall, Nodejitsu was clean and helpful.  Jitsu helped me through my own dumb mistakes and kept quiet otherwise.

Have a story about a great experience?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments?  Want more of this in 140 characters or less?  Write a script to parse my site into blocks!  (Alternatively, you could follow me on Twitter).

1 comment:

  1. My first experience with heroku:
    (1) Signing up
    (2) Dev-Center, Languages, Node.JS
    (3) "Getting Started with Node.js on Heroku"
    (4) Following the steps