Dogfooding

If you haven’t seen the video of Chamath Palihapitiya, take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raIUQP71SBU. He brings up a great topic at the 5 minute mark that discusses the lack of dogfooding in the startup community.

For the startup world and especially when sorting out product market fit, the reminder is invaluable. To extend on the topic, dogfooding is especially important for other categories of companies that I like to put into a special bucket called everybody.

This isn’t a new thing. For example, proprietors of restaurants often sit with the chef and dine. If something is off, they run back to the kitchen and correct matters. Gordon Ramsay is rather insistent that his students constantly taste the food and self correct. “How will you know it tastes right?”

The concept is the same for internet companies. However the process is a little different and the tactics are specific. Naturally, talk to your customers but here are other things to focus on. 

Number 1
Use your own product. This is an ok start. The issue is your view is a narrow view and needs a wider lens. How can we improve this?

Number 2
Advocate for everyone else to use the product. Persuade your team.

Number 3
Twice a month, gather an inventory of notable issues, bugs, UI/UX concerns, and show stoppers. Create an itemized list that lives online, can be shared with the entire company,  and easily accessible and digestible to engineers.

Number 4
Hit the streets, go into coffee shop. Pay for your neighbors’ coffee. They are happy to volunteer 10 minutes of feedback. I do it all the time.

Number 5
User testing. Tight budget usertest.io is perfect. If you need a bunch of bells and whistles – you almost never do – usertesting.com is about 4 times more expensive. Run 5 user tests in a given week. It takes hours to review all the video from user testing. Do it. Download the videos, edit them down into small summary video and share. Ensure your pain is not everyone else’s pain. Engineers won’t have time. But they will have time to review the summary video. They will make time to fix bugs, so do the following. Pair a list of issue alongside the summary video. Engineers can quickly fix itemized issues/ bugs. Own the list. Resurface issues not fixed. Incorporate this cadence into your yearly workload.

Number 5.5
Don’t forget this neat trick. You can ask your user tester to test anything. Think your app is perfect? Ask them to user test your competitors 😉

Number 6
Your product likely exists and/or is acquired by various devices or platforms (mobile, desktop, tablet). Repeat items 1-5 above for all your essential platforms, and you are on a very healthy start to dogfooding.

Chamath Palihapitiya is a neat guy, take 45 minutes and watch the whole thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raIUQP71SBU

Brion Hickey