I am sure you must have heard the word dogfooding, which is short for "Eating your own dog food". In the software world, it represents the ritual of using your own products and services as a real user in the real-world environment first before launching (alpha and beta testing) it to the market. It provides numerous benefits which we will be seeing in the subsequent paragraph.
Many organizations provide first access to the latest stable versions of their hardware/software to their internal employees to get valuable product/feature feedback and prove to the market the products and services capabilities. Surprisingly, I have also often seen that most creators of products or services do not actually use them themselves or they are not aware of the standard features of their own product or service. If you do not have a working knowledge of your own product, how are you supposed to code, test, market, or sell it? And if you ask me this is one of the major reasons for usability issues and bad user experience.
It is important to note that the goal of dogfooding is not just testing its own products and services. It is to put yourself in the real user’s shoes and look at things from their perspective.
Ideally, there should not be any limit on the audience of the dog food and whoever is interested in the product/feature within the company should be a part of it. Bare minimum it should have these members:
- Team (Dev and QA) who directly worked on it
- Marketing team who is going to promote it
- Business development team who is going to sell this product/feature
- POs who are eager to see this product/feature
I completely agree that it might be burdensome to onboard these people for dogfooding but trust me the results would be worth it.
Benefits of Dogfooding:
- Improve Business - Making dogfooding an integral part of your SDLC lets you enhance the user experience and improves the final product outcome which ensures rock-solid brand presence, brand loyalty, and product recommendations. A thoroughly checked product or service ensures that we send out the best version of our product or service into the market that speaks for itself, and word-of-mouth endorsement is priceless. This helps in retaining not only the existing customers but helps to onboard new customers as well
- Identify and correct mistakes as soon as possible - Irrespective of how competent and knowledgeable developers we have, we all make errors, especially while developing a product or service that is huge and complex. There is no denying that there is no such product or service as bug-free. When a product or service is developed, it is important that we check everything that we produce from a real user perspective because there is always a possibility of bugs in the product or service and the only thing that can expose hidden errors is using our product and services on a day-day basis that helps identify issues before the customers report them.
Dogfooding gives us an advantage by allowing us to address product-related or service-related issues early.
- Develop trust and ownership in your product - Using your product and services through dogfooding sends a powerful message to everyone that the Organization believes in the product and its effectiveness. It acts as a form of testimonial advertising.
- Validate the user experience - No matter the domain, the user experience is everything. Your application may work as required, but in the hands of the real user, it could be baffling and inconvenient to know what feature is available where. Since dogfooding offers a prerequisite user experience, think of it as a trial run before you go live. There is nothing worse than an outraged user who paid for a product or service that does not work as expected. Fail to evaluate user experience, and your users will not fail to go to your competitor.
If users of your application have a great user experience, they will tell their family and friends. And with the burst of social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. positive as well as referrals can spread very quickly.
- Control Process - How do we know that the product or service works as it should? How can we measure that all requirements are ready to deploy to production and that the quality meets expectations? Software development should be measured to determine whether it goes against the requirements or not. The dogfooding practice can help you to know the state of your product’s quality, certifying all features are ready for production.
Using this controlled process, we can build a formidable reputation and brand image, things that are important in the long term.
Dogfooding not only ensures that you are building the thing right, but it also ensures that you are building the right thing. In no way can it replace the testing and quality assurance (QA) phases, but it aids in creating a high-quality product or service. Now as we have learned that dogfooding is an essential practice to follow, let us build a strong dogfooding culture in all the organizations to deliver high-quality products and services.