A few months ago, my colleague Jakub posted on Slack something like “There’s an awesome new app on our platform. If you have a few spare minutes, help me to translate it into the Czech language.”
Well, customer success is something we consider our priority. Why build a product if it doesn’t really help your target audience? But are we really supposed to translate every single app to our language?
Let me tell you something about the Czech language first. It’s the official language of the Czech Republic. A small country with just about 10 million people. Our home. However, we are used to reading books and watch movies in our own language. Local TV station owned by the government (not kind of propaganda based, normal TV station) is required to dub all movies to our language. In fact, all TV stations in our country do. Why? Because people here are used to speak our own language. I’ve already mentioned that there are only 10 million people in our country, and in total, there are about 13 million native Czech speakers.
Still, our country is a nice example of how you can get more customers if you localize your app to their language. And so we help our users to translate their apps to our language. It has several positive impacts - they can reach the whole new market, and they see how our system works and its benefits.
Back to the original story, I jumped in and started translating one of our apps. Soon, I got to a “cover art” phrase. I wondered what the best way to translate it was. What if someone else already translated the phrase? Part of the app was localized to the Czech language before I jumped in. So, I looked at existing translations, and indeed, there was an existing translation for the sentence with a similar term, and it was different from how I would translate it.
I immediately realized that if the translator is unwilling to consult prior translations, the same phrases can be translated in a completely different manner. Also, if the translator is doing her job with quality in mind, it’s not right to spend so much time looking for existing translations.
Two weeks after this “incident”, we introduced similar phrases functionality providing extra context information by matching the current phrase with all others in the same app. Awesome!
The outcome? Helping our users to translate their apps to our language gives us the opportunity to taste our own dog food - so-called dogfooding. It’s actually one of the things I really like about JetBrains and their approach to developing IntelliJ IDEA. I’m happy that we are working on a product that allows us to use the very same approach.
But the story continues… A few weeks ago, my other colleague Jan, our product manager, responsible for the front-end experience, tasted what he helped to cook. As I did, he jumped in and helped another of our users to translate her app, and the similar phrases functionality was here to assist him. Except that it didn’t…
He was the first to translate the app, so there were no prior translations and no preset standards. Have you ever tried to translate 200 different phrases? You easily forget the exact way you translate the very first phrase. You have to think about it, spend time… or better to say waste time. Our similar phrases functionality took into account only the approved translations and thus was useless for this particular situation.
Long story short, we fixed it! The similar phrases feature is now offering approved translations as well as your own ones.
I bet that you understand that I went with these two real situations for this post as they nicely demonstrate the dogfooding benefits and how it can help to evolve the product. But there were numerous similar situations where getting hands dirty helped us to push Localazy forward.
Maybe, it’s not only about making the better product but about the product’s long-time sustainability….
Over the course of my professional IT career, which is now about 17 years counting it from the moment I was able to do it legally - from the moment I reached the legal age for running a business - I succeeded, and I failed.
I built a lot of different products, and looking back, I can now see why some of them were successful and some not. The common denominator. Products that I personally used and that made my life easier were those that worked. Might it have been because I understood the need and thus was able to design them the right way? It might have been that passion was involved where I saw the value for myself.
However, my hobby mobile app, the precursor to the Localazy journey, was and is still the most successful one of its kind on Google Play and for the past seven years, from its very birth, I’m still an active user! I eat my own dog food on an almost daily basis.
From this point of view, my previous venture Effortix is a stellar example of this concept. It’s a no-code solution for building mobile apps initially developed for the tourism industry - building mobile tourism guides was my primary job for several years. Soon after we released the first version of Effortix, I realized that there are more fields where such a solution would be useful. And so we started to add feature after feature to put our feet into unknown lands. Guess what?
Effortix is now officially dead and only available to existing customers - all of them are from the tourism industry, all of them are still willing to pay for it, all of them love the product, all of them count on it for years to come… While it never took off in any other field, it’s still the standard for mobile tourism guides. As I don’t have enough time to keep it up-to-date, I’m now able to pass the whole product to another company interested in keeping it running.
It’s a single product - half dead, half more than alive. The part of it, where I got my hands dirty and where my passion was, worked and still works. The part I didn’t understand died…
Build what you love, follow your passion, and build products that you would love to use. Even if you can’t use your own product, you should always be 100% sure that anytime there is a need for it, you wouldn’t hesitate a second, and it would be your first and only choice. If your own product is not your first choice, why should it be for others?