“Not Invented Here” syndrome is so pervasive in the world of software development, it has its own well-known abbreviation: “NIH Syndrome”.

Development teams too often believe that available solutions will only meet 90% of their needs, and so they decide to build their own alternative.

Lifting the heavy load Don’t let NIH syndrome weigh you down.

The problem is, they vastly underestimate the time needed to build, test, and maintain their own “invented here” alternative. They end up with a solution that is often inferior and still meets just 90% of their needs - at best.

Meanwhile the third-party product they chose not to use has just released a new version adding functionality the team had complained was missing.

Worst of all, during the time they worked on recreating existing tools, they’ve neglected to work on their core product. Opportunity cost, people!

We are doing our best to avoid the “NIH Syndrome” as we continue to improve Feature Upvote. What’s making this easy is the proliferation of excellent “Software as a Service” (SaaS) products that are highly affordable.

Here are some of our favourites:

Our original search was just good enough for an MVP (Minimum Viable Product). But our customers soon started complaining about it. Google and others have shown people that sub-par search is not acceptable. People expect to find exactly the information they need as soon as they need it.

We gave a passing thought to improving our search function ourselves and ruled it out. The development cost was substantial and we’ve never been a fan of reinventing the wheel.

Using Algolia, our search now has support for typos, alternative spellings, multiple languages, and word stemming. Oh, and did I say instant-search-as-you-type?

Example of Feature Upvote's search Feature Upvote’s search powered by Algolia.

With Algolia we got all of this, with blazing speed. Good job people!

Cloudinary for image uploading and hosting

Our early customers told us they wanted to be able to add screenshots and images to suggestions. Seeing as we provide a feature request voting tool this was an important request.

Customers and team members needed to be able to add a feature request or idea to the suggestion board as quickly and usefully as possible. Images can say the same as 1000 words (which is far too long for the web!).

We tried building this functionality ourselves but wisely stopped when it turned out we were inadvertently creating a content delivery network.

“We can’t be the only team needing a way for our customers to upload images and then efficiently and reliably serve those images”, we told ourselves.

And so we found Cloudinary. Cloudinary is why it is so painless to add an image to a Feature Upvote suggestion.

Example of adding an image to a suggestion Feature Upvote’s image uploading powered by Cloudinary.

Cloudinary gives us both the front end and the back end of image hosting. On the back end they solve the problem of dealing with very large images and scaling them appropriately. On the front end they give our customers an excellent way to add an images on a range of devices.

One less feature to worry about.

Postmark for email delivery

A modern web application like ours needs to send emails. Lots of emails. Email verification for new customers. Email notifications when things happen. Emails to warn customers of trial end dates. And plenty more. It turns out that delivering emails reliably is hard.

Plus we are committed to making sure that our service is as secure as possible. Emails can often be a target for spammers.

This is where Postmark saves us.

Instead of building own own email delivery system (and that one was never going to happen) we contracted out this unenviable job to people that are really good at it.

We send our emails via Postmark and Postmark tells us if they were delivered, opened, and clicked. Postmark monitors email bounces and saves us from sending emails to fake or erroneous email addresses in the future.

Each week we get a summary email for Postmark that makes us happy that our emails are getting delivered as expected.

Take that spammers.

Sentry for bug detection

Last week we accidentally deployed a bug to our production servers. Thanks to Sentry we knew about this bug as soon as the first customer encountered it. Within minutes we had a fix deployed.

Phew.

Time saved in terms of answering emails to support. Reputation saved in terms of customers thinking ‘Why isn’t this product working. I hate buggy software. I am CROSS’.

Sentry is error tracking that helps developers monitor and fix crashes in real time. When something goes wrong in Feature Upvote, Sentry collates the error information - sometimes from multiple users - and emails us. When the error happens we typically can pinpoint exactly where in our code the error is lurking.

We are currently using Sentry’s free plan, because we don’t have enough bugs to reach their paid limits. But the day we need to start paying Sentry, we will do.

They are definitely worth it.

Conclusion

Algolia, Cloudinary, Postmark, and Sentry are all affordable, reliable, and an indispensable part of our business.

Without them, we’d be out in the wilderness somewhere building and maintaining email systems and search functions while neglecting our core product.

As it is, these SaaS companies have given us the freedom to focus on our core product.

I believe our own customers have chosen Feature Upvote for the same reason. They could have tried to build a product ideas tool in-house.

But by choosing Feature Upvote, they have a solution to ideas tracking that is affordable, reliable, and ever-improving.

Isn’t it time to bin NIH syndrome and say instead:

Hey, you might not have been invented by our company, but for that we’re deeply thankful! Hello and welcome.

Interested in a feature request board?

Great. Come and have a look around.

We offer a 30 day free trial with full features (and no sales call) so you can see if we’re a good fit for your company. Plus our pricing is competitive from $29 a month so you won’t break the bank by using us.

Still not sure why you’d use a feature request board? Read our article on why collecting, tracking and qualifying customer feature requests is a great idea. Here’s a quick preview:

  • Your customers see that you actually care about their feedback
  • You gain unexpected business insights into what new features your customers actually want
  • You save time and money by roadmapping product improvements that will actually be a success