Dogfooding: Using what you sell

Dogfooding: Using what you sell

5 min read

And more about how and why we redesigned our site.

ShopCreatify eats its own dog food. “Pardon, what?” you might be asking. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief to know that we don’t really eat dog food (or at least we don’t admit to it).

Dogfooding, or eating your own dog food, is a term coined in the 80s. Originally used in the software world, it refers to a company using its own product.

The idea is that an organization encourages its staff to use its own product, sometimes to test it before it gets released to the public. The company demonstrating its confidence in the product like this also acts as a testimonial.

At ShopCreatify we pride ourselves on being Shopify experts. We recently relaunched our own site. Of course we’re on Shopify! We pushed ourselves to the limits of the platform’s content management capabilities and reaffirmed our faith in Shopify.

Teaching an old dog new tricks

While the previous version of the site wasn’t at all bad, ShopCreatify founder and CEO, Ross Allchorn, says there were many inconsistencies that he wasn’t happy with. “I know that perfection is difficult to achieve, but I’m not comfortable with the ‘good enough’ mentality.”

He chuckles as he refers to the old saying “The cobbler’s children have no shoes”.

He’s well aware that despite being a Shopify expert with a team of top-notch developers and designers, it’s easy to neglect one own’s site when there’s so much other work to do.

This is the same for any company. It’s difficult to dedicate the time to improving something that is ‘good enough’.

Schnehage adds: “Building a site for ShopCreatify creates a level of anxiety. You want the website to be a great example of your design and development capabilities and to push the limits of what the platform can actually do. It needs to be really impressive.”

So, what exactly is different on the new site?

Other than a sleeker design, Allchorn particularly wanted the updated website to have better content management abilities. He wanted to ensure that he or anyone else at ShopCreatify could add new content to the site quickly and easily, without having to do any coding.

“Anyone can now go in and change anything on the site at any time of the day and it will reflect immediately. We follow excellent coding practices which made that possible. This is a massive agility bonus for our business,” says Allchorn.

Additionally, he explains how he did a significant amount of research into funnel-based design. This was to make sure that visitors were led to specific places on the site, namely the portfolio, services and contact pages.

ShopCreatify Agency Site Redesign

The old alongside the new.

Allchorn’s aim here was for site visitors to convert, which for ShopCreatify means they made an inquiry. This is very similar to the type of work he’d do on a client’s ecommerce store – making design and other changes to funnel customers towards making a purchase.

He and the team also put a lot of effort into the copy on the site to make sure it stands out from their competitors’ websites.

The puppy years

When ShopCreatify started six years ago (at the time of writing this) it was just a plain HTML/CSS site. But soon after Allchorn developed a content delivery toolkit for other Shopify experts, and authored an ecommerce book. He needed an ecommerce store on which to sell them and moved the ShopCreatify site onto Shopify.

Since then both products have become outdated due to the speed of change in the industry. They’ve been removed from the ShopCreatify site and the selling functionality has been temporarily disabled until ShopCreatify has updated versions or other new products.

A dog’s breakfast of a start

While Allchorn is enormously proud of the new site, the redesign process wasn’t all smooth sailing. The project had several false starts, like when ShopCreatify’s creative lead Quintin Schnehage started with its design and then had to move on to more urgent client work.

“That period was really frustrating,” says Schnehage. “I wanted to design a beautiful new site for our company, but it was so difficult to actually find the time for that.”

To overcome this problem, Allchorn decided to outsource the design.

Unfortunately, he and the team weren’t happy with the outcome and decided to continue with the process in-house again. As a result of all these bumps in the road, the redesign took a year to complete.

“The biggest realization that we had was that we weren’t treating ourselves as a client, and that’s why the project took so long,” says Allchorn.

It was this realization that sparked a change in pace for the website redesign. Allchorn appointed a member of the team to be a project lead. Schnehage properly scoped the project, as he normally would for a client’s project. Based on that the team had a solid set of milestones to achieve.

“That allowed us to really get it done,” says Allchorn. “If we hadn’t done that, we would probably still be using the old site.”

He views this as an important lesson, not only for ShopCreatify but also for other service providers who want to go the dogfooding route. It’s often better to do things in-house when you know your team has the best skills for the job. It also allows your business to really benefit from its own expertise.

“We’re exceptionally familiar with Shopify and work with it every day. We produce great things for our clients, and ultimately we needed to leverage those same skills for our own site.”

Both Allchorn and Schnehage agree that while it was sometimes difficult to justify setting time aside to work on the site when they had a lot of client work to do, it was definitely worth it in the end.

The show dog

Because ShopCreatify isn’t currently selling anything on the site, it can’t necessarily use the website as a portfolio item. However, the site is built on the Turbo theme. This offers ShopCreatify a good opportunity to talk to customers who are considering using Turbo about its capabilities, and what is possible after a fair amount of customization.

“This demonstrates how much confidence we have in Shopify and in the Turbo theme. We are confident enough to use it for our site regardless of whether or not we are selling products,” Allchorn explains.

He is considering reactivating the ecommerce function on the site to sell ShopCreatify branded products. This will truly make the company a dogfooding example to its clients, as well as other merchants on Shopify.

Of course, there will always be improvements that can be made, especially given the fast pace at which technology and platforms such as Shopify evolve. But Allchorn is relieved that the updated site is finally live. “I would prefer to never get into a real ‘cobbler and his kids’ shoes’ situation, because it’s not pleasant to talk to a client knowing that our site isn’t up to scratch.”

Both Allchorn and Schnehage encourage their clients and other Shopify merchants to practice dogfooding – by using their own products and services if and where appropriate. This will give you valuable insight into how your product works and demonstrate to your customers the level of confidence you have in those products.

There is always room for improvement on any site and ShopCreatify encourages anyone with a website to constantly review their sites.

“For us, it’s something we want to make a song and dance about because it paints a picture of specialization. We are singing the Shopify song and if we were using WordPress, we wouldn’t be singing it very well,” concludes Allchorn.

Photos by Charles Deluvio

Gabi Falanga
Gabi Falanga

Hi, I’m Gabi, a communication specialist who loves writing about interesting topics. Follow me for more information.