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Opinions & Insights

How “A Tale of Web Development in Two Universes” Came to Life

Opinions & Insights

How “A Tale of Web Development in Two Universes” Came to Life

We've written thousands of words about the benefits of Netlify and how we improve development workflows, performance metrics, productivity, and customer happiness. But no amount of words will show you how it feels to use Netlify.

By listening to users, talking to customers, and mining our own team's experiences, we hear one main theme: building for the modern web with Netlify feels like a different universe.

We took what our customers told us and went into the studio to make a... short film? Skit? Commercial? We're not really sure what the technical term is, but we're proud of the results.

Watch and see how big an impact Netlify can make on your development workflow:

Also — something we're really proud of — we didn't work with professional actors. Everyone on screen is a Netlify team member! These are just a few of the wonderful people on our team who work so hard to make sure you and your team get to live in the good universe.

If you're stuck in the other universe, we feel your pain

As we were writing the script for this video, the Netlify team sat together and traded stories of all the ways we suffered in previous stacks.

I came back from a six-month sabbatical to find that nobody had committed any changes to SCM, but had instead been scp-ing their dirty repo to the server.
Matt Kane sharing his past experience in the other universe

The stories were all wildly different (and wildly painful to listen to), but they shared a few common pain points. These pain points are why Netlify exists, and why we want you to join us in the universe where Netlify makes the painful workflows of your past into bad memories you trade stories about — not something you suffer through every day.

Getting local dev configured and running is slow and confusing

How quickly can a new developer on your team get set up to actually contribute?

New devs spent a full week trying to get local dev running. You had to set up Kubernetes on your machine, then add custom Nginx config for a local reverse proxy, then submit a ticket to get your machine added to the allow list for connecting to the staging env (which was flaky and slooooow).
Jason Lengstorf (that's me!) on a previous role in the other universe

Every company is different, but many companies in the other universe share common traits: there are complicated hoops to jump through, fragile configuration steps, hard-to-find credentials, and slow processes — all of which add up to days (or weeks!) of time spent just getting to the point where a developer can write code.

It's only after that point that they can start ramping up on the code itself.

Netlify Dev auto-detects your framework, starts up local dev, and pulls in environment variables automatically

In the Netlify universe — the Netliverse? — you're able to pull your site's code from GitHub, GitLab, or BitBucket, then use the Netlify CLI to start your project locally.

Run ntl dev in your command line and Netlify will:

  • Detect the framework your site is built in
  • Run the appropriate getting started command
  • Pull down environment variables from the Netlify app — no more sending a DM with the contents of your .env files!
  • Run a local server for your serverless and edge functions, proxied to match the production setup

With Netlify, new team members are productive on day one.

You get to start building right away instead of setting up local containers, wrestling with local config, hunting down environment variables, or trying to set up local proxies for development.

Provisioning staging and dev environments is slow and expensive

On monolithic systems, it can be prohibitively expensive to give every dev an environment that exactly matches production. This means that DevOps teams are often responsible for creating "production-esque" environments that devs can work with.

Unfortunately, these environments are necessarily lower priority than production, so they struggle to stay up-to-date and stable.

I worked for a large e-commerce company with a bespoke monolithic tech stack. The "dev" environment had to connect to a "pre live" database, that was an obfuscated copy of production.

IT. WAS. ALWAYS. DOWN.

We lost DAYS of development time over and over and over again.
Salma Alam-Naylor still a little salty about how she had to work in the other universe

The lack of parity between dev, staging, and production environments leads to a lot of frustration and confusing bugs.

When a previous team of mine was setting up local dev environments, a lot of times we'd need to run a local clone of Shopify and WordPress projects, then copy-paste code into their WYSIWYG editors. We had to maintain a repo and manually eyeball it to match all because setting it up locally can sometimes be so tricky.
Prabhav Khandelwal sharing a common agency pain point in the other universe

Beyond the general frustration of fragile processes like these, the lack of confidence that things are correct also hurts the team's morale and motivation, which further slows down shipping to production.

Netlify automatically creates unlimited staging environments that exactly match production

Whenever you want to try out an idea, you can open a pull request and Netlify will automatically create a deploy preview. Your changes are built and deployed in an environment that matches production at a URL that you can share with your team for review.

No more asking DevOps to set up a staging environment or being limited to a small number of dev and staging environments. Your ideas are infinite — Netlify will let you try out as many of them as you can open pull requests for.

Getting feedback is slow, frustrating, and hard to track

Every team has a set of tools that work best for their role. Executives might live in email, spreadsheets, and slide decks. The product team may prefer an app like Linear or Trello for tracking work. Devs might lean toward code-centric tools like GitHub issues or Jira.

When I was an intern, we did code reviews on paper. Instead of opening a PR I would go to File > Print.
Jason Barry who lived out one of my literal nightmares in the other universe

And clients or customers? It's anyone's guess.

I worked at a place where developers were forbidden to speak directly with clients. Our process for developing new properties and making edits to them was to get a PDF mockup from an account executive, have a developer translate that into an Excel spreadsheet of tasks, have another developer complete the tasks, send to the account executive middleperson so they could get feedback from the client. Rinse and repeat. Also we coded in a proprietary XML tagset called (no joke) FML.
Kristen Lavavej recounting the worst game of telephone ever in the other universe

This presents a significant challenge for teams who need to collect, triage, and execute on feedback from a variety of teams. When devs have to manage feedback across multiple media, it can lead to things getting missed, duplicated, or unclear.

Netlify collects feedback directly in your deploy previews and syncs it to your management tools

Developers might work in GitHub issues or Jira projects. Product managers might prefer Linear or Trello. But everyone will review the work-in-progress link.

Netlify allows you to share work in progress in collaborative Deploy Previews, and your team has the ability to leave feedback — including annotated screenshots and even Loom screen recordings! — right there on the Deploy Preview itself.

Netlify will then sync that feedback to GitHub, GitLab, Jira, Linear, Trello, and more services so each team can track feedback in the way they prefer. No more copy-pasted feedback from Slack or a Google Doc or email — collect feedback from everyone in a centralized, intuitive place, without asking everyone to switch their preferred project management tools.

Shipping to production is slow

Even after you've powered through the toil of local dev, locating credentials, gathering feedback, and getting everything ready for deployment — you still have to deploy to production.

In the other universe, the processes can range from archaeologically enigmatic to creatively cruel.

We had to write a Word doc with all of the shell commands needed to install our service on a shared VM with about 12 other teams, wait until the deployment window (usually around 2am), join the release WebEx video call, wait for the release team to go through each of the word docs from the 12 apps and manually execute each command in the shell, and pray nothing goes wrong.
Nathan Nicholson who apparently worked inside an escape room

Many companies are doing the best they can with what they have, and it leads to tragically complex and error-prone release processes.

The ancient setup for assets managed through FTP was like a final terrifying hurdle after stepping through a million other error-prone steps. So, if you dragged a folder to the wrong place, you had to do rework under a tight timeline.
Rachael Stavchansky who lived the experience of "what if work was also an obstacle course"

Netlify lets you go from pull request to live, safely and in seconds

The fastest path to innovation is rapid iteration. Get things in front of customers, gather feedback, adjust and try again. In the Netliverse, you're able to merge a pull request and automatically take that change live to production.

Netlify lets you shorten your release cycle from weeks to minutes, and because of our atomic deploys, you can deploy safely knowing that you're only one click away from rolling back to a previous version of the site.

If you prefer a regular release frequency, Netlify also allows you to hold off on going live until you click the publish button.

However you prefer to go live, you can do it confidently and quickly.

Join us in the good universe

We've been working on building the best platform and development workflows for building modern websites since 2015. If you switch to Netlify, you get to focus on building features without worrying about how to get them running, gather feedback, or take them to production.

Join millions of developers who have switched and learn how you can Simplify. Unify. Netlify.

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