Don't get stuck in development mud

Anyone that has ever done an online startup knows that one of the hardest decisions you continually have to make is where to spend your developer time. The game is a bit of a paradox too because the more you do, the more you have to maintain. This maintenance is "developer mud", and it includes things like, coding new emails, updating old ones, testing alternative views & user flows, improving metrics visibility - the list goes on and on. All these activities are important but the big challenge is deciding when they should take priority over new features.

It's true, a new feature is unlikely to be the game changer it appears to be when it was conceived, but the same can be said for the maintenance. The big difference is how much technical debt you are building up by doing an activity. For example, building a new section of a site for users to communicate on a simple Facebook-like wall might be a great addition for users, but along with that comes the complexity of more schema, more tests, user generated content (an possibly moderation) and other ancillary needs.

One of the places we find ourselves a bit stuck in the mud at thredUP right now is with email. We send a lot of system email and a lot of marketing email. As easy as rails makes email, it is still far too painful. While solving this is not going to reduce the technical debt load, it could take the maintenance side of emails out of developer hands and give our marketers the ability to experiment and test emails freely. My next post will explore a few options out there for us with respect to transactional email.