Even if you’ve never written a single line of code in your life, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Github. This platform allows developers to track changes in their code, as well as collaborate on anything related to the projects they’re working on.
But there’s something else that GitHub can also be used for - discussing ideas and tracking your feature requests. Today, we’ll show you how you can do it, whether it’s a good idea or not, and what you can do instead.
What is Github?
Founded in 2008, GitHub is a community where developers and programmers of all types come together to work on code. It’s home to more than 73 million developers who get there daily to work on public and private code repositories.
How Does Github Work?
In essence, GitHub is a code repository where multiple developers can work on one piece of programming code at the same time. In essence, multiple programmers can work on the same GitHub repository without the need for one of them to stop working while the other one picks up.
Practically, your entire project code is located on GitHub and this is called a code repository. For developers to know what works well and whether something went wrong, they need to track the changes in the code between two different versions - created by the same or different developers.
This is called version control and it allows programmers to easily catch bugs or any issues that may happen. With multiple people on the same project, errors can come up easily.
The solution to that is called branching. When a developer wants to make a change to the existing code, they make a “branch”. This essentially copies the main code on the side so they can work on it and make changes to see whether everything works properly.
Once they’re happy with their work, they merge that branch back into the main repository so that the code starts functioning.
Branching and merging are two main principles of GitHub that allow developers to easily make and track changes to their code.
What are the Benefits of Using Github?
More than 70 million developers wouldn’t be using GitHub if it didn’t bring significant upgrades to the way they work. Here are the most important benefits of using GitHub for working on new code.
- Showcasing work
GitHub is predominantly used for open-source code. This means that as a developer (or a company), you can share your code for the world to see. If you’re a freelancer wanting to show off your skills, you can send your GitHub to show off your work. As a company, you can provide it to show your customers how your app is built - but be aware of the competition who will look at the source code too.
More than one developer can simultaneously work on the same piece of code without affecting anyone else involved in the process. If you have a large team building complex features and updates, this simplifies work quite a bit.
When a new developer joins your team, they have to start working on your code without any prior knowledge of what you’ve done before that. By looking at the GitHub repository, they can see the documentation for all the code written previously by other developers.
- Tracking changes
By looking at different versions of the code, you can track who made the changes to the code and when. If something needs fixing, you’ll be able to spot it pretty quickly.
How Can GitHub be Used to Track Feature Requests and Ideas?
Besides being used by developers, you can use GitHub for tracking feature requests. If you already use it in your daily processes, your product and marketing team can make use of GitHub for this crucial aspect of your SaaS app development. Here is how you can track feature requests with GitHub.
Using Github Issues
An Issue in GitHub is a basic unit like a card in Trello. You can monitor your progress by turning tasks into issues. Whether you want to launch a new feature or fix an existing bug, you can create an issue for this task that everyone in your team can see and follow.
You can use Issues to create feature requests and track them internally. That’s the keyword - internally, as your customers would have to make an account on GitHub to get access.
Using Github Discussions
Within your open source GitHub project, you can create GitHub discussions. This is a space where everyone interested can leave comments and discuss your code. As the owner of the project, you can create categories within those categories and start new discussions.
Within your Discussions space, you can create a category for feature requests where your customers can create new discussions for the features they want to be built.
The biggest issue with GitHub is that it’s a tool for developers. The percentage of your customers who actually write code and use this platform may be pretty small. As a result, you’ll drive customers to a platform they’re not familiar with. As nice as GitHub is for development, it’s hardly an intuitive tool for feature tracking.
Then there is the issue of access. In order to create a new discussion on your repository, a customer has to create a new profile. Sounds like 5 minutes of work but it could be a lot of friction for someone just wanting to tell you about a broken popup on your landing page.
Moreover, your customers won’t be able to vote on feature requests. Discussions merely let them create a new request where others can leave comments. You won’t be able to see which requests have more votes and a lot of times, customers will create duplicate requests because they won’t be able to find the first one that matches their requirements.
Last but not least, as you build features or do bug fixes, you’ll have to manually reach out to everyone who made a comment or created a discussion. This can get tedious pretty quickly and you can easily forget customers who participated.
Why a dedicated tool might work better
If you’ve been thinking about using GitHub for feature requests and product ideas, we might have changed your mind just now. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why a dedicated feedback tool such as FeedBear is a better idea.
Ease of use
How many of your customers have a GitHub account and know what the website is used for? Probably not many. The biggest downside of GitHub is forcing your customers to sign up and register just to request a feature.
A dedicated feedback tool like FeedBear is easy to use because customers get a page where they can add new feature requests and vote on existing ones with just a few clicks. They don’t even have to log in to do anything mentioned here.
The ability to vote
No matter which method you select in GitHub, your customers will be forced to either make new feature requests every time or spend time searching for existing entries.
With feedback software like FeedBear, customers can vote on feature requests so you can get quantitative feedback about what you want to build. You’ll also avoid double entries - as soon as someone starts creating a new request, the name field acts as a search bar for existing feature requests.
One crucial feature that GitHub is lacking is the ability to create roadmaps. As part of the feedback process, roadmaps are a natural extension of feature requests. They let you show your customers what you’re planning for the months ahead and provide transparency for potential and new customers. With GitHub, there really is no way to incorporate roadmaps.
Imagine following up with everyone who created a new feature request on your GitHub repository. It would take considerable time to comb through the discussions and message individual profiles to tell them you’re accepting, rejecting or building their feature.
Feedback software like FeedBear makes the process much easier. In our tool, when a customer votes on a request, creates it or leaves a comment, they get automatic updates every time the status of a request changes. In other words, they get an email each time an update happens with a request they’ve contributed to.
If you think that using GitHub is a poor idea, we’re with you on that one. While it’s a great tool for developers who need to work on their own code, by no means should be a tool that your customers have to use to request new features.
However, we have just the tool for you. FeedBear lets your customers request new features or report bug fixes right on your website, with a few clicks of a button. Ready to give it a spin? Sign up for free today!