For a long time at WonderProxy we neglected internal systems, instead directing our efforts to things used by our customers. We’ve built new products, launched redesigns, then a few more products, all the while maintaining user accounts by directly interacting with the database (including a few update queries lacking a WHERE clause).
This was a huge mistake
As I worked on the redesign for WonderProxy (Original vs Redesign) I added a few basic admin features almost by accident, and all our lives got remarkably easier. I added a few more, and things got easier still. Tasks that used to be a chore (like setting up a free trial) almost became fun. Researching account history is just a few easy clicks, with nice graphs using nvd3, and pretty data tables. Editing accounts in place, with code that understands 30GB = 32212254720 bytes.
Saying things “creating trial accounts is fun” may sound like gross exaggeration, but it’s not. I’m pretty happy with the code i’ve got there, which may add to it. The form supports pasting in an address like Paul Reinheimer <paul@preinheimer,com>, parsing it out to its component parts, and generating an available username. Then in for expiry, I leverage php’s strtotime() function so I can enter in something simple like “+2 weeks” or “next thursday” and have that parsed and work properly.
The speed at which we’re both willing and able to resolve requests has greatly increased. Trial accounts (which convert with great regularity) are easy to do in a minute, rather than 10, so we’re more likely to do them when they roll in, rather than waiting until we’re on the server for another reason. When it comes to customizing accounts, getting an accurate history, and being able to quickly modify accounts has helped everyone. I’m lacking a basis for comparison, but our revenue has also been climbing nicely since the change, having a dashboard to find clients exceeding their plan limits has certainly helped.
If you’re looking at the next big thing to improve for your team, I’d strongly suggest taking a harder look at your internal tools.