Why We Built Tugboat.QA

by Matt Westgate

Three years ago, Lullabot started a project to bring visibility to the web development process. Asking our clients to wait to see work in progress is not only an embarrassing ask, it’s an alienating one for stakeholders. Waiting two weeks until the end of a sprint cycle for a demo was not only nerve-wracking, it also slowed potential progress, and meant that feedback was often delayed until too late. The truth was that building these demo sites was a lot of work: work that was taking time away from creating the actual website. How would you feel if your general contractor said you could only see the house they were building for you twice a month? Unacceptable. Time and time again, through client interviews and market research we found this pain was widespread and in need of resolution. The lack of visibility and thus engagement was leading to out-of-sync stakeholders and expensive rework. We knew we could work smarter and with lower costs.

For stakeholders and non-technical team members, the barrier to collaboration in web development is nearly insurmountable. Stakeholders need to know how to setup a local working copy of the project and they need to know how to continuously keep that local instance working—which is its own sisyphean task.

With Tugboat, we’re able to eliminate the technical barriers and share work as it happens with everyone, anywhere. Tugboat does this by automatically building a complete working website whenever a new pull request is generated. The entire team can see every change, every feature, every bug fix fully integrated into the larger site the moment it’s ready for review. No more waiting to see the work. No more waiting for feedback.

Tugboat is hosting agnostic. You don’t host your website with us in order to use it. But we do take platform architecture seriously, so every account is its own silo of dedicated resources and each project begins with a custom setup to ensure you’re ready to set sail. Tugboat can even run inside your own hosting environment (on premise) if you need to keep your data behind your firewall. We can also run custom Docker containers if you’re already using Docker as part of your production workflow.

We hope you get a chance to check out Tugboat. Stop by the Lullabot booth at Drupalcon and say hello. Meanwhile, if you’re a developer we’ve built a sandbox version of the platform for you to explore. Fork the public repository of our website, create a pull request and voilà! You can watch Tugboat chug chug chug its way into action. Be sure to check out some of the cool features while you’re there: built-in command-line access, visual regression tests, and real-time logging. But don’t take our word for it. Head on over to the demo to take Tugboat for a cruise!

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