IMPACT OF CUSTOMER SUPPORT

2020-11-27

A bit of context before I share the impact my today's "Customer Support" experience with Vercel...

This is a static blog built on Jekyll which was initially hosted with Github Pages. That's great and hassle free until you want to use the latest version of Jekyll as Github Pages is still on version 3.9.0 as of the time I write this post.

There is an easy workaround for hosting on Github and deploying via Github Actions that allows to run any version of Jekyll and theoretically also custom plugins that aren't supported via Github Pages. That setup is explained in detail in the Jekyll documentation, so not going into details here.

I wanted to start writing more about my personal journey of building Revit Family App, and for that I wanted to be able to share an url like michaelloistl.com/tag/rfa that only shows posts tagged with rfa (which stands for Revit Family App and is also the file extension of Revit Family files).

In order to achieve that, I implemented jekyll-archives, which worked fine on the locally served preview but not on the Github Pages hosted version. I spent some time figuring out why that would be, as I thought that the manually deployed version would support any plugins, but apparently that plugin doesn't work. At least I wasn't able to find a solution.

Instead of spending more time figuring out why that particular plugin isn't working on Github Pages, I started to look into different third party hosting options and found Vercel, which I already use for other sites.

I thought that would be a matter of minutes however I run into some build errors, related to the _site folder not being available after building.

After some web search, I came across this article in Vercel's documentation that suggested to change the build command to the following:

{
  "scripts": {
    "build": "jekyll build && mv _site public"
  }
}

However that didn't resolve the issue and as I didn't want to spend anymore time for it, I just moved on and tried Render, which is another third party service promising zero configuration and is also free for static sites.

The setup was indeed zero configuration and everything worked straight away, which was exactly what I was looking for. The only downside was that it added yet another service to my list, but as the deployment is automated via web hooks, that shouldn't be a big problem.

Problem solved and as I was really thrilled with the seamless experience I fired off that tweet:

Just minutes later I received the following DM via Twitter...

... which turned into a great conversation and Matthew quickly figured out the issue with my build configuration, which should have simple been...

{
  "scripts": {
    "build": "jekyll build"
  }
}

...which I thought would be implied by the build settings in the Vercel project setup, however it didn't. Matthew opened a PR with the fix, I merged, and everything was working seamless as I would have expected it in the first place.

I moved back from Render to Vercel as a result of Matthew reaching out to me, and resolving the issue in no time.

Ah, yeah, there was another upside of moving back to Vercel which is performance!

Render performance
Vercel performance

This customer support experience, and my reaction to move back from Render to Vercel got me present to how important great customer support is and how it glues customers to a service.

I have always held customer support very high with Revit Content, but from time to time it's great to experience that also as customer ;-)

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