Vercel Deploy Previews
You can learn a lot about most companies from their pricing model.
Let’s take Vercel for example.
Vercel is a platform for frontend frameworks and static sites that is built to integrate with headless content, commerce, or database. They help developers with things like: instant deployments, automatic scaling, and serving up content.
Many Vercel users use the built-in CI/CD to automatically deploy pull and merge requests. These deployments can either take the form of production deployments, or preview deployments that are deployed to a unique URL that can then be shared with the rest of the team.
These ephemeral environments (also known as “deploy previews” or “PR preview environments) are transient, staging-like environments that can be created automatically. They have become increasingly valuable for development teams for automatically initiating E2E, integration, or UAT tests based on a set of triggers.
In the context of multidisciplinary teams with technical and non-technical stakeholders, deploy previews give everyone a way to see the latest changes in any pull request or branch.
But while these environments provide a basis for reviewing the latest changes, they are effectively “read-only”. The deploy previews on their own don’t help teams to collect, relay and discuss the inevitable rounds of review comments. Every stakeholder is forced to use outside communication and issue management tools to try and describe what they think about the deploy preview they are looking at.
This created a fragmented, inefficient and frustrating review workflow.
To fill this void, we built Livecycle - to turn these “read-only” preview environments into collaborative playgrounds where teams can collaborate in the context of the product itself. The Livecycle SDK is injected into the Vercel deploy preview to add built-in collaboration tools enabling stakeholders to leave review comments and collaborate with teammates on the product UI.
When Livecycle’s SDK is added to the Vercel preview environment pipeline, teams can exploit the full potential of the deploy previews to shorten feedback loops, limit unnecessary meetings, resolve issues faster and push code to production sooner.
Native Vercel Collaboration Features
We’ve recently been asked how Livecycle’s contextual review capabilities compare to the native annotation features recently introduced by Vercel. What is the advantage of installing Livecycle on a Vercel preview environment?
One way to frame the answer to this question is to looking at the pricing models and understand what it tells us about the nature of the product itself.
Vercel is a deployment platform, and so their pricing follows a usage-based/per-deployment model. There is a full cost per-seat, because the underlying assumption is that the people using the platform are active developers. And by extension, the add-on charges are based on usage of the deployment mechanisms and other associated developer tools.
What Vercel’s pricing model indicates is that this is a platform build by developers, for developers. And because of the stellar platform they have built - developers around the world are willing to pay for it in full.
Devtools built for teams. Not just developers.
This focus on developers however, can make it difficult for other critical stakeholder (such as UI designers, PMs, QA, marketing and management) to access or use the native collaboration tools.
Livecycle on the other is designed deliberately as a collaboration tool. Our SDK aims to “level the playing field” of the pull request, enabling all relevant stakeholders to access the deploy preview, and collaborate so that the whole team has a single collaborative context to work with.
Here are a few specific examples of how Livecycle achieves this:
- Easily invite reviewers that are not in GitHub - Using Livecycle, non-technical stakeholders without GitHub access can be invited to view, collaborate and sign off on a PR deploy preview
- Dashboard with clear context - Livecycle makes all playgrounds accessible with a dashboard that gives everyone clear context for what’s been changed and what needs to be reviewed in each playground
Since Livecycle is a collaboration-first product, our pricing model is built to reflect this. Our per-seat pricing is only for active collaboration users while view-only users can use the platform for free. And there is no usage-based penalties or pricing tiers based on a specific number of deployments.
Unique Livecycle Features
Livecycle is built to be a collaboration product. Vercel is not.
So it makes sense that while Vercel does offer some baked-in annotation capabilities, these features are limited and offer a shallow collaboration experience. Livecycle on the other hand, is focused on providing rich collaboration to optimize workflows and tighten feedback loops.
Here are a few specific examples of Livecycle’s unique features:
- One click screenshots - Livecycle lets you take capture screenshots out of the box, with no additional extensions needed
- CSS editing tool - Livecycle lets reviewers modify the CSS and HTML elements on the page and submit them as suggested changes. This makes it much easier to instantly propose and review changes to texts, margins, fonts, colors and more
- Session recordings - Livecycle maintains sessions recording and logging so that developers can understand the full context of the feedback coming their way
- Threads and messaging - While Vercel supports isolated comments (when enabled), Livecycle supports active communication threads for every comment and feedback item. Teams can use Livecycle to have the necessary dialogue on a specific issue, understand the full context, and bring it quickly to resolution.
- Collaboration via Github - Livecycle allows developers to view, respond and resolve comments that are left in Livecycle
Add Livecycle to Vercel deploy previews
Vercel is an excellent deployment platforms. Their deploy preview functionality is potentially a great way to initiate a collaborative review process within your organization. And by adding a true collaboration tool such as Livecycle to your Vercel deploy previews, you can fully actualize this potential in the context of your deploy previews.