Filling a Gap in the Market

How we built Hawk

The team behind Hawk is also responsible for NowRenting. So we are, as they say, eating our own dog food. Like most tools built to address a need you yourself have, Hawk was born out of frustration with what’s currently on the market — any other product that worked by running a custom script on the end user’s browser could have offered the features we needed, but none of them did.

The Problem

As a developer, you have a sense for what kind of problems you ought to be writing code to solve, and which ones you should import a library for: if you’re solving a problem unique to your market, that’s probably code you need to write, whereas if it’s a problem everybody has, there ought to be a library for it.

“It was like we were coding in the dark.”

Matt Talamini, Developer

We kept on finding ourselves writing code to address needs that it felt like would be common to many web apps, and could all be addressed by the same type of technology. But there wasn’t anything out there that would just take care of what we needed:

  1. Seeing what our users are doing
  2. Researching and reproducing bugs
  3. Managing suspicious visitors

All of these problems boiled down to one core issue: we didn’t have a clear view of the browser. Our code was running on somebody else’s computer, and we had no way of seeing what it was doing. It was like we were coding in the dark.

The Solution

As it turns out, all we had to do was run a little bit of JavaScript on the end user’s browser, and we could take care of all our problems at once. We settled on three broad feature sets that would let us take advantage of the new transparent access to the end user’s browser this gave us:

  1. User Tracking
  2. Error Reporting
  3. Access Control
Workflow Integration

It’s surprising how easy it’s been to integrate Hawk into the workflow we were already comfortable with. Developers will reach for the easiest tool at hand, and once we had it set up, Hawk quickly became that tool. When it’s a choice between, on the one hand, setting up your local environment to exactly emulate a user’s state when an error occurred and, on the other, pulling up the Hawk error report, the report is going to be not only quicker, but more accurate–because it’s not guessing about the user’s state: it was there.

The Hawk Error Report

So we’ve found that when we’re working on diagnosing a bug, it’s by far the quickest way to get the information we need, and that’s true whether it’s a bug we have a user support ticket about, or something Hawk itself alerted us to.

And that’s where Hawk came from! We built it, installed it, and started ironing out bugs–both in Hawk and NowRenting–and now we’re making it available to you.

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