What is our primary use case?
We help residential general contractors take their quoting time from hours to just minutes. My use case for Zudy VINYL has been the full package for both my front-end, and my back-end systems. We're running all of our database information, all of our modeling, all of our calculations, as well as the front-end delivery for the customer, through Zudy .
How has it helped my organization?
The way Zudy has helped my organization function is that it's the first time that someone was able to actually pull off my dream, the vision that I've had. Even working with some of the guys, everybody looks at what Quote Kong does and they think that because it looks simple, therefore the programming must be simple. It's not. I've had far too many people assume that it is.
Everybody wants to say they can do it. I've tried all kinds of different platforms and Zudy was the first one that not only could pull off the back-end data modeling and the backflips and the crazy things that I needed it to do, but it could also handle the front-end well enough. It's not a beautiful front-end, but it is good-looking. I'm happy with it. It looks good. There are some other solutions that I liked on the prettier end, but they couldn't handle any of the back-end data. I found other database back-ends that could handle some of the database stuff, but they didn't look pretty at all. This has been a great balance of a good-looking front-end and all the power and the complexity that I needed to handle on the back-end. It's been a dream for me. It's been so exciting to finally get Quote Kong out there for people to start working on.
And when talking about time to market on new capabilities, it's absolutely sped me up. The last big charge that we made at trying to build out Quote Kong, we were three and a half years in development and we could not get it to function because of all the complexity. With VINYL, we were able to do that in eight months. And every single new thing that we're adding is going to be quicker, easier, more integrated. And I don't feel like I have to pull out another massive budget to try and add my next feature, because the next feature is going to be quite simple to be able to add, and I'm very excited about that.
The best thing I can tell you is that what took me three years and never did get finished—we got it close, but I couldn't edit a lot of things and I couldn't import a lot of the things I needed to. It was still not working right on different systems and different devices. It would work here, here, and here, but over here, it wouldn't. And then of course, if they opened up this browser, then that wouldn't work. I don't have any of those problems. I went from thinking, "I don't know if that is ever going to get finished"—even if I had another two years, maybe we wouldn't have gotten finished—to eight months and it's ready. How do you beat that? How do you explain the speed of that? And even in the eight months, we have more features and more things that I wanted to include in the first iteration than what we had after three and a half years of building.
VINYL allows me to be able to play with a lot of the back-end data and to link all of my databases and to understand where all my tables are sitting, much better than what I was ever able to do with any of the other platforms or the other services I was working with. I'm able to handle many-to-many database connections. Zudy explained a lot of that really well, if you take the time to do their course which was included with my subscription, although I don't know if they include it for everybody. The ability to understand everything that's out there in my system is critical because there are so many minutia and so many little micro details. I'm very excited that I get to go in and pull out all the details. Just last night, I was pulling out all the different database tables and all the connections so that I could see them separately and make sure that they were all where I want them to be. I'm very excited about that.
The data integrations from Zudy that have been able to help me automate business processes and workflows have been very instrumental for building what I've wanted to build. That is the majority of what Quote Kong is. It's a ton of automations which used to be 50 or 60 hours worth of manual paperwork, and we're able to put it into processes that substantially streamline that to down to an hour's worth of work. The future things that I want to build, anytime I go looking at the documentation, and look at doing things, I'll say to myself, "I'll be able to do this," whereas with other platforms, and other things that I've tried, we were not able to do it. This has been exciting for us.
The low-code functionality, and what I've been able to achieve with it, has been a massive amount—a magnitude of 10 times—easier than what it was previously. We tried to build this five other times, and failed. I'm talking about years of development and multiple attempts. The fact that the code is just there means that so many of the minutia are already all built out for me. I don't have to define the box, the line weight, and the size, and all the little details that I've had to do in the past. It's not that I don't have control over that. It's just that I don't have to think about it ahead of time. I also don't have to design for each iteration of iPhone, and iPad, and Android, and computer size. It just automatically adjusts. A lot of those features have been absolutely instrumental, and we've been able to add in integrations that we were not able to achieve on the other platforms. It's been wonderful.
What is most valuable?
The features in Zudy VINYL that I've found to be most valuable have been the fact that we have tried to build out several versions of Quote Kong, and the problem has been that every time we start off with a new version we always have to go through this huge rigmarole of setting up all of these tables, and all these logics, and writing everything from scratch. I don't have to do that with Zudy VINYL. There are so many of those micro, early-stage things that are just done for you.
On top of that, it's unbelievably easy to have it work on any device. I have hardly had to do any tweaking from device to device. Whereas previously, it was very difficult. Those are the things that I like about Zudy VINYL.
Also, when it comes to the speed of development of the applications with Zudy VINYL it has been the fastest and most powerful that I've been able to do. We've tried building things from scratch. It takes an enormous amount of time. We've cut that time by probably a fifth, with more power. I've been very happy with the speed of doing things in Zudy VINYL.
The custom application we built with Zudy VINYL is Quote Kong, our entire process. We compress probably 60 hours' worth of manual paperwork, and we get it done for the contractor in about an hour. There are a lot of hoops that we have to go through to make that happen, and there were a lot of things that were not off-the-shelf that I needed. We actually attempted to build Quote Kong five other times with different platforms, and it failed. It did not work with other ones. We tried. We spent a lot of time, a lot of energy, and we could not make it come to completion. But with Zudy VINYL we were able to complete it.
Zudy's data connectors and the API integrations have been great so far. We've definitely had to integrate some older data that we brought over, and it's worked really well. It also has a lot of external things such as Babel, and it also has Google integration, which has been easy. Integrations aren't easy in general, but I would say that I'm very happy with how it has been, integrating with Zudy so far.
As for the ease of use for VINYL for non-developers, I like it. I do have some technical background, but I don't have the full-stack development abilities. Yet I'm able to go in and I love that I can make changes on-the-fly when a customer says to me, "Hey, this button in this place doesn't quite make sense." I can move it. I don't have to call up a developer. I don't have to try and find somebody to do it. I'm very excited about that. It's been amazing to have that control myself, and not have to try and explain to someone how I want to move the button; why I want to move the button; what that is supposed to look like. I've just been able to go in myself and do it, and I've found it to be relatively easy. It's a very complex thing that they're trying to accomplish, so it's not super-easy, but it's also not so difficult that a non-developer can't handle it. As long as you can follow some instructions, you should be able to do it yourself.
Zudy also handles the data encryption and the user identities and the data migration and the databases, and all of those authentication things, very well. I have been very happy with it. When you're having to build things from scratch, you have to build all of that out manually, and that is a difficult thing to do. It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, and I just didn't have [to go through] that with this one. I feel confident with what they have. My research has said they've been doing it well. Security is very hard to do. You can do 9,998 things right, but if you do one or two things wrong, the bad guys will find it. From what I've seen, that hasn't happened. Breaches are probably somewhat inevitable in some ways, but I think it's certainly a lot less likely because you didn't have to set up all of these things and know all these best practices because it was done well for you ahead of time. That's been a comfort to me because, of course, I have a lot of data and a lot of security things that I am worried about, and I've been glad to be able to rely on Zudy.
What needs improvement?
There are always micro things that could be improved. There are certain buttons that I want to have a certain feature. We can make it work, but it's a little tricky.
Eventually, a nicer way to create certain features, like the way that we create PDFs, would help. Sometimes the way that it resizes when I have multiple windows up, could also be better. It's minor stuff though. It's edge-case stuff.
Some of them I've brought up to them and some of them I haven't even bothered because I know that what I'd be asking for is very specific to me. It's not that I won't ask. I will in the future, but it's not worth my time right now.
They're always looking for ways to change and improve. That's a big one, because no one is perfect. No one has all the answers. But are you willing to listen and are you willing to understand the customer side of things? I feel that they are.
For how long have I used the solution?
We've been using Zudy Vinyl for about eight months.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
My impression of the stability of Zudy VINYL has been fantastic. I used to have hundreds of bug reports a week. I would find all these little micro things, and I would say, "Oh, goodness sakes, when I'm on this device and I do this, that crashes or that does." I'd get things back from my customers, but that has gone so far down. You don't notice pain when it's gone. You only notice pain when it's there. Until you asked me the question about stability, I'd forgotten how much pain I had, previously, trying to get all these systems and implementations deployed and how many problems it caused. This has been very stable and I've been very happy with it.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
In terms of the scalability of my Quote Kong platform on the Zudy platform, I don't see the limits. And trust me, I've looked. I have pushed and prodded and I've pulled, and I've tried all kinds of other solutions, and inevitably, I start finding some problem where when iterations get up into the high numbers, this is going to fail. I haven't been able to find that with Zudy, and I've been very happy with that. It will be able to handle the massive scales that I want to be able to add on eventually. I haven't done it, so I can't prove that, other than my anecdotal. But trust me, I am someone who digs and digs and digs, and I push and I prod and I pull and I do all kinds of things to break stuff, and I'm good at breaking things. And I have not been able to find a flaw yet that is catastrophic, or something that I'm really worried about in terms of long-term scaling.
We're using Zudy VINYL almost exclusively for all of these functionalities that we're building out. I'm very excited about all of the future things that I want to do. It's great because every time I come up with some wacky list of things that I want to accomplish, we're always able to find solutions that will make it work. And they're not workarounds, which is fantastic. So many times with some of the other builds, it's all workarounds and that always scares me to death. The capabilities that we've had, the things that we've added—everything's being built in Zudy, with the exception of a couple of those outsourced things that I want. I don't need Zudy to handle a payment system. We've got good payment systems elsewhere. I don't need it to build Google Maps, but we hook into it and it works, so that's what matters. I've been very happy with it. We're very driven and dedicated to what we've built here and my customers are very excited about what we're presenting.
How are customer service and technical support?
My experience with Zudy's technical support has been good. They definitely take in the things that I'm saying. When there is a problem, they do try and find the problem and try and fix it.
With the launch of 3.0, there were some hiccups, there were some things that kind of got pushed off to the edge. There were some things that got pushed off to the edge that I had to remind them about and they were like, "Oh, right, sorry." They brought them back up to the forefront and they got them fixed.
Nothing's going to be perfect, but I've been very happy with the way they've been responding and the way that they take in my information.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Prior to Zudy, I actually built out the entire prototype in Microsoft Excel. And even Microsoft said, "Boy, that's a lot of stuff. We've seen Excel do some crazy things; yours is way up there for complexity. There's hardly any that are more complex than what you've just shown us." And that's Microsoft talking. So I thought I had a great template that I'd be able to have people build off of, because everything was working in there. And it wasn't the case, even though it was there and I had all the instructions.
We tried things like FileMaker Pro. We tried things like Airtable and Webflow and UXPin, and coding from scratch. We also tried Bubble and MacGyver. There have been a lot of things that we've tried, or at least that I've tested out; even just straight, from-scratch HTML and starting everything from there. We just couldn't make it go. We were excited to finally be able to get everything working.
The way I came across Zudy for the first time was just a lot of internet searches. I'm someone who does a ton of research before I jump into anything. The one downfall is that they maybe weren't as public-facing, and they've admitted that. So I was hesitant to go with them at first, just because they didn't have a lot of information that I could really dig up. I think that's actually part of the reason why they're doing these videos, to be able to get the word out and get into the smaller and medium-sized businesses like mine. But it was a lot of research and it was a lot of checking and it was a lot of comparing. It wasn't until I talked to them and saw some of their demos that I really started to believe that maybe these guys could actually do it.
How was the initial setup?
I was starting off with an enormously complex ask. There were a lot of things that I was trying to accomplish, and with a deceptively simple front-end interface. They really understood what it was I needed. Even they underestimated its complexity a little bit, but they weren't so far off. Other people were way off. It was a complex thing that we were able to set up and I'm very happy that we were able to set that up. It had some complexity to it, but it was, overall, relatively simple, especially for the level of complexity that I was trying to build.
In terms of the staff that was required for the deployment and the integration, we did hire their development team to do that. I was working with two guys, mostly. They were able to pull off stuff in much faster times than what I was able to do with my previous team, and with the team before that, and with the team before that. We've been able to accomplish a lot and I'm happy with that.
I'm able to get in there and dig around and understand. I'm able to look at little micro things and say, "Oh, wait a second, that one particular column on that one particular table is not in the right spot. We have to move it because of some problem I'm going to have a year and a half down the road." The transparency has been great, and I've been able to do it on a minimal amount of staff.
The number of people that are using Zudy VINYL, in a hands-on sense, from the back-end perspective, I've got four guys who are working on different things. From a customer perspective, we're still early days with the launches, but I'm at about 20 users that have been on it. They've been super-happy with it. The fun part is that I built something that used to need 20 years of construction experience to be able to do and my best beta-tester is my mother. I love her, but she is terrible when it comes to computers, and she has been able to use it as a customer, and that's always been my goal. If mom can use it, anybody can use it. It's been exciting to be able to get it to that ease of use and simplicity.
What about the implementation team?
I'm starting to work with third-parties now. I'll have things that I will want to do for sure that are going to be outside. But for now, I've been able to do everything in-house, so I haven't had a lot of experience with trying to integrate other things. We are working on one right now.
Some of the outside sources that I'm trying to integrate it with, are things like Stripe for my payments. They do that pretty well. I'm trying to do something called LogRocket. That one is a little bit of an unknown. We've been able to integrate already with Google Maps and really unbelievably easily. In fact, I was demo-ing it for a client, and they [Zudy] had added it from the time that we talked about it the day before to when I was doing my presentation, and all of a sudden it was there, because I was showing them in my dev environment. So it was cool.
I've got lots of other plans. There are other measuring systems I want to integrate. But from what I understand of the API tools that we have, it should be relatively straightforward. Nothing's easy, but I think we'll be able to do that.
What was our ROI?
So far, all of my costs have been going into building things. I haven't been able to go live with a lot of the things. We're live now, but just in beta form. The return on investment is going to be hard to express other than the fact that there were three and a half years of not fully wasted development, but almost—I almost chucked out everything we did. After all of the false starts and all of the promises from other people, how do you put a value on that?
I don't have the raw numbers right now because we haven't really started into sales, but all I can say is that it has taken us far less time to build this out than what it has with anything else. And the bigger part is that we actually crossed the finish line. How do you put a value on that?
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
The pricing and the licensing of Zudy are reasonable. Pricing is always a tricky thing. It could be a little simpler, but they're doing well. I'm happy with it.
There were a couple of miscommunications early on, minor things, but they keep working with me and they keep trying to fix it, so that's all I can ask for. I think I'll be able to scale up with this without any problems. When I did the math, everything looked good. I've been happy with it so far.
Aside from their standard licensing fee, there are just little things. I'm using AWS, and they have a small rider on top of whatever AWS is charging them, but that's fine. It saves me having to deal with it. I'm happy. I haven't really noticed any real "gotchas." There are little things, like if I want more speed I can pay for more, but I haven't needed that yet.
What other advice do I have?
The advice I'd give people who are looking to implement Zudy is, first of all, know what it is you're having to build. What is it you're really trying to accomplish? But outside of some very small applications or gaming things, if you're looking to build some sort of business-process-driven website, something that you need both to look pretty good on the front-end and where you need a lot of calculations and tables and you need to jump through some hoops, I can't imagine building it from scratch.
I'd be happy to go with Zudy, again, by far. There really hasn't been anybody else I've been able to find that has been able to compare with what Zudy has been able to do for me. It's not to say they're not out there, but I wasn't able to find them, and I do a lot of research. Know what it is you're trying to accomplish, try to spell out as much as you possibly can, because the more you spell out, the easier it becomes to implement.
Zudy's improvement of their own features has been good. I've been on the platform for eight months and I've read a lot of things on what was version 1, and 2, and 3. But I can certainly submit things that I need to be improved or I need fixed. It does happen. They do listen to it. Obviously, you don't get everything you want, because it's not fully customized. But they're always doing improvements. They're always asking for feedback. I really like that. They seem to take my feedback seriously and implement what they can. They've got good help documentation, and they're asking for feedback on that. I've been happy with their level of iterations and improvements.
In terms of the updated UI and UX for version 3.0, I was on 2.3 when I first started and there was a pretty big leap between what they were doing on the UX side with that version versus 3.0. That always takes the user, myself, a little bit of time to learn some of the new tricks, but it's been nicer. The previous one was more technical and it wasn't as intuitive, whereas the 3.0 I'm finding a little more intuitive and it seems to be a little bit easier to use.
As for learning the new 3.0, compared to learning the 2.3, it would be easier if you're stepping into it and the first thing you're seeing is 3.0. If you're migrating, of course you're used to a button being in a weird spot, and that's where you're going to go look for it. So when there's a change, it's always a little harder. Whereas, if you're coming in fresh, congratulations, you don't have to go through quite so much of the learning pains that some of us who have been around with the older versions have. But overall, it's been good. I've been happy with it.
As for being more creative with VINYL 3.0, that hasn't been my focus right now. My focus is the Quote Kong logic. When I go back to my written documentation that I have it is thousands and thousands, probably close to 10,000, pages long now. The majority of what I've been doing is much more data modeling and logic rather than creativity. But, again, because I have access to being able to edit certain things, it's been wonderful that I can go in and edit it. I don't have to wait for somebody else to move it around and see what that looks like and then decide that I don't like it or make another change. So I've been able to do a lot of those little micro iterations myself, which has been very nice.
My rating for Zudy VINYL overall would be an eight or a nine, pretty high. Nothing's perfect, but I've been happy with them. I'm happy that I'm able to work with them and they work with me and we always try and find a solution or we table it to later, which I'm fine to do sometimes.
The biggest lesson I've learned from using Zudy VINYL is that there are many things that you have to try and set up when you're coding from scratch that I don't know that I'll ever want to code from scratch again. Not that I'm a coder. I'm not a full-stack developer. I know enough to be dangerous, but even the guys that I had were good guys. They were guys with a lot of experience and they worked really hard and they tried really hard, but we just couldn't get it done. It was just too complex of a problem, on top of all of the other little things that you have to do when you're trying to code from scratch. I liken it to the difference between drawing with paper versus using AutoCAD, or the difference between shingling a roof with a hammer and nails versus with an air gun. Why would I ever shingle a roof without an air gun, unless it's something really small? I've been happy.
Which version of this solution are you currently using?