The Challenges of Marketing Software Tools to Developers

sizzling is advertised as a “browser for web developers” and its creator, a Macedonian developer known simply as Kitze, hopes to make it a flourishing business. Currently, the product is available on a 14-day free trial, but after that, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly subscription ($15 per month for an individual).

To recent Change of infobip developer conference in Croatia, Kitze was the keynote speaker and he talked about his struggle to make a living selling software to developers. He didn’t just look sad about it, he was downright angry (see this article’s featured image).

I caught up with Kitze after his presentation to find out what Sizzy is and why he finds it so difficult to market it.

Sizzy: What’s in it for developers?

A $15 per month subscription seems reasonable, but for an indie developer, that’s a sizable sum when you add it up over a year – let alone the next year, and so on. Since Kitze is clearly a developer himself, I asked him why he built it and what does it offer to a working developer?

“So it started with my frustrations with resizing my browser,” he replied. “That was the number one feature; I was using Google Chrome for responsive design and had to switch between multiple devices to check if it worked with an iPhone, on an iPad, on [another] tablet, on this and that. And I was like, why don’t I just do a [web] page with some iframes where I can open localhost:3000 and I can see it on multiple devices.

The original version of Sizzy was a Chrome extension that did just that. He spear in April 2017 as a tool “to develop responsive websites at breakneck speed”.

However, in July 2019 he had come to the conclusion that “GitHub stars won’t pay your rent” and so he rethought and relaunch the product as a full featured browser (built using Google’s Chromium open source project).

Kitze on stage at Infobip Shift 2022

The new version of Sizzy came with a price tag; but also, according to Kitze, it had additional benefits for the developer.

“Whenever you open localhost, instead of opening it in Google Chrome – which has the dev tools hidden, everything is hidden behind something – [Sizzy is] a tool where all the things you need as a developer are there for you.

He also said that Sizzy has a “more accurate simulation than Google Chrome because in Google Chrome they only show you a frame.”

Being able to log in to different user accounts in the same browser window is another Sizzy feature that “regular browsers” lack, he added.

For all of Kitze’s frustrations with Chrome, Sizzy is built on the same code base: Chromium. So it offers Chromium development tools including Chromium Inspector. Although Kitze added, “it’s on the roadmap to create our own dev tools and our own inspector, but for now you can have the exact same dev tools.”

The main difference between Sizzy and Chrome from a developer tools perspective, he told me, is that Sizzy has a “universal inspect element.”

“So when you go to Inspect Element and hover over multiple devices, you get information about any element – and if you click on an element, it takes you to that device’s developer tools,” he said. -he declares.

Software subscription blues

A big part of Kitze’s problem now is that Sizzy started out as a free product — and users never like it when a free product they’ve become addicted to tries to charge them money. Especially if they rely on this tool for their work.

Sizzy said in his Infobip Shift presentation that he received a lot of feedback from users when he introduced the new product as a subscription service. Part of the negative feedback, judging by this Reddit thread, was that the developers didn’t like the subscription model; they prefer to pay for the product only once.

Another issue for Sizzy is that there’s a lot of competition for browser-based products that help developers do responsive design. CSS-Tricks reviewed a group of them, including Sizzy, a few years ago – he chose Polypane, which happens to be another subscription service, as the winner.

Perhaps Kitze’s biggest problem, which he alluded to in his relaunch post, is that he has many side projects and regularly travels the tech conference circuit. As I witnessed at the Infobip Shift event, Kitze is a very talented presenter – he reminded me a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk, the American entrepreneur and media personality. Not only does Kitze look like @garyvee, he has the same peppy charisma.

It’s obvious to me that Kitze has no problem getting attention on the internet – he has over 29,000 followers on Twitter – so I asked him why isn’t that helping his business Sizzy?

“Because we’re trying to change your mind [developers],” he said. “The oldest habit people have is using a browser […] and we try to compete with the free browser.

He, too, seems to be caught between two extremes. He told me he either wanted to build something really big out of Sizzy – he mentioned Microsoft’s VS Code as inspiration – or it would remain a side project.

Ultimately, while I sympathize with Kitze’s desire to make a living from his software creations, he faces the same challenges as all of us when it comes to making money on the Internet: proving the value of all alternatives, including free ones. Often the software winners are the products that do something that no other product can do (see figma Where StackBlitz). If Kitze thinks Sizzy offers something uniquely valuable to developers, he needs to make it the centerpiece of his marketing.

Disclosure: Infobip paid for Richard MacManus to attend the Infobip Shift conference in Croatia.

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