July 5, 2024

Experiments with our form factor

RMRohan Mayya

Early on in the life of the company, we realized that there are only 2 ways to make good use of AI:

Assume the models are 80% there to get you to where you want. What solutions do you have? There’s:

  1. Get model accuracy close to 100%. Doing a host of things like fine tuning, clever prompts, feedback loops (debugging/linting etc) and at some point, even training your own models to get there,
  2. Build good guardrails around the UX to make it easy for the AI to generate code.

We tried a series of experiments over the last 3 months, namely:

  1. An AI editor that runs locally (like Automatic1111/ComfyUI/Storybook),
  2. A browser based tool where you prompt and the tool is built out, like Devin (all sorts of magic to get this to work). This is covered extensively here if you’re interested in reading about how we did it.

Browser demo

We iterated quickly and put each variant in customers’ hands. We realized that both these form factors are tedious to work with.

With the local editor, it was hard to find out how to run it locally (there were 8 steps in total!), and there was too much setup work involved.

The browser experience was slow, and requires a lot of plumbing apart from getting the AI to work well, just like Devin. It wasn’t coherent with our timeline of putting a useful product out quickly.

After experimenting with our customers and talking to more devs, we finally settled on making a VSCode extension. Today, the form factor of our product looks like this:

Video

There are a few products we’re fans of that made good decisions with regard to form factor:

  • Cursor hijacks VSCode to build a better end-to-end experience,
  • Supermaven, GitHub Copilot and Double all offer auto complete + chat in the editor as an extension.

GitHub’s Copilot Chat in tandem with VSC offers APIs to reference other extensions by just @ing them, so we may be able to push Creo’s experience within Copilot Chat soon.

So far, we have:

  • A starter kit based on NextJS that has sensible defaults, with our choice of UI components, hooks and is installable in less than a minute using our CLI,
  • A VSCode extension that allows you to easily integrate databases and write AI-assisted code,
  • A web app where your tools are deployed, that has all the stuff you wouldn’t ever want to build by yourself (Permissions, authentication, audit controls, organization management and deployments)

If you want to build internal tools without being held down by a low-code solution, you can get started with Creo for free today.

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