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Launch HN: Ditto (YC W20) – Keep product text in sync from design to production
223 points by jessouyang 32 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments
Jess and Jo here, and we're excited to share Ditto with you all (https://dittowords.com). Ditto is a way to manage product copy—the text found on user interfaces—all the way from design to development. Think of a headless CMS but with the text from your design files.

We think product copy is one of the highest ROI aspects of product development today, but also one of the most overlooked. Even more so than the visuals, the text users read is critical to shaping their understanding of how things work. Copy often gets coupled as a part of design or neglected as hard-coded strings, even though it's touched by everyone from design to legal to marketing to engineering. Lack of tooling specifically for copy means it often gets copy-pasted between a patchwork of tools intended for other use cases.

Jo and I have been on teams at both small startups and tech giants, and at every place we've seen product copy being written ad-hoc and scattered across mockups, docs, sheets, and tickets. The back and forth required just to fix a simple typo in production often included a backlogged ticket, several Slack conversations, and a ton of wasted engineering time better spent on building.

The two of us were fascinated by this problem—one that impacted the day-to-day of so many roles across a company but was rarely addressed. We decided to start working on it part-time while still in grad school and put together a simple landing page describing a tool that componentized product text. The response we got—emails from designers and developers from Salesforce to Square asking for a tool that didn’t yet exist—made us realize we had to pursue it full-time.

At its core, we wanted to build a way to treat product text as a system, with the ability to componentize text for reuse (just as we have components for development or design). We spent the last year building out and iterating on Ditto, deciding first to tackle how copy was managed between design files and content writers with our web-app and Figma integration.

However, our intent from day one has been to build a single source of truth from end to end, and have text from Ditto integrate into development. Initially, we took a stab at integrating into development by building a Github app that created pull requests for copy edits made in Ditto. This somewhat did the job (democratizing access to making text edits in development), but we saw users struggle with the maintenance it required. We realized it was a piecemeal solution to a system-level problem: Product text and “microcopy” (think text on buttons, error messages, etc.) has context, structure, and hierarchy just like any other content. Maintaining product copy as scattered, hard-coded strings, however, stripped it of its surrounding context.

We decided instead to build out an API (with a companion CLI and React SDK) so that Ditto could function similarly to a headless CMS and sync text from design all the way to production. The API/CLI fetches up-to-date product copy from Ditto (and the designs) into local directories as structured JSONs with unique IDs for text and text groups. As a locally hosted and updated JSON, you always own your copy, can see copy diffs on commits, and won't have to worry about latency (we're not a CDN).

To check it out (with a quick 3 min video of me talking through the features), you can go to: https://www.dittowords.com/developers. To try out our web-app, you can click the “Get started” button. We also have instructions for setting up / playing around with a sandbox Figma file and React app here: https://developer.dittowords.com/getting-started/use-our-cli....

Building tools for copy inherently means doing our best to learn about the design and development workflows of other teams. We anticipate that the HN community has members, teammates, or friends that work on product teams, whether as developers, designers, product managers, legal or other roles that touch copy. We’d love to hear how your team currently manages copy — and most importantly your feedback. Jo and I are roommates (and have been since college!), and we'll be sitting next to each other answering comments. Fire away HN! :)




Hey Congrats on launching. Do I understand that your service offers kind of a localization service? How is it different and what's the value over services offering translations as a service? Like POEditor[0]? or Localazy?

[0]: https://poeditor.com

[1]: https://localazy.com


Many localization services / Translation Management Systems (TMS) (like those listed) or developer tools (Lokalize, Phrase, etc.) tack on l10n as a layer at the very end (after development). Especially with these 3rd party contractor tools, a lot of the time the l10n happens without context of the design / product -- they just translate the strings that exist in production.

At the moment, we've seen teams in Ditto use it as a localization solution if they already localize their mockups. However, we are hoping to support this more fully in the very near feature with the ability to create variants of text in mockups in Ditto (think languages, states, etc.)

Localization is definitely a pretty big pain point for teams, but we've seen teams struggle to coordinate copy from draft to design to development, even in their primary language.


Hello, Jakub @ https://localazy.com here :-) Context is really a big thing and for that reason, Figma & other integrations comes soon with Localazy as well, and we can only confirm importance of considering internationalization and localization from the very early phases of idealization & development.

Moreover, productive workflow is not only about comfortable string management, but also about making it a breeze for the whole team from designer and developer to the contributor.

While we are not currently focused on drafting copy (there are better tools for that), our users especially love the way of work with Localazy. A plethora of solutions provides valuable assistance to the human. We strive to automate as much of the process as we can for you. So humans assist Localazy to get the work done only when they are required to.

Do you have a minute? Check the brief intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UymDt20nOIc

Thanks for your time. All readers welcome to give Localazy a try.

Best regards,

Jakub


Jesse, Lokalise integrates seamlessly with Figma and does exactly what you're saying, pioneering designer/developer-led localization.

https://lokalise.com/blog/figma-lokalise/

It's how Slack translated into multiple languages before their IPO.


Just wanted to follow up on this and mention that we've just rolled out our localization features. Ditto now handles variants (including languages, user segment-based text, and more). I wrote about it here: https://www.dittowords.com/blog/introducing-variants-for-loc...

It's been in development/QA for a while, and we were super excited to see all the feedback and questions about localization during our launch.

Frankly we're flattered that our launch has gotten the attention of localization tools (hi localazy + lokalise, thanks for joining us on HN!). Always appreciate others working on solutions for product text in all of its stages.


I'm using Localazy for pretty long time and from what I have all tried I found it to be the best, have plenty of features. And after all I can host several apps for free, up to 1000 phases for free, no matter how long they are. My app users who help me translating also found it easy for use. My highly recommendation going to Localazy


Simple, beautiful app solving a real pain point. Kudos to OP and team! I have some general questions, not directly related to the product, but rather, the company:

- How long has it been since you released the product? I’ve always been curious as to when exactly in a product’s lifecycle that HN Launches occur. Certainly seems to skew towards somewhat established companies.

- You have some great names using your product! Did you market to specific teams within these companies or to the company as a whole? I’d love to learn how you went about successfully acquiring these “big fish” customers as a young product and company.

Thanks


Thank you!

- We released first released our web-app and Figma plugin around a year ago, right at the end of our YC batch (Jo and I went into YC pre-product). Our developer integrations (API/CLI/SDK and Developer Mode) were released 2 months ago.

- All of our customers (including larger enterprises) have actually found us organically! We were lucky to have the support of different design and content/UX writing communities from the start, and they were able to champion the tool on their teams. We've tried our best to be super hands-on with these teams, offering onboarding and support calls, shared Slack channels, and tips on selling Ditto to other stakeholders in the company. On some teams, however, we're definitely still working to expand outwards from content to design to EPD, especially with our new developer integrations.


Thanks for the response. Very impressive, and best of luck!


Clearly this is meant for bigger teams than we have at work. I've never heard the term "copy" being used this way before, nor do we have a separate design team (we wear a lot of hats).

I'm curious though, given that such a system clearly would be quite integral to the product development, how would enterprises be comfortable with this as an off-premise SaaS? Like, what if Ditto gets bought next year by Google and killed off 6 months later?

Our software is also an integral part for our customers, and while most of our smaller customers are fine with our cloud solution, all the bigger customers want on-premise installations with full source-code in escrow.


Although we do think we play an integral part in the product development process, if teams switched off Ditto, they wouldn't be any worse-off than they were before. The text would still exist in their mockups, and their apps can continue to serve the structured JSONs of text that we generate. Because we aren't a CDN, they aren't dependent on us to actually serve that text.

However, we do hope to have an on-prem offering for enterprise customers in the future, especially those with tighter security constraints!


Re usage of "copy": if you've heard the term "copy editing", it's within the same ballpark.


I've somehow dodged that one too. Not being a native speaker is probably related. Thanks though, now it makes more sense.


This is a great idea. I think the length of an iteration could be shortened on every single project I’ve been on if designers used production copy when designing - as problems with the design often come up during development as copy isn’t as the designer thought it would be.

Good luck!


Totally -- even beyond just spacing/fitting in content into the designs, the text in-app strongly informs what the user knows and understands, which is critical to the design itself. Designing with lorem ipsum and other placeholder text has a lot of potentially negative downstream effects, in addition to slowing down product development.


I understand the problem that you guys are trying to solve. I experience this pain eveyday at my job.

However this landing page is not doing a great job at explaining the solution. I'm sure once you see the product everything clicks but the current communication is not really explaing well this problem or showcasing well the features and workflows of your solution.


I think the front page does a good job at communicating considering how specialized this tool is and how small the audience it targets.

But maybe they could move the demo video closer to above fold? Also, is booking a demo really the most important CTA?


Thanks for your feedback -- definitely want to make sure our landing page explains Ditto clearly. Any specific suggestions for what to improve on or what's confusing?


I agree with the parent comment.

I understood what the problem your product was solving from the title of this Launch HN thread, but viewing the landing page, I think there's big room for improvement for how you explain that.

I think a few things would help:

- Revise your copy to speak more plainly. You're addressing folks working on many different parts of the product, but the language comes off as jargon. As a starting point, I think the title of this thread is way clearer

"Keep product text in sync from design to production" -- Makes sense

"manage and componentize the words across their product from design to production." -- I have no idea what that means

- Replace all of the screenshots and graphics. I see this done a lot, where screenshots are shown and the reader is supposed to understand what's happening, but is not often effective, because they don't understand the context for the screenshots, and it's not clear what part of the screenshot they should be focusing on. I would suggest you provide a very simple clear animation that demonstrates the "magic" behind your application. If it's syncing copy across many different tools and stages of the product, show that magic happening. In other words, if a reader saw nothing but this graphic/animation would they understand what your product is offering them? The demo video is not what I'm referring to, although it is helpful and should remain on the page, maybe even move it up a bit.


Super useful, thanks for the advice. It's definitely been a challenge to figure out the right language/vocabulary to describe what we're working on, especially since what we're solving for isn't talked about.

A clearer graphic that demonstrates the "magic" is also a great suggestion!


I feel that is not entirely clear how you enable this workflow that keeps all this text dependencies at sync. The collaborative part makes sense. But what's more important about this tool is explained with a somewhat vague graphic (https://uploads-ssl.webflow.com/5fb84e8c68f67b29553103fa/604...)

I think it would be more useful to see an explanation that showcases how this text components sync across all tools and how that allows you to always have a single source of truth for your text.

I think another valuable thing to showcase is to showcase the features of this solution by persona. What do you get from this as a writer, designer, PM, developer... That's extremely important IMO. If you don't do this, it's pretty hard to relate to this problem and solution.

Verbalizing the problem in the communication is particularly important. I know this is a problem many cross-functional team have but it's a very discrete problem. It's easy to familiarize and relate to this problem if you explain it.

"Forget about outdated text in your product and the painful and lengthy process to update it.

Ditto is a platform that allows you to write and collaborate on your product text while keeping everything in sync.

From design mocks in Figma to your text strings in your production code, with Ditto everyone gets the same product text seamlessly."


Really appreciate these suggestions -- thanks! Excited to make some updates to our landing page based on the feedback we've received here.

Agreed that we should explain how Ditto syncs text across the stages of product development better, especially since that's the big vision (end-to-end text management).

We do have persona-specific pages for writers, designers, and developers (you can find those in the Product dropdown in the top nav, in the section near the bottom of the page, or in the footer). On these pages, we try to verbalize the specific problems those segments are facing, and then specifically how Ditto solves them.


This is a great idea. Have you considered moving into the closely related field of localization? If your managing copy all the time then you also have to manage it in different languages. There could be a lot more you can do with that...


Yes, localization has been on the roadmap from the very beginning! As a first step, we'll be launching the ability to create "variants" of text (ie. for each language translation) in Ditto next week. This way, teams will be able to add translations to text and view it in their mockups, without having to manually mock up each language for every screen. These variants will also be available to fetch via our API/CLI.

In the future, we plan to build on top of this and provide more localization-specific features -- things like translation memory and machine translation (for that initial pass).


Advanced security is only included in the $30 plan. Do I have to worry about the safety of my data if I pick a cheaper plan?


Sorry that's unclear - we have security measures in place for our app as a whole, regardless of the plan. "Advanced security" refers to the fact that we'll work with enterprise teams to implement custom security measures they might request.

For all plans, we have: encryption at rest, encryption in transit, data stored in SOC 1, SOC 2, and ISO 27001-certified data centers, single sign on and mandatory 2FA for employees, secure SDLC (protected branches, PRs), centralized logging and alerting, incident response plan, business continuity plan, and data deletion and retention policies.

Happy to go into more detail and share our official infosec policy over email.


> "Advanced security" refers to the fact that we'll work with enterprise teams to implement custom security measures they might request.

Should add some zeros to your fee for that then.


Call it "custom security" or "enterprise security" or whatever, and price it much higher.


For $30??? You’re massively underpricing that!


"$30 Per editor, per month"


Looks great!

One tiny detail: in Safari, the content of the yellow "celebrating the launch" banner unfortunately wraps the final ">" onto a second line, and ends up looking oddly placed as a result.

(I suspect this is a Safari bug rather than something you're doing -- it doesn't happen in Chrome or Firefox -- but you might want to try and avoid it. It seems to be specific to using font-weight:500 with the Inter font there; changing it to either 400 or 600 makes the issue go away.)


Wow, great catch with the Safari font issue; we've just fixed it. Thanks for finding that!


This is a good problem to go after. Go forth and crush it, Jess & Jo.


Thank you for your support!


First off, congrats on launching, the product looks super smooth! Had a few thoughts off the cuff:

1. From a product perspective, do you worry about relying heavily on Figma? If marketing and design teams move towards different design tools like Invision, or if Figma changes / restricts API access, or decides to move into this same area, I could imagine it could cause issues down the line.

2. From the sales side of things, how do you tackle getting buy-in with three fairly different stakeholders (design / marketing / engineering)? I could imagine the marketing team buying in, but not getting engineering to fully buy-in, causing "success" to rely on inter-office communication, rather than the product itself.

3. On the developer side, how does Ditto handle interactions with other third party libraries or existing code that may also modify text, e.g. using Optimizely to A/B test wording on the page?

Congratulations once again, and look forward to your future success!


Thank you! That means a ton.

1. We integrated with Figma first on the design side due to a couple of reasons: we were really excited about the growth on the platform, the community, and their ability to serve as a single source of truth for design (with live editing). As an early developer on both their Plugins platform and REST API, we've definitely seen their APIs evolve.

Ideally, we want to be design-tool agnostic (including integrating with Sketch, AdobeXD, InVision, etc.) and integrate with everywhere copy lives (including docs, sheets, etc.) once we have enough engineering bandwidth. We think serving as that text layer / infrastructure for text is a fairly different value prop from design tooling, but we do hope to decrease our reliance on Figma over time.

2. Copy is definitely unique in that it's touched by so many roles horizontally in an org (not only in EPD but also marketing/legal/etc.), unlike a lot of role-based tooling (devtools, design tools, etc). We've been really lucky so far in seeing a lot of our growth happen organically by those at larger companies with roles owning the copy (UX writers, content designers, copywriters, etc.) championing our tool to other stakeholders. However, this is definitely something we're still trying to figure out how to do effectively, and we've seen some cases where adoption is held-up because of cross-team communication.

3. At the moment, Ditto brings text into development as structured JSONs, which we keep fairly open-ended on how teams want to integrate into their UIs and 3rd party tools. They can also manipulate the text in development and/or bring it into A/B testing frameworks. In the future, we hope to handle some of those use cases ourselves :)


Congrats on the launch, looks great! Couple of questions:

1. Do you support localization?

2. Do you think there is a benefit to using this in addition to a headless CMS that is already managing authored content?

At my previous company we did a lot of AB testing around product copy in our signup funnel which was surprisingly effective. This could be a really useful feature to include in the future


1. At the moment, we've seen teams use Ditto to localize if they already localize their mockups (i.e. have mockups in different languages). However, we're releasing the ability to create variants of text (i.e. for translations, user states, etc.) not mocked up in the design in the upcoming week. It's been in development for a while (and to be honest we were hoping to release it before today), but still requires a bit more testing.

2. We built Ditto to specifically tackle product copy, whereas existing CMSs (including headless CMSs) are much more geared for marketing copy (longer form, clear H1/H2/body structure, authorship, etc.) -- which we think are pretty different use cases. With product copy and microcopy, teams have to think a lot more about how that fits into the UI/design/implementation; we're also excited about how our CLI can fit into teams' dev processes (like CI/CD) to streamline workflows!

3. Yup, we're super excited about all the potential extensions of Ditto, A/B testing included.


Thank you. This seems very useful, and I'm considering proposing this right now to a couple of companies I work with.

However, as a person who used things like poeditor in different small places, there was always a concern about monthly payment for something used quite rarely. In this case, they'd pay for 1-2 months of intense use and then cancel the subscriptions.

In those small companies, I think they would gladly pay a one-time up-front fee, or perhaps a one-time small fee scaled with the amount of text in question... but subscribing for a fixed sum a month for something they don't intend to heavily use yet, probably not.


Definitely understand where you’re coming from. The main reason we decided to go with a monthly pricing model is that we see Ditto as a tool that spans the product development process and roles of a company. Compared to localization management systems, which might come into play mainly at the end of a project, we’ve seen pretty consistent usage of Ditto across the drafting, design, development, and post-launch phases with our current customers. Oftentimes, designers and writers will use our Figma integration in the early stages of a project (taking advantage of the text component library to reuse existing text) and then other stakeholders like legal or marketing will come in to Ditto approve/review copy. In parallel, devs can fetch the latest copy from their command-line whenever there are updates as they’re building. Post-launch, updates to copy can be made in Ditto, and then easily pulled in by engineers.


Yeah, I understand. The clients of mine I'm thinking of are small, non-technical companies. They would absolute love something like this, but they're just not developing and redoing stuff as much as they'd need to justify this expense (in their minds).


Small companies are like 10% of the software market -- 75% of the revenue is sitting in large enteprises. So, frankly, while getting you on board is great for marketing and customer development (a lot easier to engage with a small company than a big one)... don't expect them to really care.


Sad but true. I'm not making any demands, just telling why it'd be a reluctant sell in some cases


The amount of time I've had to spend making PRs to multiple branches across multiple codebases just to change full-stops... I've sent this to some of my colleagues.


Definitely been there as an engineer as well. The amount of overhead and engineering time it takes to make punctuation changes, fix spelling errors, and even simple iterations to copy in-app only increases as a product's surface area increases. Thanks for forwarding us along!


Congrats on the launch Jessica and Jolena! Really cool to see your progress on Ditto since you first started, hoping nothing but the best for your continued success.


Thanks so much for the support -- we feel really lucky and excited to have been able to grow Ditto over the last year. :)


This looks really great! My team wanted a CMS but didn't find the budget. We manage our copy in JSON files in our apps, much like this seems to do, so I actually think this would be a very straightforward transition, though we'd need to overhaul our copy keys.

Just need to sell our product org on the UX of Ditto as we would be buying into Ditto as a major part of our development lifecycle.

I see the pricing is just based on users. Do you have any SLAs on the API?


That's great to hear! We've definitely seen an increasing amount of teams separate product copy out into JSONs ("decoupling copy and code"), and we hope Ditto can help them manage that.

We don't have a standard SLA on the API at the moment, but in the past, we've negotiated and signed SLAs for enterprise teams. Happy to do so for you as well if you want to shoot an email to founders@dittowords.com!


The JSON decision has served us well. We knew we wanted to support multiple languages from the start, so it was pretty essential.


Hey this is Tejas. I remember exploring the product and chatting with Jess way back in August 2020. Great to see Ditto here on HN. Congrats on the launch :)


Hey Tejas, great to see you here on HN! Thanks for the support both then and now :)


The visuals on https://dittowords.com/ were a breath of fresh air. Congrats on the launch!


That means a lot, especially because we handle all of the design (including the landing page) in-house. Thanks for the support!


What Jessica and Jolena are building is looking to be quite special. And adopting Ditto will not only make copywriting easier; it will make your copy better because you get to focus on copy and never on process.

These two are extremely talented and thoughtful founders who I’ve had the pleasure of being friends with since college. Highly recommend giving their product a try.


So excited about your launch. Congrats! I’ve seen this issue of copy-pasting copy at nearly all the companies I work for.


Thank you for the support! It is kind of crazy how much copy-pasting there is for every single role involved. We think a large part of it has to do with the fact that copy exists and is worked on horizontally in an org -- unlike more verticalized, role-based tools (devtools, design tools, etc).


Why limit Ditto to only text assets?


While there’s a chance we expand to other types of assets in the future, we want to tackle text first. We think text is often more cross-functional than images or other assets — it’s worked on by people from legal, marketing, customer success, in addition to engineers and designers — but there isn’t a unified suite of tools focused on text right now. There are lots of areas around text we still want to tackle and integrate into an end-to-end solution: localization and internationalization, A/B testing, intelligent suggestions and linting, etc. A lot of these are text-specific use cases, which allows us to do things like help teams build out a component library dedicated to text, and then surface component suggestions based on text in their mockups.


There is a unified set of tools for working on text, either Office 365 or Gsuite, both with their +/- but definitely get the job done. They have revision control, visualization, etc. the problem is finding the dang file 6 months from now...

From my perspective, the problem to solve here is to have an authoritative repo of assets accessible via API, CLI, cloud dashboard, ERP add-on. IMO that's the value play. It answers the "do I have the latest X" in everything from an SOP document to a software build, and enables the responsible parties to push updates across the organization seamlessly. Also, will probably help with the "which dang file is that in" problem products like Teams try to answer but still fail miserably at.


We definitely agree that there’s huge potential in becoming the “authoritative repo,” or as we like to call it — the single source of truth — for all assets, accessible by tools used by every role. Hoping to focus on text first, but not ruling this out for the future.

What we’ve also seen from customers is that it can be hard to work on product text in document tooling like Office 365 or GSuite because those external docs feels detached from the context of the designs and the app, and require separate maintenance and manual copying + pasting to move it into the tools where product development is happening (ex: mockups, the codebase). We’re hoping to address this at Ditto with lots more future integrations (like you mentioned!) with other design tools, project management tools, etc.


Images seem like the next natural progression but it’s a more complicated user story. Suddenly they’re either an image host themselves or they need to integrate with and manage (adding/deleting) their user’s static assets.

Having implemented something similar (but very crude) for my company for just text many years ago, I think focusing on text first is really smart.


i use diff messaging pretty much everywhere based on the medium of communication and audience


We're actually launching a feature called Variants to tackle this very use case (and translations) in our app in the next few days! It's definitely been highly requested by teams using Ditto and will hopefully allow them to create variations of text for different mediums, audience, user segments, etc.

Curious to hear what kinds of audiences/mediums of communication you typically account for in your product, and how much variation in the product text is written for each?


decision maker, technical, non-technical, investor, slides vs web, high level vs low level, age, expert vs beginner, user category A vs user category B, casual vs formal, brief vs expanded. so multiple tags would be best? maybe grand vision this could be different UIs for skill-level.


How would it handle translations?


Right now, teams in Ditto use it as a translation/l10n solution if they already localize their mockups. However, we are hoping to support this more fully in the very near feature (likely this upcoming week!) with the ability to create variants of text in mockups in Ditto (including languages, user groups, states, etc.).


This is fantastic, congrats Jess and Jo on a really impressive product!!


Congrats on the launch, love the demo!


Jo here -- thanks so much! Really excited to get thoughts and feedback on what we've been building.




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