How Payload leverages App Platform to save development time

payload website
“When we tried DigitalOcean’s App platform, we could use a Dockerfile and just push it through the API to deploy. We realized we could cut out half of the code that we’d written.”
Elliot DeNolf, CTO, Payload

Payload is a dynamic content management system and application framework designed to simplify and enhance web development by providing a developer-first experience. First started as a bootstrapped project in 2018, they were invited into YCombinator in 2022 en route to a seed funding round, and have grown to a team of 14 employees, made up predominantly of developers. Upon the launch of their cloud product in 2023, Payload leveraged App Platform, DigitalOcean’s Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, to save their development team time and support their growing business.

Building a developer-first content management system

Payload started as a bootstrapped project, and after becoming open-source via its MIT license, quickly grew a large following in the developer community for its flexible, developer-first approach to content management. As CTO Elliot DeNolf explains “Payload helps web developers build better websites and better digital products. It’s specifically geared towards content management, but flexible enough that you can build robust web applications as needed.”

After initially starting as a side project, Payload raised a seed round of funding in 2022 after emerging from YCombinator, enabling its three technical co-founders to focus on the business full time, and bring on additional team members. They are now a team of 14 employees, with 11 of those being developers.

As Payload grew, their customers wanted to find an easier way to deploy the CMS, which is built on a Node.js framework. That’s when Payload’s founders decided to explore different platforms that would give them and their users a simple way to deploy in one click, and eventually found DigitalOcean’s App Platform.

Saving time and simplifying development with App Platform

Payload examined several different infrastructure providers when they were looking for an easy-to-use solution, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). They created a proof of concept in AWS, but decided the upkeep that was needed with that platform was too much, and wanted something more out of the box.

As Elliot shares “When we tried DigitalOcean’s App platform, we could use a Dockerfile and just push it through the API to deploy. We realized we could cut out half of the code that we’d written. We were also pleased with some of the other functionality App Platform offered, like the web hooks.”

Payload enjoys using the robust APIs offered through App Platform, finding that they can do most of their tasks programmatically. They also use the web hooks for alerting and updates. For a growing business, App Platform’s combination of simplicity and functionality has worked well for Payload, with Elliot saying “App Platform hit the sweet spot in terms of being able to customize things, but also not having to build out our own runner or deployers,” which has saved their team valuable time.

The team also appreciates DigitalOcean’s support team and account management, who have acted as a partner alongside their journey and helped them to quickly resolve any issues that arise. Elliot notes that “DigitalOcean’s responsiveness in Slack is usually within a couple of hours, which is perfect.”

Future growth for Payload

Similarly to DigitalOcean, Payload is very focused on differentiating itself by providing an excellent developer experience with the product. As they grow, they are looking to make the developer experience even better, and their new version tightly integrates with a lot of tools developers already use. The flexibility and customization have proven very important for their customers, and they look forward to growing the business even more in the future.

As Payload grows, they plan to continue their close relationship with DigitalOcean and are excited to use new App Platform features as they are released, including the support of PNPM, which many developers use. The recently announced App Platform updates, including dedicated instances and autoscaling will also be beneficial to Payload as they scale up over time.

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