Preparation and planning, experience and expertise: How we approach our work

Preparation and planning, experience and expertise: How we approach our work

Jennylee Bellatrix
Tom Nightingale

Our current work is driving home the need to assess a project, work closely with our clients through an extensive discovery process, and understand the requirements of the final product. Other than the obvious -- like having a solid approach to your team's work plan -- we've found this is a necessary piece of our collaborations with clients to best enable us to use the right tools and technologies that will best facilitate their needs.

Our focus lately has been on building connection platforms using newer technology -- using newer foundations, working on a tight deadline, and producing solid results with tools other than Drupal. Once again we're working to solve complicated, interesting problems while building powerful, fast, and useful projects. It's brought us, as developers, back to our computer science roots.

Some of these projects are still in development, so we aren't ready to talk about their details yet, but one example of our proficiency when it comes to choosing the right tools for the job is our work on the Tanker Tracker with ForestEthics.

But we'd also like to share some of the new toolsets we've been using to build our projects still under development. Our more recent project work has departed from the Drupal platform, exploring the capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses of different technologies like Symfony, Elastic Search, Doctrine, Foundation Framework, and Laravel. We've solidified our approach to responsive design, in keeping with the needs of our clients to deliver their content to mobile users. And we've been working on projects that need to scale effectively upwards of 100,000 simultaneous users.

Rather than trying to fit square pegs into round holes by using a tool that can get most of the job done while still leaving some gaps, we're using our expertise to choose the right technologies for each job at hand.

Using Elastic Search in a Recommendation Engine

We recently built a system to connect two organizations from two distinct communities. The first organization is data-rich, and the second organization needed access to that data, but in a targeted way. We needed to build a recommendation engine.

The system was designed using custom components integrated with Elastic Search to aggregate and evaluate an extensive dataset, and produce recommendations that match the specific needs of each of the organizations. The system measures shared successes, then feeds these back into the recommendations engine. This is ongoing, making the recommendations more accurate and helping develop more effective relationships between them.

Developing Connections in Symfony

Another recent project of ours, developed in Symfony with Foundation for a mobile-first approach, is a loyalty and incentive program prototype. Because the prototype was developed as a mobile website, responsive design and implementation was a core requirement. The Foundation framework gave us the tools to build a mobile-first, out-of-the-box application using its responsive grid and base styles.

New Possibilities

The widening of our expertise has challenged us and provided some new opportunities to learn what we can build. Being able to specialize in a wider range of tools has opened the door to interesting possibilities and new ways to solve both new and old problems, build applications, and expand our skills. These newer platforms future-proof data by giving us the ability to export to new systems, thereby increasing our capacity to work with 3rd parties, producing clean databases, all whilst enabling larger workloads -- all good things for our clients and their complex demands, and for us.