Here at After Digital, we believe that staying at the forefront of digital advances and being open to change is what fuels creativity and innovation. As such, we are actively using the latest technologies in managing development work as well as for actually building web applications and digital solutions. We are constantly evolving and learning, listening to what our clients and our team have to say, to make sure we look at things from a range of different perspectives.
Over the last 12 months many of our internal processes have evolved as a result of this constant evaluation and refinement. For example, we have seen a dramatic move away from the traditional SVN approach in our development (Dev) process toward new technologies such as GIT. This week I had a sit down with our Senior Developer, Alasdair Stalker, to discuss this further and how this benefits our clients.
New checklist procedures.
While we have always had detailed checklists in place, these procedures have been enhanced to ensure helpdesk issues are appropriately assigned and dealt with in a timely and relevant manner across all teams. In addition, we have built our own tools to manage workflow, which include an internal GIT repository and deployment system as well as various command line tools to simplify tasks. These tools mean we can be far more efficient in the way we work on development sites, allowing our clients to reap the rewards.
Increased security and more reliable code updates.
Using GIT as a central repository makes our life much easier as we can do so much with it - servers are tied together and code is securely backed up - thus minimising mistakes and concentrating on producing ever better code. We always had a local repository using SVN but we could never tie things in completely due to some limitations with SVN itself. Moving over to GIT has opened things up massively but it has been a big step to make due to the number of sites we manage.
We have eliminated a lot of the manual processing that used to be required (not just Dev but the Design team too), therefore resulting in the quicker deployment of solutions. Now, we can see a much better overall view of the changes that are being made and can control the pushing and pulling of these changes. The Dev team control all changes being pulled on to the live site in order to catch any unforeseen code impacts and ensure the process works as expected.
Improved update and audit control.
Additionally, this improved audit control means we can monitor what gets done when, meaning any issues can be easily investigated and resolved. Similarly updates and revisions to site code from the client side are better supported, as they can be compared with updates to the server and our code base to check there are no issues or to reinstate the correct code where errors have occurred.
Better testing procedures, better user experiences.
The new development processes enable us to fairly easily create replicas of client’s sites meaning changes can be carried out behind the scenes on fully functioning development sites before these changes are pushed live. As a result, all our testing can be done efficiently and in the correct manor, meaning we never have to test on a live site, thus avoiding negatively impacting the user experience. Furthermore, by replicating parts of code onto new platforms clients can more easily create campaigns which require similar structures, content or formats to the original website, thus reducing the initial setup time required.
One big shift in recent years is that the Dev team and the designers now all work on Mac computers (with access to PCs for testing purposes). This means that we can all use the same tools in the same way throughout the agency and support each other much more effectively. Consequently, a lot of the tools we’ve developed have been focused with this in mind.
Our Cloud servers allow us to cope with significant fluctuations in traffic to our client’s websites, meaning spikes in visitor numbers do not impact upon the functionality or effectiveness of their online presence. They also enable us to better manage our portfolio of websites from a central point.
The Dev team, as with all teams across the company, will continue to look at new ways to flourish and better service our clients, such as involving the client more in the development of the site, i.e. allowing them to comment on specific updates and submit issues that get directly tied to the code repository.
But this is just the beginning, the foundations of a system that evolves with time and processes that adapt and optimise on new technology to constantly improve the performance and efficiency of the agency as a whole.