It was the night before 2014, and all through the office, we were thinking about this year, and how we can top it.
Maybe putting a stop to the lame rhyming would be a start, but I digress.
2013 has been incredibly busy at Ignition Development. We’ve expanded the team, expanded our customer base, have delivered a large number of projects, and have generally been rushed off our feet all year. So, what did we do in 2013? We’re glad you asked! Here’s a few highlights from our year’s work.
The year of mobile
We did a lot of mobile work this year – not native development (although there was a little of that), but web development optimised specifically for mobile devices.
The largest project of this type was performing the implementation work for www.blivakker.no and www.cocopanda.dk. The design for these sites was created by FiveMinutes who had performed extensive consultation with our mutual customer around areas such as user experience and workflows. While implementing a design is usually a pretty straight forward tasks we had some interesting work to do to ensure that the existing code base could easily accommodate new requirements in a way which was going to be maintainable in the long term.
Merlin from FiveMinutes has written more about the project from their side of things, so if you’re interested in reading more then you can check out some links:
We also added improved support for mobile devices into Ignition’s Site Foundation Framework software, which we then used to create mobile specific sites for customers. We also applied this to our own site as a means to dogfood it, although the design we’re currently using for our own mobile site is pretty simplistic – here’s hoping we’ll get a chance to improve on that a bit in 2014.
We’re currently 95% of the way through another large mobile site, where we’re working with FiveMinutes again. We can’t talk about this one yet, but it’s looking really nice, and we’re excited to get it live as we think the customer is going to love what’s been created.
Whether you love it or hate it, 2013 was a year that really saw the rise of Bootstrap, and we’ve used both v2 and v3 of Bootstrap quite a lot this year.
We’ve used Bootstrap in a range of sites (both for customers and internal tools), and have enjoyed the fact that Bootstrap makes HTML/CSS related work fun (mostly!), even for those who usually dislike design related work. We’ve also updated the Administration area of Ignition’s Site Foundation Framework to use a new UI based around Bootstrap. The result is an admin area which is a lot more user friendly, and that is much easier to use on mobile devices. If you’re an existing customer and would like to talk to us about upgrading your site to the latest version of SFF then please drop us a line.
Bootstrap has its detractors, and people have raised some valid points as to why Bootstrap isn’t always the answer, however for most small to medium sized sites there’s a lot to be gained by using Bootstrap.
We did a lot of work on Windows Azure this year, both for customers and internally. 2013 saw a huge amount of new features and improvements for Windows Azure, and we’re really enjoying using it. We were lucky enough to work with many (although possibly not all) different aspects of Azure this year, not just web and worker roles, which has given us a really good appreciation for the options available to any of our other customers who are interested in Azure.
The lack of a New Zealand based data centre means that Azure isn’t going to be the first choice for any kiwi sites/apps that require local hosting for speed reasons, however hopefully the Australian data centre that’s due sometime in 2014 will help with that. Alternatively, maybe New Zealand might upgrade the piece of string that connects us to the rest of the world sometime soon, and reduce the dependency on location specific data centres – one can hope, right?
Either way, whether it’s for something simple such as hosting sites, or more complex uses such as using Mobile Services to add a cloud backend to apps, we’re looking forward to using more Azure in 2014.
We’ve made many improvements and added many new features to the Site Foundation Framework. A few examples are improved support for mobile skins, adding Redactor as an option for Rich Text editing, and adding an extra payment provider (Swipe) for our Ecommerce customers.
We’ve started using Raygun for exceptional error tracking, and now have this integrated into the Site Foundation Framework to help spot errors before they turn into problems. I wrote about Raygun earlier this year on my personal blog, and have some more thoughts to share about it in 2014, but those will come in a separate post. The short version is that Raygun is really helping us improve the level of service we can provide across the board by encouraging a much more proactive approach to dealing with application errors.
There’s a couple of projects on the list which I want to write full case studies (or at least larger blog posts) for next year, so I’ll mention them briefly and hope that I get time to follow through.
The first of such projects is when we were involved in shifting a high volume site to be served fully over SSL. The site in question gets approximately 1.25m monthly visits (340k unique) and the process of moving it to be served fully over SSL was an interesting one. There’s some interesting existing preconceptions that IT pros out there have about SSL, CPUs, caching, and web browsers, and doing this project uncovered some interesting information that’s well worth expanding on.
Another case study worthy project was an update to a legacy site that we inherited many years ago. This year, we finally got a chance to perform some significant upgrades (both to the front and back end) to the code. The process of adding structure, updating technologies, replacing old components, and generally giving things an overhaul was a great exercise in delivering the customer good bang for buck. It was also a very interesting exercise for us internally, as we got a chance to experience the effects that our changes had in areas such as code readability and maintainability – it was amazing what a difference a small amount of refactoring and structuring of what was previously a pretty chaotic codebase made to daily developer sanity.
Right, it’s past 17:00 on New Year’s eve here, so it’s time to wrap this up. I’d like to extend a massive thank you to all our customers and everyone we’ve worked with this year for helping to make 2013 such a success. We’re really looking forward to 2014 - we have some exciting projects in the pipeline and we’re looking forward to getting stuck in.
Obligatory post call to action: If you’ve got a project you’d like to kick off in 2014, why not drop us a line? We’re easy to talk to, and are happy to provide no obligation estimates or advice to help with your planning.
Happy New Year everyone!