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2014 in Review

Posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 4:57 PM, filed under Ignition Development

The year isn't quite done yet, but it's rapidly drawing to a close. So, before we all head off for a well-earned break, we thought we’d share a little bit about some of the exciting technologies and projects we've worked on this year.

Elasticsearch

For us, 2014 was very much the year of Elasticsearch.

Elasticsearch is a powerful open source search and analytics engine that makes big data really easy to explore, and happens to have a really confusing name.

Elasticsearch sounds like an offering from Amazon Web Services, which it isn't. And because the name contains the term "search", people sometimes make the mistake that it's only usable in the context of search, but it’s so much more than that.

A small part of our Elasticsearch projects have been related to search (replacing the now deprecated Google Commerce Search), but the larger and more interesting application of this technology for us has been augmenting a traditional SQL Server and Entity Framework data access layer. Adding Elasticsearch as a middle caching tier creates something truly high performance and highly scalable.
 
For some, Elasticsearch may not seem like a "natural" fit for use with .NET technologies, however we've found that the results speak for themselves, and we can see a lot of Elasticsearch in our future.
 
If you're having issues related to scale or performance with your .NET applications, or are looking to build something new that will have a lot of data to manage, then get in touch so we can talk about how we can use Elasticsearch to help you.

AngularJS

Moving from the realm of back end and data access through to the front end and JavaScript, AngularJS from Google was another technology which featured heavily in our year.

We started looking at Angular as part of reviewing our approach to front end web technologies.

As user interfaces get more and more complex, it becomes very important to separate your markup from your JavaScript logic to make applications easier to maintain, and to ensure that design changes don't always mean needing to update your JavaScript logic.

In this regard, Angular has a lot to offer, but as it's a fully featured framework there's a lot more it can do for us.

In 2014 we've done some pretty interesting things using Angular and there's much more on the cards for 2015. We're also going to try and do a lot more writing about Angular in 2015, both on our blog and via case studies.

Stay tuned for more information on that in the new year.

Site Foundation Framework


We also spent some time on some handy SFF improvements. If you've not been paying attention or you don't come here often, SFF is our in-house CMS!
 
Some of the more noteworthy improvements are:

  • On Account payments - giving ecommerce shops the ability to allow certain customers to place goods on their account, which they can settle monthly or on terms you decide.
  • Improved Data Exporting - new functionality allows you to export information about your orders (for use with accounting packages such as Xero), as well as updating the ease of use for exporting users/members directly to Excel with improved formatting.
  • Improved AJAX support for carts and checkout - we've improved the shopping cart and the checkout page. These are now making better use of AJAX to provide a better customer experience.
  • Continuing to roll out our new look administration area to more customer sites. The updated administration interface is much more user friendly, and works well on phones and tablets as well as web browsers. If your site hasn't been updated and you'd like it to be, then please drop us a line to get that scheduled in!
     

We've also been working hard on version 4.0 of SFF, which features a number of key technology upgrades, performance improvements, and a number of minor bug fixes. If you're a regular reader of all things Ignition Development then no doubt you'll be hearing more about SFF version 4.0 in the New Year.

If you're a customer and you'd like to talk to us about getting your site upgraded as soon as the new version is available, or if you have a feature you'd like to have included in version 4, then please drop us a line.

Mobile first

2014 saw continued increases in the percentage of traffic coming from mobile devices. In fact one of the sites we released in 2014 gets around 80% of its traffic from mobile devices. This trend isn't showing any signs of slowing down any time soon, and it's pretty clear that any modern day site needs to be built with mobile devices in mind.

In my 2013 blog post I mentioned it had been a year that had seen the rise of Bootstrap, and throughout 2014 we’ve seen Bootstrap used all over the place, which is possibly driven by the increase in mobile devices combined with the fact that Bootstrap 3.x now takes a "mobile first" approach.

Bootstrap has its flaws, and isn't perfect by any means, however, when used responsibly, it's a great way to save a lot of time in developing responsive sites. The fact that it continues to be developed and improved makes it an easy choice for us as our front end framework of choice.

Security is hard

The year also contained an ongoing theme of security breaches all around the world.

A number of high profile breaches and severe bugs served as continuous reminders of the fact that security is important, and so it's important to make sure you're using a development team who cares about security and its value to your business.

Windows Azure in Australasia

There were many new features added to Windows Azure over the course of the year, however for us the most important was the general availability of the Australian Windows Azure data center.

We're big fans of Azure here at Ignition and are using it interesting ways for some of our European customers, however the lack of a location that was geographically close to us has made it hard to recommend it to NZ based customers. With the opening of the Australian location we're looking forward to seeing more NZ based interest in Azure, as we believe it has a lot to offer.

Microsoft partnership

In non-technological Ignition news, we've recently obtained our first Microsoft Partner Certification. Congratulations (and thanks) to Tracey and Jan for sitting exams this year, and to our customers who helped out by providing us with references. Also, while we've not updated our website in a while we've got some changes coming in that area, so stay tuned there.

To the future!

So that's our take on 2014. I'd like to say a big thanks to all our customers and partners for their business and support over 2014, and we're looking forward to continuing to work with you in 2015.

We have a number of exciting things planned for next year, and while for now the focus is going to be relaxing and celebrating with family we're looking forward to coming back to work refreshed and recharged!
 
If there's anything above that has you interested, or if you'd just like to get in touch about a project (or projects) that you have in mind for 2015, then please drop us a line.
 
Our office is closed from the 20th of December through to January the 11th, however limited support is available for urgent issues. Please follow the support procedures as normal if you need urgent help over the break.
 
Happy Holidays everyone!

 

-Ross


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