For round 3 of ‘5 minutes with’, we take a deep dive into the dark arts of web development with Claire Ackerman, from our development partner, Bluefuse.
1. In under 500 words, please tell us about Bluefuse and what the organisation does?
Bluefuse Systems is an award-winning digital agency based in the beautiful world heritage city of Bath. We build a variety of digital solutions to suit client’s needs and offer an end-to-end service, from wireframing and design through to the build, hosting and ongoing support. We take time to understand our client’s requirements to fully scope and plan digital projects. Using a variety of tech stacks enables us to deliver the best scalable solution and ensure that we provide a long-lasting solution that will stand the test of time.
2. How do you approach a typical project?
Thoroughly and methodically. We break each project down into four parts; discovery, design, development and delivery. The first step of our process is key. We delve deep into the challenges our clients face and discover the goals we need to achieve. This is crucial in measuring success when the final solution is delivered. Next, we look at wireframing and site architecture. To enhance our project delivery, we frequently partner with experts like Make It Clear. Utilising UI and UX specialists helps our clients bring their ideas to life, exploring how end-users will navigate and engage with the final solution. Once we have the design scoped out in detail, the build begins. Using the latest technologies to create a robust solution, an agile workflow is adopted to optimise output. A flexible project environment provides capacity for changes in scope, minimising constraints. Once complete, the final solution is delivered, with continuing lines of communication to provide ongoing support if required.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually get into the office early before the hustle and bustle in the office starts. For me, this is the best time to get myself organised for the day ahead. I spend about 15-30 minutes sifting through emails and Slack messages. I like to keep my email inbox as clear as possible, so the only emails in my inbox are open tasks that I need to work on or respond to – everything else is filed away. I’ll then write down my priorities and form my to-do list for the day.
Each morning we have our team call to discuss the weekly sprint goals. We talk about tasks to focus on for the day ahead, and any obstacles currently faced. This ensures we’re on track as a team and helps plan for the rest of the week.
Then the day’s work begins. I start making my way through priorities using a project management system called ClickUp, for agile planning as well as task and time tracking. I can find a list of outstanding tasks or use the system to request additional information. At Bluefuse, we work in a large open plan office which is great for bouncing ideas and issues off one another. This enables us to pool our knowledge together and come up with the most effective solution for the problem at hand.
Once tasks are complete, we transfer our work to test servers through Gitlab. This is where items are marked for peer review; one colleague checks the work that has been submitted to the test.
Before the end of the day, I recap outstanding tasks and ensure work I’ve submitted for testing has been reviewed. From the feedback given, I apply the required changes and resubmit for further review.
4. Bearing in mind the pandemic, we are in a special digital- and technology-focused moment, what has been Bluefuse’s biggest challenge in the past 12 months?
Whilst we are all able to perform our roles from anywhere in the world, working remotely certainly provided its challenges. As a social group, we found it difficult, some more than others, to work without the daily interaction. ‘Water cooler chat’ frequently takes place in the office and is something our team requires. Using technology such as Slack and Microsoft Teams provided a means to have regular catch-ups during the day. At 5 on a Friday, we also had a weekly virtual quiz (I mean who didn’t?!). The team would down tools, grab a beer and put our knowledge to the test. It was a nice way to start the weekend and ensure that we all remembered how to be social!
5. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to work within web development?
6. How do you expect web development to change in the next 5 years?
Web development is constantly evolving, but over the next 5 years the things to keep an eye out for are:
- Progressive Web Apps (PWAs): To put it simply, these are websites with all the benefits of native apps. PWA’s have faster page loading speeds, provide a smoother experience and the ability to access pages offline. Unlike native apps, PWA’s actively update in real-time like websites so end users are not required to complete this task. Web apps can also be added to your desktop home screen meaning end-users are a single click away. Many large companies such as Twitter and Starbucks have already turned to PWAs. It has helped reduce their data consumption and increase user engagement and sales.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): The growth of AI has already been considerable over the last 5 years, with many of us having Alexa or Siri helping us out daily as our virtual assistants. Many believe over the coming years; bots will become more proficient with self-learning, easily adapting to user’s needs and behaviours. More and more organisations are now applying AI to their web development to help predict the needs of their clients. Additionally, AI-based equipment such as voice search optimisation, facial recognition and chatbots will be more frequently used to help improve user experience.
- Single-page applications (SPAs): Nowadays people want everything they did yesterday. If a website takes too long to load or find the information requested, the user becomes frustrated, loses interest, and clicks off the site. Therefore, SPAs are gaining in popularity as they’re simple, concise and secure. At the same time, they’re easy to implement and maintain. SPAs are very popular with new start-ups.
7. What’s on the horizon for Bluefuse?
More of the same. We’ve come through the worst of the pandemic (hopefully!), intact, looking to build on existing relationships with clients. In addition, we’re hoping to develop relationships with partners such as Make it Clear. As a result, a clearer understanding of how each other works will lead to better results on joint projects. There are plans to grow the tech team so we can branch into dev-ops. We also hope to grow our UK client base to help us diversify, as we are currently heavily focussed on overseas work.