Creating an online community from scratch is no easy task and requires a great degree of time, energy, and expertise. Like with any project, there are always successes to celebrate and challenges to tackle, and creating ChannelBytes for ReelAxis was no exception.
Staying in the Tech Loop
ChannelBytes is a robust online community designed for tech insiders. The purpose of this community platform was to allow thought leaders in the tech sphere to connect with their peers and get a heads up on tomorrow’s tech trends. By connecting great minds, ChannelBytes helps drive conversations about information technology.
What is ChannelBytes?
ChannelBytes is a hybrid web application that was created using a mobile framework (Apache Cordova). Apache Cordova allows users to create mobile native web applications (iOS and Android) using the same codebase as the web application. This approach allows teams to reduce the amount of time and effort required to create both a mobile web application and a web application for the same product.
From Initial Version to Finished Product
When ReelAxis approached us, they already had an initial version of their application, but it needed some serious work; It wasn’t easily scaleable, lacked stability, and didn’t offer a very good user experience. Before we began work, we analyzed the product’s requirements, the existing codebase, and the tech stack. This allowed us to identify major areas that needed improvement and flag potential risks right from the beginning. With all of this information in hand, we were able to accurately determine the expected timeline and scope of work and create a detailed roadmap.
Once ReelAxis approved the roadmap, we mapped out the product requirements and our detailed findings in the backlog (a list of tasks needed to be done in a developer-friendly format). Using a Scrum methodology, we broke the project down into 2-week long development cycles, presenting our progress after each iteration of the cycle and receiving feedback. Using that feedback, we were able to make changes to our upcoming sprints and plan out future work.
Communication is Key
The most important thing for this project, and really any project, is communication. Before we began work on anything, we sat down with ReelAxis project manager Lindsay Sayre to hammer out the requirements to ensure everyone was on the same page.
Total Scope: 1100 Hours in 22 Weeks
The first phase of this project took about 20 hours, and involved working with Lindsay to lay the groundwork, determine the project requirements, and audit the existing code and draft an estimate.
The next step involved creating the backlog, which took another 20 hours.
ChannelBytes is currently in its 8th iteration, and we have presently logged 800 hours on this project, which we have been working on for the 16 weeks, and are approximately 6 weeks away from our final deadline with a total estimated scope of 1100 hours.
An Interesting Tech Mixture
The tech stack posed one of the biggest challenges: it is an extremely interesting mixture of cloud-based hosting, No-SQL databases, and hybrid web applications. This unique mix created a lot of challenges, but finding ways to seamlessly integrate all of the different pieces of technology at play also made the work both rewarding and enjoyable.
Navigating Time Differences Between Teams
Another major hurdle was the time difference. ReelAxis is based in California, while the Solidstudio team is located in Poland, which is 9 hours ahead. As such, ad-hoc communication wasn’t an option.
To help ensure everything goes smoothly, we decided to create a dedicated Slack channel for all involved and interested parties on both the Solidstudio and ChannelBytes teams and used Loom to record quick video messages. All tasks were tracked in Trello and updated and maintained daily to ensure full progress transparency.
Though we didn't have to start from scratch, the initial product we were provided with had some problems that needed to be addressed, including bugs and scalability issues.
In contrast, the final version has been adjusted to leverage modern UX-design and can be easily scaled as needed in addition to meeting all the new requirements outlined by the ReelAxis team. We were also able to vastly improve the app's security by addressing both known and potential security vulnerabilities.
Besides incorporating the new requirements needed to get the project to version 2, the biggest challenge with the legacy version that we inherited was addressing the security issues and ensuring all the different frameworks used in the tech stack could be integrated seamlessly. We used 3rd party frameworks where necessary to bridge gaps and did a deep dive into the app's security.
With each iteration, we were able to improve the product incrementally until we created a version that both we and ReelAxis were satisfied with.
Our biggest achievement was improving the user experience, which initial feedback has told us is incredibly good. However, one thing we would change if we were to redo this project would be to address security concerns earlier in the process and conduct our full security audit before beginning development so we could identify and address those gaps earlier on in the process.
This project incorporated a variety of technologies, including:
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The Customer Experience
At Solidstudio, we pride ourselves on providing a superior customer service experience. We sat down with Lindsay to discuss ReelAxis’ customer service experience, and overall she was extremely happy with our work. She also appreciated how easy it was to work with us; ReelAxis has worked with a handful of other developers and stated that Solidstudio is by far the best experience they have ever had.
Lindsay said that she was impressed with the high quality of Solidstudio’s work and had to spend very little time on quality assurance. She appreciated how easy it was to communicate with our team as there was no language barrier, and our team worked hard to stay in constant contact with her. She never had trouble getting ahold of us and was pleased to receive prompt and thorough answers to all her questions.
Lindsay was also impressed with how flexible and open to change our team was and how we were able to quickly and smoothly adapt to ReelAxis’s changing needs. If the ReelAxis team needed to change a spec or add or drop a feature, our team was able to adapt our dev schedule accordingly and ensure that everything was in order on the technical side to support these new needs.
Lindsay also said she appreciated how proactive we were when it came to technical advice. She was thoroughly impressed when our team came to the table with several options and then outlined the pros and cons for each option so that she and the rest of the ReelAxis team could make an informed decision. This was refreshing, as too many companies treat the technical side of projects like ChannelBytes like a black box and ask that their customers blindly trust them. Instead of asking for blind trust, Lindsay stressed that the Solidstuido team helped her and her company make the best decision for their business even when ReelAxis’ final choice ended up being more difficult to implement or required more work from the Solidstudio team than the other choices put forth.