Django Stars provided front-end mobile development for a mobile app that helped doctors collaborate and easily locate patient information.
The app implemented 90% of Django Stars' designs, which integrated smoothly with its functional back-end and several third-party APIs. The team impressed with their ability to communicate effeciently, deliver quickly without compromising quality, and meet all project deadlines within budget.
"[T]hey're extremely fast."
Please describe your organization.
We are creating mobile apps to help doctors in acute care settings collaborate with one another. Our app helps doctors in an intensive care unit discuss patient notes, assign and delegate tasks, so it's kind of like a to-do list, and basically it does this in a secure, HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]-compliant environment. In a nutshell, that's kind of what we do.
What is your position and responsibilities?
I am director of product. We're small right now, it's just us three co-founders. I'm doing pretty much all of the technical and the design work, and my other co-founders are doing more of the business development stuff. One of the co-founders is actually a practicing physician, so he's got limited time to spare. I'm mostly doing the product design and technology work.
What business challenge were you trying to address with Django Stars?
The way that we have architected the product is, we have a backend API [application programming interfaces] built in Django, and then we have the front-end mobile app, which is built in a framework called Ionic. I ws the one who designed all the screens that we wanted the app to have, the visual presentation and everything. Originally, I was going to build both the backend and the front-end of the application. However, to speed up the process, we decided that I would build the back-end, the Django API, while Django Stars would focus on implementing the frontend screens in Ionic. This allowed me to really focus on the core functionality and ensuring that the logic we had on the backend would work the way it was supposed to.
Please describe the scope of their involvement.
We had a list of mockups and screens that I gave them. The scope of their work was to build out the front-end screens as quickly as possible. Because we weren't working in perfect tandem, parts of the APIs that they needed for the front-end weren't finished, so they were just kind of subbing in a lot of the functionality, but getting all the screens put in place, getting the layouts correct, and things like that.
They used some third-party libraries as part of building out the front-end, but all the backend stuff was on me. In terms of doing any automated testing, I didn't ask them to. I'm sure if I would have listed that as a requirement, that we wanted an automated testing suite, I think they would have done it. We just figured it would be better to test it ourselves.
How did you come to work with Django Stars?
One of the other co-founders had actually worked with Django Stars previously. They had built an early prototype of the idea before I joined the company. When we were thinking of a way that we could speed up the process, he mentioned Django Stars. We thought the work they did before was quite good, so I thought I'd get in touch with them.
We didn't consider other providers. We pretty much just went with Django Stars because [our chief executive officer] had a good experience with them previously. We knew that they're fast. We also knew that they were familiar with the technology, and they were decently priced. There was not any big incentive for us to shop around.
Could you provide a sense of the size of this initiative in financial terms?
I would say it's between $5,000 and $6,000.
What is the status of this engagement?
We haven't expanded the scope of their initial involvement. They finished off what we initially set out for them to do, and I've just been kind of taking it from there. We kind of left it open, and I could see us hiring them again for another smallish, discrete type of project.
Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?
I didn't track any specific metrics or anything like that, I didn't quantify their work. However, anecdotally, they're extremely fast. Since most of their work was exclusively front-end development and implementation, we just reviewed the presentation and cross referenced our visual design layouts. For the most part, they were able to implement 90% of the interface we wanted. And it worked well with the functional backend, which was also great.
How did Django Stars perform from a project management standpoint?
They were able to meet all the project deadlines and stay within the budget that was defined initially. We were using Trello for project management, which was our tool of choice. We asked if they would use Trello and they were fine with that. They were actually very accommodating because I know that they have their own internal ticketing system, Redmine, which they use to track all their tasks, hours, and everything. They were accommodating to have all of the actual work and discussions happen on Trello, and then they continued to do their time tracking in Redmine. They were accommodating for us in that regard.
What distinguishes Django Stars from other providers?
The thing that I was impressed or surprised by was just the speed in which Django Stars finished tasks assigned to them. I would queue up what I thought would be several days or a week's worth of work, and I kind of broke it up into weekly sprints. We worked primarily with one developer named Yurislav. I'd queue up his work for a week, and then I'd find out the next day that he had basically finished it all. It was actually kind of a challenge to queue up enough work for them. They just went through it so much faster than I expected.
Is there anything Django Stars could have improved or done differently?
I think maybe a couple of things. They're fairly minor, and I would consider rehiring them in the future, so these are not deal-breaker sort of things. There's a tradeoff to them working so fast. Sometimes, there would be bugs or just some small details that got overlooked. Sometimes, there were some functional regressions, something that worked previously but now it didn't work for some reason. Because we didn't have automated testing, it would only be through me doing a lot of QA [quality assurance] work that I would find this regression, and I would have to post it back to them.
The language and time zone difference added some time to the project, too. If I found a bug, by the time I documented it, recorded the screencast, and sent it their way because of the time zone difference it would be almost 12 hours until they actually tackled it. It just caused a little bit of a delay. I think if they had done a little more automated testing, or just more thorough QA before sending work back my way, I think it would have reduced that lag.
The other thing isn't so much a criticism, but something where I think they could have added even more value. They're the Ionic experts, so I believe they could have pushed back with me a bit. I would spec out a task, and they would complete that task exactly when, in fact, there was probably a better way to do what I was trying to achieve. That's probably a failing on my part. I should have maybe made it clear to them that this is sort of a broad idea. If there's a better way, or if you have a suggestion, then let me know. I'd design a task, and then I'd wake up the next day and it's been done, rather than have a discussion about it, or suggestions and recommendations.
Part of that was just because there was that time delay, and they were small tasks, so maybe they just wanted to plow through them as best and as fast as they could. Like I said, overall fairly minor things, and it certainly wouldn't stop me from hiring them again in the future. If I were to hire them again in the future, I would address those two points with them. That's how I would work with them differently next time.