Bluespark is an enterprise-capable open source development agency. Our team consists of senior technical people (both front- and back-end), senior user experience design, senior UI and creative design, coupled with expert project and account management.

Since 2009, we have been able to successfully engage with organizations and deliver enterprise-scale projects. Our projects have literally reached millions of people and helped our client-partners achieve their business goals.

Bluespark has also maintained a very high profile in the open source community, sharing our expertise and contributing back to the Drupal code base. We have many modules we maintain or co-maintain, and we have made dozens of Drupal core contributions. Further, many of our team are frequently speakers and teachers at Drupalcons and Drupalcamps worldwide.

 Founded: 
2009
 Employees: 
10 - 49
 Avg. hourly rate: 
$200 - $300
Bluespark
324 S. Wilmington St., #242
Raleigh, NC 27601
United States
919.234.7576
Key clients: 

 

  • TripAdvisor
  • Red Hat
  • UCLA
  • Indiana University
  • Sport Obermeyer
  • StickerGiant.com
  • Orange County (FL) Library System
  • ITALY Magazine
  • Ralph Lauren

Focus

Service lines

Industry focus

Client focus

Reviews of Bluespark

Team Augmentation for Computer Software Firm

 
Web development
 
Confidential
Project summary: 

The client is a computer software company focused exclusively on open source solutions. Limited resource availability and a series of demanding projects convinced the client to find a partner capable of supporting their own team of developers. Bluespark was considered carefully and then contracted to supply a team of Drupal developers for an ongoing duration.

Feedback summary: 

The client conveyed sincere appreciation for the work completed by Bluespark thus far. According to the client, Bluespark proved instrumental to the prompt completion of their project work. Bluespark was praised for their talent pool and flexibility. The client maintains an ongoing relationship with Bluespark and recommends them highly.

"It was impressive to see exactly how Bluespark projected the costs for our work. They try to be as accurate as possible in terms of scope, breaking down the process into parts instead of settling on a total cost."

Project Manager
 
5001-10000 Employees
 
Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina Area
Overall rating: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Quality: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Schedule: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Cost: 

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Willing to refer: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

BACKGROUND

Please describe your organization.

Red Hat is a leader in providing open-source software solutions. Our main product is focused around the Linux operating system, providing infrastructure as a service in the B2B [business-to-business] space as well as cloud services.

What is your position?

I am the project manager.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

What business challenge were you trying to address with Bluespark?

We've worked with them on two community-focused projects. One of those is opensource.com, which has been around for more than six years. Our primary objective is to do storytelling around how open source is changing the world.

We have a similar project called The Enterprisers Project. It is the same kind of community publication, but with a focus on IT [information technology] decision makers and CIOs [chief information officers] who are trying to innovate within their companies, as opposed to simply keeping the lights on. These are two communities that we're building under our brand.

SOLUTION

Please describe the scope of their involvement.

We have created a community publication for the storytelling component of our sites, which is managed by Bluespark. They also make an effort in inviting the community to participate in it.

For both projects, Bluespark has worked on both back-end and front-end development. We brought them in for a few different reasons. One of the main facets in which we use them is to keep our Drupal system updated.

We leverage hosting through Acquia. That's where our entire infrastructure is located. Bluespark helps us with security updates, making sure that our systems are maintained and are free from any security vulnerabilities.

Bug fixing is another part of our collaboration. If we're working on something and need it to be fixed, Bluespark acts as an extension of our team in terms of development.

These are efforts made for keeping the lights on, but Bluespark has been valuable in helping us innovate and change how we manage our communities, pushing the envelope a little bit. We don't need to be bleeding edge and have a website in 2016 that looks like it belongs in 2018. We don't want to fall behind either, so they've helped us in erasing some technical debt. We've not had the best development partners in the past, so Bluespark has helped us improve efficiencies, particularly in the back-end, from a Drupal administration standpoint, making my team more efficient.

They've helped us punch out some features that we wanted to each site. Some of these have included synchronizing both of our platforms with the same back-end, making sure we used the same image library configurations in both places. This allows both of our teams to be proficient with our data platform.

The bigger project we're working on is a complete redesign of the site. We're changing the design of the plane while we're flying it. Bluespark have sat down with us and determined what the goals that we were trying to achieve were. They got a good understanding of that and brought some designs and concepts that would help us achieve those goals. One of them is to get to get to a million page views per month. We have enough content in order to do that, but we may choose to present it differently. We want to make the site a bit stickier. When we get people to our site through searches, we want to ensure that we deliver other types of relevant content based on a page's topic.

We also want to make sure that the site is mobile-friendly. We've seen traffic coming in through various devices. A third goal is updating our navigation. We've had some challenges in terms of how things are structured on our site. There has been a complete change to how it looked five years ago. We wanted to maintain a fit to our old look, but also get more freedom in terms of how the site is navigated through the main page.

The size of the team has been small. I've worked with a total of six or seven different people. When we work on design, there will be a couple of people we collaborate with. For development, there are other team members who come in.

How did you come to work with Bluespark?

Luckily, the process didn't involve much legwork. I work within the marketing group. I am unique among my peers due to my technical background. I am familiar with Drupal, and I've been involved in tech support, so I possess the necessary jargon. Our IT person knew about Bluespark and brought them in. We told them about the problems we were having, including security updates and new features we wanted to build. They put together a proposal that looked great, although it was a bit more expensive than what our previous partner cost us. From my perspective, it's been worth the extra cost.

What is the status of this engagement?

Our relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?

Acquia puts out a security update every other Wednesday. The aim was not to have to worry about this. Bluespark has picked up the responsibility and do all the work of pushing the code out. This has made us more efficient.

We're currently in the midst of a design overhaul. Bluespark had a good handle on choosing the right designs for our vision. We had a collaborative process that implied more than simply choosing between two designs imposed by them. Bluespark determined the direction in which we wanted to go, asking us questions and challenging us in terms of how far we could take the design.

How did Bluespark perform from a project management standpoint?

I'm very familiar with the concepts of continuous delivery and integration. Our work wasn't under very much pressure for meeting a deadline. We worked on the project until we were comfortable with the result and came to mutual agreements regarding delivery times. The process of working with their team has been very fluid. Had we had more tight deadlines to meet, I'm sure we would have met those as well. We used JIRA for project tracking. Bluespark was willing to work with any other tool, but I appreciated being able to see the moving parts of the system through it.

What distinguishes Bluespark from other providers?

One of the impressive things from our point of view was their tiered system for technical requirements. It was impressive to see exactly how they projected the costs for our work. They try to be as accurate as possible in terms of scope, breaking down the process into parts instead of settling on a total cost.

RATINGS

OVERALL SCORE: 4.5
The experience was close to five, but there were little things here and there.
QUALITY: 4.5
COST: 4
SCHEDULING: 4.5
WILLING TO REFER: 5

Drupal Implementation Indiana University Library

 
Web development
 
$200,000 to $999,999
Project summary: 

The client is a divisional program at Indiana University. Due to limited internal resources and capabilities, the client sought a qualified technology partner to implement their new Drupal-based website and migrate the contents from their former site successfully. Bluespark was chosen as the solution partner based on their previous experience. Once commissioned, Bluespark assumed complete responsibility for the client's Drupal implementation and site migration.

Feedback summary: 

The client conveyed great satisfaction for the site developed by Bluespark. According to the client, the successful launch of their new Drupal website has driven considerable improvements in process efficiency and their ability to manage their content distribution. Bluespark was praised highly for their in-depth knowledge of Drupal and their creative approach to solutions engineering. The client maintains an ongoing relationship with Bluespark and recommends them without reservation. 

"I really enjoyed working with them. They’re really professional, capable, and interested. I also found them fun to work with, and that’s not something you find a lot. This was a very challenging project, and we had a lot of moving parts that we needed to work through, but we were all able to do that in an atmosphere that felt like a team."

Head of Discovery & Research Services at Indiana University
 
5001-10000 Employees
 
Bloomington, Indiana Area
Overall rating: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Quality: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Schedule: 

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Cost: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Willing to refer: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

BACKGROUND

Please describe your company.

I work for the Indiana University Libraries. We are the campus libraries for the flagship campus of Indiana University. Our website provides access to subscription electronic resources, information about opening hours, staff, and research information.

What is your position?

I am the head of a department called Discovery and Research Services. We oversee the library website, and I also work on the discovery interface to the library catalog.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

Could you describe the business challenges that you were trying to address when you first approached Bluespark?

We had some big ones. At the time, we were entirely relying on a home grown, locally developed, content management system that had been running for slightly more than 10 years. It was old, cumbersome, and expensive to maintain. We were rapidly outgrowing the system. The chief strategic goal that was given to me was that we had to get out of that old content management system and transition to a new one. We initiated some discussions here and decided we wanted to go to Drupal and, at that point, we distributed an RFP [request for proposal] for the project. We needed to implement and customize a new CMS and then migrate the contents from our old system. If I had to do it over, I would have started completely fresh, but that wasn’t an option at that point, to start fresh in Drupal. We needed to move the content, so it was a fairly complicated request. It turned out that we had more than 8,000 unique pages. The whole thing was daunting. It was kind of an idiosyncratic, locally developed system that needed to be moved to Drupal.

SOLUTION

Could you describe the scope of their involvement in greater detail?

We have fairly limited in-house support, our folks mostly focused on the server environments, databases, and things like that. By and large, Bluespark managed the heavy lifting for the project. They came on campus and did a discovery visit, and I worked with them to identify what we were hoping create, both visually and functionally. I worked with them on wireframes, and signing off on things, and discussing approaches. They really did all of the technical work. We contributed by talking through potential solutions to get clarity and agree to a scope and deployment plan.

We got some fantastic documentation from them, too. We have more than100 content editors on campus, so lots of people are involved with the site on varying levels. Bluespark really worked with us to get us up to speed in numerous key areas. They weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and really take ownership of the work.

How did you select Bluespark as a partner?

I met some of the folks at Drupal Con earlier in the year before we submitted our official RFP. We’d met a few folks there, including people from Bluespark. I don’t remember how many direct contacts we made versus more general. Some of the responses we got to the RFP were more general than others. We had a unique set of issues. For instance, understanding and dealing with the legacy system that we were using previously, and how to tackle the content migration.

We really appreciated the proposal that they had submitted to us. It was made clear to us that they considered all of our unique circumstances, rather than simply offering some generalized solutions. They were available to answer questions and to engage with us on that level. We had a very strict timeline and budget for this deployment, and the university administration wasn’t about to let us expand beyond those constraints. Bluespark was very meticulous when it came to scoping the work, to make sure that everything was well defined and that things wouldn’t go awry. That flexibility was very attractive to us and solidified our decision to go with them.

Could you provide a general cost estimate for this particular project?

It was in the neighborhood of $200,000 during a period of about 18 months.

When was the project completed?

We took delivery of the work in December of 2013, and the site launched in July of 2014. It was more convenient for us to do the hard cutover in the summer. We currently have a maintenance contract with them, and they work on little bugs or things we want to add.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

Could you share any statistics, metrics, or user feedback that would demonstrate the quality of their performance?

There are certain trends that we observe in the academic year. There are ebbs and flows according to the schedule. As far as numbers are concerned, I’ll be most interested to see how this fall compares to next fall in terms of usage, comparatively speaking. We have noticed that the questions we have, have changed. There are areas where we used to have lots of confusion that we just don’t anymore.

We have something around 15 separate libraries on campus, so keeping the different hours of operation straight was a challenge. That was something we wanted to see changed and improved. We now have an hour's module they designed for us, and we don’t really get questions about hours anymore, which is great. Our users can now much more conveniently find the info they need.

We’re finding that a lot of the things that were points of frustration for people simply aren’t issues any longer. Also, having a responsive design has been great. We receive a lot questions from people who clearly are making use of the site on their mobile devices and engaging with us. I think that’s been a huge improvement as well.

When working with Bluespark, is there anything that you would consider unique about their approach that distinguishes them from other vendors?

I really enjoyed working with them. They’re really professional, capable, and interested. I also found them fun to work with, and that’s not something you find a lot. In addition to being extremely knowledgeable, they’re also very accessible. It’s clear that they place huge emphasis on their corporate culture. Their team members are great communicators and pay very close attention to one another and their clients. That was fantastic. This was a very challenging project, and we had a lot of moving parts that we needed to work through, but we were all able to do that in an atmosphere that felt like a team. As a client, you don’t always feel like you’re a part of a greater team, so I really appreciated that.

In retrospect, are there areas in which you think they could improve as a service provider?

After our project, they’ve since changed their project estimation process. They’ve instituted some new techniques to handle large projects with fixed budgets. We benefited from some of the "a-ha" moments they had with some of their previous contracts, but they didn’t really have their new processes in place when we worked with them, and we did have a couple of places where that would have been super helpful. That’s more of a timing issue, but it’s nice to see that they’re actively looking to improve their service.

What advice would you give a future client?

I don’t know if I would have anything specific to working with Bluespark. One thing I learned through the process is that I wish we had been more specific on our RFP, so we didn’t have to discover things over time.

RATINGS

OVERALL SCORE: 5
QUALITY: 4.5
COST: 5
SCHEDULING: 4
They did really well, even when we moved the goalpost on them.
WILLING TO REFER: 5
Courtney McDonald

Drupal Implementation Leading Online Travel Firm

 
Enterprise application development
 
$200,000 to $999,999
Project summary: 

The client is a leading travel website that helps consumers plan and book their perfect trip. Due to limited internal capabilities, the client sought a qualified technology partner to design, develop, and deploy their new custom website. Bluespark was one of several potential vendors to receive a request for proposal from the client. Once commissioned, Bluespark assumed responsibility for the client's Drupal implementation and site build.

Feedback summary: 

The client expressed great enthusiasm and appreciation for the site developed by Bluespark. According to the client, the successful launch of their new Drupal-based site has already driven considerable improvements in their process efficiency and administrative oversight. Bluespark received further praise for their ability to offer valuable insights and process improvement recommendations. The client maintains an ongoing relationship with Bluespark and recommends them highly. 

"They were definitely better than others I’ve worked with in the past. They’re very responsive, they’re responsible, and they take real ownership over their work. Bluespark takes the time to understand the client’s point of view, to internalize their objectives before they go ahead and begin working on a solution. That makes a big difference."

VP of Engineering, Travel & Leisure Firm
 
1001-5000 Employees
 
Greater Boston Area
Overall rating: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Quality: 

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Schedule: 

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Cost: 

Average: 4 (1 vote)

Willing to refer: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

BACKGROUND

Could you describe your organization?

I work at an online travel agency. The division that I work in is the B2B [business-to-business] part of it. Basically, we do anything with partners like as hotels, booking partners, and any other type of travel business online that might either integrate with our product.

What is your position?

I’m the vice president of engineering. 

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

Could you describe the business challenge that you were trying to address when you first approached Bluespark?

We wanted to improve our communications with the hotel industry. We had an old, custom content management system that we had put together years ago. It wasn’t user friendly at all, and it was really just a hodgepodge of different programming languages. While working with our marketing, they wanted a tool that would let them publish articles easier, post PDF files, and be able to share their content to various stakeholders. They have lots of ways of communicating already through email. They also have webinars and conferences, but they wanted an easier way to make a new Web page on their own. It was about making our content distribution strategy more accessible.

SOLUTION

Could you describe the scope of their involvement in greater detail?

The work was kind of mixed between our team and theirs. We needed to build a project inside our own code base to be able to proxy everything that’s happening from the legacy CMS. They went into our old system and made sure they could pull all of its contents into the new Drupal CMS, which required significant custom coding. We did have a project manager on this, and we continue to use them as we deploy feature enhancements. I don’t know how much of the design we did exactly. We provided all of the basic visual collateral, but they were the ones to implement the new redesign and deal with template customizations. 

How did you choose Bluespark as your partner?

We were talking to a few different firms that develop on different platforms. I’ve known Mike Tucker [CEO at Bluespark] for many years, so he was the obvious one to call. Drupal has been around for a long time, and we liked the fact that there are a bunch of modules that can do lots of different things. We like the depth of integration offered by Drupal. When we launched, we knew that we needed to integrate the new site with our translation system. We knew that we had to build some custom code, and knew Drupal was the easiest to build that custom code. I trusted Bluespark based on our initial discussions. It was clear to me that they had serious talent and quite a bit of previous experience working with organizations like ours.

Could you provide a general cost estimate for this particular engagement?

A couple hundred thousand dollars.

When was this project completed?

The site launched last summer [2013], but the relationship is ongoing.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

In terms of results, could you share any statistics, metrics, or user feedback that would demonstrate the quality of their performance?

Most of the feedback I get is from our marketing team because they’re the ones that work with Bluespark directly. I know they have good things to say about working with Bluespark and the system, but I would need to get that from them. Their project management is quite effective, too. There have been times where we saw that there’s a new security hole in PHP or Drupal or something like that. By the time, I’ve heard that we need to implement patches, Bluespark is always one step ahead of it. They’re very proactive in that respect. If they see something like that, they go fix all of the sites that need to be fixed without needing to be asked. They’re extremely responsive for any security issues or emergencies that might arise.

When working with Bluespark, is there anything that you would consider unique or special about their approach that distinguishes them from other vendors?

They were definitely better than others I’ve worked with in the past, but I haven’t worked with a lot of them. I don’t know how valuable my comparison could be. They’re very responsive, they’re responsible, and they take real ownership over their work. There are some developers out there that take a scope of work and deliver exactly what the client asks for, regardless of whether or not it’s the best or most efficiency solution. Bluespark takes the time to understand the client’s point of view, to internalize their objectives, before they go ahead and begin working on a solution. That makes a big difference.

What advice, if any, would you give to future clients of theirs?

I recommend that they have a solid long-term plan. One thing that I’ve asked them to do is get approval for projects. As long as we say we still want to improve the site, they would go ahead and do that. But, it’s good to make sure they approve the work that they’re going to be doing, if they’re concerned with monthly costs.

RATINGS

OVERALL SCORE: 4.5
QUALITY: 4
COST: 4
SCHEDULING: 4
WILLING TO REFER: 5

Drupal Customization UCLA Digital Library

 
Web development
 
$200,000 to $999,999
Project summary: 

The client is a divisional program at the University of California at Los Angeles. Due to limited internal capabilities, the client sought a qualified technology partner to customize and improve their Drupal-based site. Once commissioned, Bluespark began to collaborate closely with the client on their custom development initiatives.

Feedback summary: 

The client conveyed great satisfaction and appreciation with the work delivered by Bluespark. According to the client, Bluespark remains instrumental to their ongoing platform improvements and customizations. Bluespark received further praise for their approach to project management. The client maintains an ongoing relationship with Bluespark and recommends them highly. 

"We found their project management style to match ours very nicely. We have open access to their work, and can see exactly what’s going on at any point in time. They’re very good at delivering, and keeping updated as to their progress. We’ve been very happy from a project management perspective."

Head, Digital Library Program at UCLA
 
1001-5000 Employees
 
Greater Los Angeles Area
Overall rating: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Quality: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Schedule: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Cost: 

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Willing to refer: 

Average: 5 (1 vote)

BACKGROUND

Could you describe your organization?

I work for the library at the University of California, Los Angeles.

What is your position?

I’m head of the digital library program.

OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE

Could you describe the business challenges that you were attempting to address when you first approached Bluespark?

We needed somebody to work on specific development projects within the Drupal domain, so we were looking for a Drupal development company. We really didn’t have a lot of in-depth experience working with Drupal, or developing any platform from scratch. We didn’t want to try making the transition on our own, so we decided to hire an external team of experts to walk us through the whole deployment.

SOLUTION

Could you describe the scope of their involvement in greater detail?

The first project we worked on was to build a completely new site, and to host all of the content, about 100,000 sound recordings. They built the entire Drupal site for us. They designed the information infrastructure, and they migrated all of the contents. We had the audio on our server, but that’s the only component they didn’t actually build for us. They built and configured media center, so things like checking whether a recording exists or not, and presenting the appropriate information or link on the site, all searching, browsing, architecture, and everything.

After that first project, the subsequent project pretty much had the same sort of scope. They were to build another Drupal-based website for some specific contents that we wanted to publish independently. The difference is that now, they’re actually pulling content from our repository system, and it’s being driven by indexes that we manage. There have been three projects of that type. The other very big project they worked on is not in my domain, but for the library generally. They built the main library website, but I’m not very familiar with their involvement there.

How did you select Bluespark as your partner?

We looked around the Drupal directory, and also conducted some general online research. There was a small unit within UCLA, the Chicano Studies Research Center, which had already used Bluespark before. Apparently, they had done a basic website for them, so they gave us a direct referral. We probably looked at about three different companies, and they gave us the best responses to our needs. The first project that we worked with them on was a grant-funded project to build a site for digital audio. They had done some audio work before, so that was of interest to us, too. At the end of the day, we felt very comfortable with their approach and their technical skills.

Could you provide a general cost estimate for this particular engagement?

It cost about $350,000.

When was the project completed?

The main library site was launched in the fall of last year [2013]. We still have four concurrent projects with Bluespark, and we have a maintenance contract with them as well.

RESULTS & FEEDBACK

In terms of results, could you share any statistics, metrics, or user feedback that would demonstrate the quality of their performance?

I don’t have any specific metrics at the moment. The things they’ve worked on have been new, so we don’t have comparisons. The two most recent projects, which are the main site and a site for the Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform, have both received very positive feedback in terms of their design, the navigation and the architecture of the site, as well as the contents, which is more of our doing, but it all fits together very well. Anecdotally, I’d say we’ve had very positive feedback, which is why we’ve continued working with them.

They have been extremely responsive. We found their project management style to match ours very nicely. We have open access to their work, and can see exactly what’s going on at any point in time. They’re very good at delivering, and keeping updated as to their progress. We’ve been very happy from a project management perspective. The delays and hiccups we’ve had have not been anymore than you would expect in a project of this scope, which is to say that there have been zero glaring issues with them and the deployment.

When working with Bluespark, is there anything that you would consider unique or special about their approach that distinguishes them from other vendors?

The thing that I’ve really enjoyed most is their interest in developing a good understanding of what our objectives are. We’re an academic institution, and they didn’t have a lot of experience in the academic sphere. They were very interested to learn more about that, and to make sure that what they’re developing for us actually met our needs. I found that to be extremely helpful, and a very positive aspect of our relationship. It wasn’t a matter of simply delivering a product, but working closely with us to make sure that it’s exactly what we’re looking for, and that met the objectives of our institution.

In retrospect, are there areas in which you think that Bluespark could improve upon as a service provider?

Based on our experience with them, nothing really jumps out at me. That’s not to say that there aren’t specific areas, but that I’m not privy to them.

What advice would you give to a future client of theirs?

I’d say take them at face value. Get to know them, and just sort of dig down. Definitely have a good idea of what it is you want, but don’t feel pressured to have all the answers. Bluespark is great at coming up with creative, unique solutions that nicely fit the client’s brand and business.

RATINGS

OVERALL SCORE: 5
QUALITY: 5
COST: 4.5
SCHEDULING: 4.5
WILLING TO REFER: 5
Stephen Davison