What was the scope of their involvement?
At first, they engaged a couple of people in several different teams of ours. Two of them worked in the student assessment user interface [UI]. Educators often look at what a student’s done and say, “According to these different rubrics, here’s how this student did.” Frontside was part of a team that rewrote existing product with substantial improvements.
We also had a lot of Ember-data questions due to our complicated data model. They brought the right expertise to expand our Ember-data understanding. I worked closely with them on an interesting and complicated set of forms. Doing forms in Ember is a standard task, the standard mechanism for writing forms and ember had many problems and was falling out of favor. Frontside helped us start using a new technique. This new process solved the fundamental problem with Ember’s general 2-way binding approach to forms. We adopted the strategy they suggested and are now using it across all of our applications and seeing great improvements.
They also rebuilt our file-upload process. We needed to take images that the teachers had of their students or documents and attach them to the students’ online profiles. Frontside had started working on an open-source tool to do that. They completed it and wrote a special frontend bridge to meet our needs, using their basic open-source program to upload the files to Amazon Web Services through the technology that we needed. They also wrote testing support for that program. Along the way, our requirements expanded, so they adapted the API to meet our modified requirements.
Finally, they worked on our front-end re-write of a brand-new product in another project, which I wasn’t personally a part of. They moved us from Ember 1.13 to 2.4, collaborating with us to fix many of the issues that prevented us from updating earlier. That was a long, challenging work across a massive Ember application.
What is the team dynamic?
The team varied over time. We started out with 2 and occasionally had up to to 3 or 4 resources from Frontside at a time. They were flexible based on our needs. Sometimes, people working with us would rotate to another project. At first, I was sad about losing people, but then they’d bring on someone else who was even more amazing. We did incur some costs from switching people out, but Charles [Founder, Frontside] was a constant fixture. The team helped each other get up to speed quickly. This process was far more effective than bringing brand-new people on board and gave us access to different perspectives and skill sets.
How did you come to work with Frontside?
Our former contractor recommended Frontside. I went to EmberConf in order to meet contractors and find someone to hire. I knew that I wanted to talk to Frontside, but we also chatted with people from other firms at varying skill levels. Frontside was my top choice. Their prices were significantly better than even 1-person companies. I read a blog post from Charles that blew my mind due to the high-level new ideas he was bringing to Ember and to frontend development.
What is the status of this engagement?
We worked together from May 2016 until June 2017.