Two Front-End Developers on ReactJS & Keeping Delphic on the Cutting Edge

In this series, we illuminate open roles by going beyond the bullet points and chatting with Delphies about new opportunities on their teams. This month, we sat down with two members of our Front-End Development team to talk about how they’re bringing the latest FED tech to Delphic and the open Sr. Front-End Developer/Team Lead role.

Let’s start with your name, role, and how long have you been at Delphic.

Iain: I’m Iain McCallum, I’m a front-end developer (FED), and I’ve been at Delphic since January 2015.

Adrienne: I’m Adrienne McDonnell, I’m also a front-end developer, and I joined #TeamDelphic May 2016.

Can you share a bit about how your team fits into the digital project process?

Iain: As the first stop in the development process, we translate the high fidelity Photoshop comps produced by the creative department into HTML, CSS, and JS that is married to the server side infrastructure built by our back end devs.

Over the course of recent projects you’ve both become our resident ReactJS experts. Can you explain this new framework for the uninitiated?

Iain: React frees us from directly manipulating the DOM (you might say it saves us from ourselves). This isn’t a unique feature to React. Angular, Vue, Ember and others do it too. The idea is to write up your intent in Javascript then let React update the DOM in the most efficient way it can figure out. The result is a snappy website that no longer needs a full on page refresh which, these days, gives quite a clunky old school feeling.

Adrienne: React allows us to handle and organize data coming in from APIs and from user interaction in an efficient and straightforward way. Its structure also encourages us to develop with a component-focused mindset, meaning that we’re breaking the code up into sizable independent chunks that play nicely together. This is similar to how we handle our styles with Sass and the BEM naming convention.

This framework is fairly new to the dev world but you currently apply it to Delphic projects – can you share a bit about how it fits in to your development process?

Iain: For years we have slowly been moving from building pages to building components. Our Javascript has also been increasing in complexity. React brings these two trends together and also decouples us from the back end. If you’ve been hearing about the advantages of having a headless CMS – this is that. React doesn’t fit in to our development process, it’s an evolution of it.

How are you applying this new framework to Delphic projects?

Iain: Slowly and with caution. So far it has only been applied to a couple of smaller greenfield projects. Hopefully our use will grow but we’re still learning and to take full advantage our server side projects would need to shift to a more API-based approach.

Adrienne: It definitely takes the right kind of project to get the ReactJS treatment. This is one more tool in our toolbelt to be used when the requirements of the project make it a good fit. I hope we get more!

Is there anything new happening within the ReactJS realm that you’re excited about?

Iain: GraphQL! It’s not exactly in the same realm, more a neighboring one. It’s a different approach to building APIs. Instead of having a predefined rigid response from an API endpoint you use a JSON request to define the content & structure of the response. This cuts out superfluous data and multiple requests. It also separates the front end from the server even further. If our app required the API to return a different shape, only the front end code would need a build. I would be really interested to find out how much time that would save!

Adrienne: Using create-react-app while I was learning React was the first intro I got to webpack (a module bundler for JS applications). I haven’t gotten a chance to dig into the webpack + npm scripts  vs gulp debate, but it’s on the to-do list.

Iain: If I can list a few more things I’m excited about: dev environments in Docker (cut out all that time fixing local environments!), linting (unify our code style!), testing (cut down on those surprise post launch bugs!), Redux / MobX (managing state like pros, I actually wrote about this last year), Progressive Web Apps (unparalleled speed and because making a website work offline is just cool). There are always more exciting things happening but those are my top ones for now.

Your team exists as a sub-group within the larger development team; as there are onlyfive of you, what does collaboration look like for your team?

Iain: We go through waves of collaborative get togethers. A couple of years ago we did a weekly lunch and learn JS series. Last year we met up once a month after work to hang out and code personal projects. This year we’re getting together every couple of weeks to chat about new tech & how to incorporate it into our dev process. We have a fairly high volume of work coming through so through most of the working day we’re the sole masters of our own little realms!

Adrienne: Yes, most of the time we’re all FED leads on our own projects, however, Iain and I both got the chance to work a bit on each other’s React projects, and I found it really helpful. Sometimes you just need a fresh pair of eyes to identify a better way to code something. As a newer member of the team, it’s always a great learning opportunity to work with another FED’s code.

We currently have an opening in your department for a Sr. Front-End Developer/Team Lead, why should someone want to join in on the FED journey at Delphic?

Iain: To experience a wide range of front end technologies & techniques. From the existing sites we maintain to the new projects that use new tech as the industry progresses, we have a wide range of projects that will give you a breadth of experience and practice, which is almost a necessity to keep up in this discipline.

Adrienne: Also we’re friendly! As the newest member of the team, I can say the FEDs are very welcoming and supportive. We have each other’s backs, are happy to talk through gnarly development puzzles, and are non-annoying office mates 😀

What questions should a potential applicant ask themselves before applying to this role?

Adrienne: Are you looking for a fast paced environment where you get to learn and use lots of different tools and frameworks? Do you like building sites from scratch AND managing older projects? Do you enjoy mentoring other FEDs?  Then you should apply!


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