Hiring... Back-end developer (.NET/Sitecore)

We are currently seeking a passionate and talented back-end developer to join our team. The right person will be required help us build first class products by bringing to the team technical expertise, giving direction with regards to technologies and best practice and collaborating with product owners as well as clients to help in the refining of requirements.

We’ll be looking for an excellent understanding of object oriented programming, a good communicator, a keen learner and someone with a strong desire to be a contributor to an ever evolving, agile team.

Responsibilities

Working with other team members and stakeholders, you will be required to actively participate in the full development lifecycle, including:

  • Playing an active role in solutions architecture
  • Delivering excellent, secure and robust code
  • Attending workshops, research and testing sessions with stakeholders/clients
  • Requirements gathering and definition including creating and refining user stories
  • Working on project proposals and pitches
  • Aiding the team in recognising and resolving technical issues
  • Identifying and helping mitigate project risk
  • Aiding in the ongoing improvement of the team’s development processes and the businesswide Scrum processes.

Required Skills

The list below detail our “perfect candidate”, but we welcome applicants of all levels if they feel they are are on the right path.

  • Several years’ full lifecycle software development experience
  • Excellent, demonstrable understanding of OO principles
  • Excellent, demonstrable understanding of coding standards and best practices
  • Excellent understanding of the following technologies:
    • .Net (C#)
    • MVC and Razor
    • Web API and REST
    • SQL
  • Solid experience working with Agile methodologies and a strong understanding of the Scrum framework
  • Solid experience working with CMS systems such as Umbraco, Sitecore
  • Good understanding of front end technologies HTML5, CSS3, Javascript as well as exposure to some Javascript libraries.
  • Good understanding of GIT and source control practices (i.e. gitflow)
  • Good, demonstrable understanding of SOLID software design practices
  • Good, demonstrable understanding of secure coding practices
  • Good, demonstrable understanding of data modelling techniques and practices

Desirable Skills

  • Experience using Azure or other cloud hosting solutions

  • Experience setting up and using continuous deployment/integration
  • Experience with mobile app development, i.e. Xamarin
  • Experience writing unit tests and of unit test frameworks
  • Some experience using with Angular.JS
  • Some experience with Node.JS
  • Some experience using task runners such as Grunt/Gulp/Npm

About us:

Dare West has invested heavily in developing a robust Agile workflow.  This workflow is now established and in use across all of the projects running through the agency.  This is a great opportunity to work in a truly Agile environment and learn from a team who have developed the processes.

The successful candidate will have real influence and involvement in the development process.  They will spend time working with the other business units within Dare West to ensure the success of the project

Dare West is the Bristol hub of  Dare and as such, there are opportunities to work across a large range of exciting projects and to also work alongside the Dare London team on certain projects.  As part of the Inside ideas, we also work with other group companies – in particular OLIVER.  This has included web development on leading brands like Starbucks and The Economist.

Benefits

Good salary, plus:

  • 25 days of holiday plus and extra birthday day-off (must be taken within the month of your birthday)
  • Contributory pension scheme 1% employee and 1% employer
  • Interest-free season ticket loan
  • Childcare vouchers (non-taxable)
  • Eye care vouchers
  • Ride 2 Work Cycle scheme
  • Summer and Christmas parties
  • Free breakfast
  • We have a robust career review system in place, which a successful candidate would be included in.
     

CONTACT DETAILS

fergus.adam@thisisdare.com

+44 0203 142 3699

We're hiring a front-end Developer

We are looking for a passionate front-end developer to join the team. The right person will be required to provide the team with technical expertise, give direction with regards to technologies used and collaborate with in-house (and sometimes outsourced) UI and UX designers and developers in order to provide a bridge between design and technical implementation and ultimately create excellent solutions for our clients.

Besides the front-end development, there will be the opportunity to develop back-end .Net and OO programming, depending upon the appetite of the individual.
 

Responsibilities

Working with other team members and stakeholders, actively participate in the full development lifecycle, including:

  • Workshops, research and testing sessions with stakeholders/clients
  • Requirements gathering and definition including creating user stories.
  • Working on project proposals and pitches
  • Development of full optimised and scalable UI experiences using up-to-date technologies
  • Aiding the team in recognising and resolving technical issues
  • Identifying and helping mitigate project risk
  • Aiding in the ongoing improvement of the team’s processes and the businesswide Scrum processes

 

Required Skill

  • Strong JavaScript, ideally including ES6
  • Good understanding of CSS and pre/post-processors (We use Sass and autoprefixer)
  • Semantic HTML5
  • Experience using task runners, eg Webpack or Gulp
  • Good knowledge of REST APIs and AJAX
  • Comfortable using Git version control
  • Node and npm/yarn dependency management
  • Proficient in Photoshop/Illustrator/Sketch
  • Some experience with Azure or other cloud hosting
  • Exposure to CMS platforms (ideally Umbraco)
  • Good understanding of W3C standards and accessibility
  • Understanding of web security and risk mitigation techniques
  • Understanding of/experience working with Agile methodologies and the Scrum framework
     

Advantageous Skills

  • A modular approach to CSS (we use BEM)
  • Experience of React/Redux
  • Experience of any other JavaScript frameworks
  • Experience with .Net, C# or VB
  • Experience with SQL and Data modelling
     

Job benefits

Dare West have invested heavily in developing a robust Agile workflow.  This workflow is now established and in use across all of the projects running through the agency.  This is a great opportunity to work in a truly Agile environment and learn from a team who have developed the processes.

The successful candidate will have real influence and involvement in the development process.  They will spend time working with the other business units within Dare West to ensure the success of the project

Competitive salary, plus:

  • 25 days of holiday plus and extra birthday day-off (must be taken within the month of your birthday)
  • Contributory pension scheme 1% employee and 1% employer
  • Interest-free season ticket loan
  • Childcare vouchers (non-taxable)
  • Eye care vouchers
  • Ride 2 Work Cycle scheme
  • Summer and Christmas parties
  • Free breakfast
  • We have a robust career review system in place, which a successful candidate would be included in.

Dare West is the Bristol hub of Dare and as such, there are opportunities to work across a large range of exciting projects and to also work alongside the Dare London team on certain projects.  As part of the Inside Ideas Group we also work with other group companies – in particular OLIVER.  This has included web development on leading brands like Starbucks and The Economist.

Contact details

fergus.adam@thisisdare.com

+44 0203 142 3699

 

Putting Agile UX into practice

Thinking of taking the plunge into Agile? Experience Planner Jon Somerscales explains how Dare West made Agile UX a reality at our Bristol-based digital agency.
 

Here at Dare West, we’re always keen to adopt and adapt to new ideas. After our development team successfully embraced an Agile approach, we decided to roll it out agency-wide. In terms of user experience planning, this meant fusing Lean UX methods with our Agile software delivery – so now we can build better products, reduce project risk, and deliver live solutions faster.

We’ve already learned a lot, and are still discovering new ways to make Agile work for us. Hopefully, our story will give you some hints and ideas you can use on your own Agile journey.

We often work with enterprise clients that are unable to work in a truly Agile way for whatever reason, even if they wanted to. Lean UX is all about developing your product or service to fit your users and business model. So as an agency, we have to make sure the service we provide adapts to fit the needs of our clients, but at the same time we need to ensure that clients understand our process and come along on the journey with us.

Every client is different and each relationship will change over time as they become more familiar with the process. We can be Agile inside even if the client generally isn’t – we just need to give them the understanding, tools and training they need. Clients from more traditional and non-digital-first industries must be able to recognise the importance of a strong digital strategy for the current and future success of their business. If not, they won’t place enough importance on the project or invest enough time in building the right solution.

We work with the client to help them align their strategic and digital goals. On a day-to-day basis, having a single point of contact with the client (the client-side product owner) who is empowered to make decisions is vital for clear communication and building a quality product. We hope to have the necessary contact time with key stakeholders at critical points in the project because we know this usually means building the right thing first time. For larger clients, the inside agency model can offer significant benefits in communication and understanding of the problem domain.

We often get an incomplete set of upfront requirements that don’t reflect real user needs. Or sometimes the client has a large set of requirements benchmarked by the functionality of their current system, so the minimum-viable-product quickly becomes unwieldy. Frequently, clients will want to know upfront how much work their software project will take. We find the best solution currently is to break a project estimate down into smaller phases and run an ‘Experience Architecture’ phase to further drill down on requirements, build up the project backlog and create an experience strategy.

In the Experience Architecture phase, we set the initial course by identifying the key problems to solve. We consult with domain experts (usually the client themselves) and ideally real users. We identify and map out the most critical user flows. We build a prioritised backlog of requirements and lo-fi prototypes. And we coordinate with the team on how to approach the project. 

From the Experience Architecture phase, we’ll have a set of requirements captured as ‘user stories’ – this is our project backlog. Once we know the priority stories, we can run design/UX Sprints where the aim is to take each user story (or problem) and build a solution that’s ready for development. Our design/UX Sprints are two weeks long. A development Sprint follows straight after. We can also stack Sprints so they both run at the same time.

Dare_West_Agile_process


These design/UX Sprints are a chance for us to do detailed work on a high priority user flow (or set of related user stories) and arrive at a solution that’s fit for purpose and suitable for the user operating within all intended contexts – taking into account all criteria captured from the various stakeholders. Ideally, the solution prototype will go from low to high resolution, get signed-off by the client and, along with the supporting user story, be ready for test cases to be written. 

We involve core team members in the UX process as early as possible – the earlier you can get dev and design involved and collaborating, the earlier problems are identified and the more elegant the final solution because you can have more chances at iterating to get it right. The daily standup is a great way to communicate project developments on a day-to-day basis. We schedule front-end review sessions to get timely feedback, encourage communication and keep up project visibility.

In our cross-discipline team, we strive to work in a highly collaborative, user-centred way – designing for real needs, using real evidence and data whenever available. We use rapid prototyping to learn quickly and test potential solutions. We use and select from a wide range of UX methods and prototyping techniques, always choosing those best suited to the task at hand.

Implementing Agile in an agency has its challenges but can transform your ability to build the right solution and adapt to changes. Agile should be implemented in a way that works for the individual needs of your organisation. It’s really a process of trial, feedback and adjustment.

If you’d like to talk to us about our Agile UX process, or how we can help you with your own, get in touch at darewest.com.

 

Why being agile doesn’t make you Agile.

As a smaller agency, we’d always fancied ourselves as agile. But it was when we discovered we could also be Agile that things really changed – and not just our appreciation of the importance of capital letters. Managing partner Fergus Adam explains how Dare West learned to love the Agile development process.
DareWestAgileProcess

 

We’ve always been small – able to flex and change the way we work to deal with whatever issues and situations we had to. And it worked pretty well for us… right up to the point when it didn’t.

Digital projects are fiendishly difficult to manage. Every function you need to add leads to greater complexity, more possible ways to do things, and a higher risk of things going wrong.

That was us about a year ago. Even using the latest prototyping and online sharing tools we started to find that, as projects got bigger, it was all too easy for small issues to quickly become big problems. Suddenly it was hard to make a profit because we’d got ourselves into a situation where we were managing all the risk of a project – just before going live.

We needed to change how we worked. And, about a year after this realisation, we have. It’s been bloody difficult. There have been some rocky moments along the way, but we have a way of working that is really making a difference to what we produce.

The core attraction of Agile was frontloading risk. We were pitching everything on the big firework moment. That moment that builds up in a flurry of late nights and arguments, and the inevitable ‘if something can go wrong, it will’ moment. Instead, it would surely be better to lump the risk into the front-end planning, then focus on small increments – delivering bits to the client as you went. Perhaps even launching when it wasn’t completely ready. It all sounded very appealing.

Putting it into practice was hard. Twenty years of trying to change consumer behaviour didn’t really prepare me for how hard changing the way your team works can be. 

Instrumental was Henrik Kniberg’s book Scrum and XP from the Trenches. If you’re looking at your process, this is a must read.

So, off we went and we started working the development team in this way. High fives all round. But it wasn’t really working very well. UX, design and the dev team were not joined up. That’s putting it politely. There was very nearly a fight at one point. 

The solution presented itself when reading about tractors. John Deer put in place Agile as a way of developing new product launches. This grew organically from small IT projects into a company-wide adoption. If they could use it to develop tractors, perhaps, just perhaps, if we adopted it fully, it might help us develop software… the thing it was actually invented for. Pretty obvious in hindsight.

Embracing the methodology wholeheartedly across the business has had a massive impact. And convinced me you are either Agile or not. I recently heard about someone extolling the virtues of WAgile!? Waterfall + Agile, apparently = WAgile. Sounds a bit like our (lower case) agile approach of old.

Also vital was having the right tools. There are three main ones I think.

Central to this process is the humble, not very technical, Post-it. Super Sticky ones are a must – thanks 3M. And a wall. Or several. At the task-level you can’t beat the physical interaction with Post-its and a wall. It’s easier to make sure a stand-up is actually a stand-up in front of a wall. And it’s hugely satisfying for everyone – watching your Post-its march across the board during the two-week Sprint. Our agency is now awash with them. And thankfully, and without a briefing, the cleaners seem to get that they are important and leave them alone.

Next was a tool that allowed us to do a lot of stuff. It’s fine to have the task level on Post-its, but organising everything to get to that point needed a more technical solution. We wanted to standardise and manage User Stories; assign them to (and manage their priority within) Sprints; view and update their status; capture and report poker scores and the task planned detail. We needed to be able to collaborate on and comment on User Stories in a place that keeps that manageable – NOT via email! Lastly, we needed to be able to make all this completely visible to clients. Wrike has been a revelation. It does all this and more. We’ve recently added automatically generated reports. Once created, they’re a live view of progress on a job, removing the overhead of creating client status reports. And dashboards allow each member of the team to view stuff that’s relevant to them. Thank you, Wrike!

Number three is a willingness to change. One of the most valuable things about Agile is the constant opportunity for learning and improvement.  The easiest bit to fall out of the habit of, is reviewing what’s working and what’s not in an end-of-Sprint review. But it’s probably the most important bit (along with a willingness to tear up what you’re doing if it’s not working and try something new).

The team are now working together brilliantly. Our UX, design and test teams are building solutions in collaboration with developers and QA up to the point they are approved, tasked, planned, and head into the development Sprint. Then they’re out the other end as fully formed and tested bits of functionality ready for review by our client and customers for brands as diverse as Good Energy, Places for People Leisure, Starbucks and the institute of imagination.

It’s exciting to be a part of it and watch it happen. And I think it works because we’re creatures that rely on immediate feedback to help us develop and make us happy. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stressed this in his groundbreaking book Flow: The Psychology of Happiness. Bringing a bit of this to our jobs can only be a positive.

And we have a Sprint retrospective tomorrow … so this may all have to be re-written. 

Inside the UK’s biggest Umbraco event

Dare West’s Senior Developer Mike Bull takes us on a guided tour of the Umbraco UK Festival held recently in London.

As a developer, I've worked with the open source content management system Umbraco for many years now, and have attended plenty of user groups in that time. But one thing I’d never done was attend the Umbraco UK Festival. That is until 4 November this year at CodeNode in London.

For the past seven years, the hard-working guys at The Cogworks have organised the annual Umbraco UK Festival, and each year it gets bigger and better. With over 300 people in attendance, visiting from all over the world, it’s the second largest Umbraco event in the world, second only to the official Umbraco festival – Codegarden in Denmark. The venue this year was CodeNode in Moorgate, and I can’t speak highly enough about the place. All the tea and coffee you could drink, ample space for everyone, padded chairs – it had the lot! After a bit of socialising and filling up on caffeine, we all made our way to the main room for the introductory talk.

After an introduction to Cogworks, and the venue, we dived right into the engine room, almost literally, of Umbraco HQ with Kris Deminick. It was a great introduction to what makes an average day at Umbraco HQ in Odense, and how they operate as a company. It was particularly interesting to hear how they’ve managed to fit their SaaS offering Umbraco Cloud into their company, and how they manage their day-to-day dev processes. As an audience of developers that primarily work in agency environments, it was good to hear how a growing software company is run, from sales to dev to support.

After a quick break, and a nice chat to a couple of the guys I recognised from Twitter and the Our Umbraco forums, I moved onto Theo Paraskevopoulos’s talk on personalisation in the digital finance sector. As someone with experience of the legal and financial sector, I was looking forward to hearing how he’d managed to use Umbraco in an environment with constraints you don’t usually find in other industries. His talk highlighted, above anything else, that trust was the leading factor, and I think that’s something we can all take away from this talk.

Next up, I joined a group of people and built a lego city!

As fun as this may sound, it served a good purpose, and that was to highlight how the Scrum methodology works. Rather than simply playing with Lego, those of us in the Scrum lego workshop were tasked with building a Lego city for our client (and workshop host) Ania Kierczynska. One of the most common selling quotes of Umbraco to clients is that Umbraco is like Lego, so it was good to actually put this into action and use Scrum when building something out of Lego. We got to grips with Scrum ceremonies, and learned how to work in a team to build everything a city could possibly need, from a nursery to a McDonalds. After some teething issues, we all pitched in, and built an impressive city together that fitted the client’s wishes.

For my last session of the day, I decided to head over to the unit testing workshop to learn some tips on how to unit test an Umbraco website from automation guru Anthony Dang. As a huge fan of automation and test-driven development, it was great to get an insight into the processes that everyone else in the Umbraco community follows. We went over some basic unit tests for the Umbraco APIs, explored the joys and pains of mocking using Moq, and ended by discussing and implementing a number of useful design patterns – namely Service, Repository, and the Unit of Work patterns. While many of the concepts are already widely used, it was great to hear how people are solving problems with them, and their experiences of building Umbraco using these techniques.

Last, but certainly not least, was the keynote. ‘Mr Umbraco’ himself Niels Hartvig took to the stage to discuss this year in the Umbraco community, and his vision for where Umbraco will be going in the future. This included a great demo of deploying through Umbraco Cloud (the artist formerly known as Umbraco as a Service – or UaaS) with the new pending changes feature and Courier 3, along with the coming changes to the package installer within Umbraco itself. Niels highlighted that the growth of the Umbraco community, and the level of quality shown by the community illustrates that there has never been a better time to be a member, and I think many Umbraco devs would agree.

After the keynote, a couple of prizes were given out to people in the community followed by some closing comments, then we all headed to The Globe for a couple of drinks to celebrate a great day.
All in all, I would say that this year’s incarnation of the UK Festival was a huge success. The location was fantastic, the talks were high quality, and the workshops had something to offer everyone. We were definitely spoilt for choice, and if there were more hours in the day, I would’ve loved to see all of them.

Why dynamic ads need more dynamism

Dynamic banners offer amazing flexibility and on-the-fly changes, but the limitations of a single template can still leave them feeling not very… well, dynamic. Here at Dare West, we decided it was high time dynamic ads got a well overdue makeover.

Years of creating dynamic ads for the likes of Aviva, Barclays and Cancer Research UK have taught us a lot about squeezing value from a test-and-learn approach – using different messages and creative for different audiences at different stages of the customer journey.

We’ve made plenty of ads that animate differently depending on the type and location of the viewer. But, unless you create multiple master banners – which becomes expensive and rather defeats the whole idea of this type of advertising – the basic construct has always been the same across the campaign.

In our latest campaign for Aviva, we’ve taken the first step in reinventing the way we do dynamic ads. By cleverly feeding HTML code into the banner for each individual message, we were able to control not only the messaging, but also the look and feel of each banner – right down to an individual word.  

The result was a trick worthy of Houdini. From just four master banners, we pulled off the illusion of 36 completely bespoke banners. Now that’s dynamic.