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A facelift for travel. Part I.

  February 22, 2009 — written by Chris Sloan | 0 comments »

Note: Since this segment of my career has been pretty involved over the past half a year, I am going to have to cut these entries into two parts. There is so much I want to say about what has been going on, I feel that it's only best to make them somewhat like chapters and also to make it more enjoyable to read. By no means am I wanting to write a novel.

A blast from the somewhat past

Back in July of last year, I was contacted out of the blue by a Ruby on Rails head hunter company called mirRoR Placement. I had actually dealt with them four months prior with another project, but the work didn't pan out so I was back to sole freelance and contract work for about a month until my old boss at IMP Designs asked if I wanted to come back. That is why I said, this contact was out of the blue, as I wasn't expecting to hear from miRoR again, but was definitely glad I did.

Anyways, Brian Mariani at mirRoR told me about an opportunity with a startup company called Real Travel out of Los Altos, CA. They were looking for someone to head their front-end development and believed I was the prime candidate. I was torn between wanting to find out more and also what IMP Designs might think. After being wisked out to California with Kristen and interviewing with them and they liking me and I liking them, I was sold on the job. So I decided to take the plunge and join up with Real Travel.

Let ties be untied

So, Real Travel. Real Travel was started up back in 2005 probably more so 2004 with the pilot program, all riding on the base of ASP.net. Actually, let me step back and explain real quick what Real Travel is and does.

Real Travel can be considered a research tool website. Want to go traveling? Great. You probably are asking yourself, where do I start or where should I go? That is where Real Travel comes in. It is a site full of useful travel information for over 27,000 destinations world wide with a very devout blogger community to aid in your travel planning.

Back to the code base. Paul Hepworth initially developed the pilot site in PHP as a proof of concept for Ken Leeder, Real Travel CEO. After the concept being proven, long story short, people were hired and a decision was made to make the site into what it currently is (as of this writing, we are actually launching the new site) by way of ASP.net.

Now I am not very verbose in .net myself. I had dabbled in it some back in college when my coding skills were budding, but quickly turned over to using PHP as I felt that was a more flexible language. I have heard many horror stories from others on how hairy a .net site can turn out and how unforgiving it can be when you want to expound on features.

About a year and a half ago, Paul noticed the need to change over the code base of Real Travel. Features had been requested and he knew at the state the site was in at the time, they could never have been done. He had been trying to hint to others that something needed to happen fast, otherwise, Real Travel would be stagnant and not be able to grow like everyone hoped. In comes Ruby on Rails. For those not familiar with RoR, I suggest taking a gander at their website to find out more. Basically, it's a web application framework that is based off of the Ruby programming language that allows for better scaling of applications which is exactly what Real Travel needed.

Thus, Paul started his research and started figuring out a way to start the conversion process.

Brand new site if new_language?

So the process started. The Real Travel team started the task of generating the new framework and also taking on a new project management tool called SCRUM. Both of these tools would help aid in getting their project accomplished.

During this process, the look of the site was in flux. The .net pages were skinnier in width than the Rails pages, the headings sometimes didn't match, the navigation seemed difficult to follow, but the team to their best ability tried to keep everything together so the site and traffic would still flow. Over the course of the conversion process, Real Travel enlisted some outside design help to bring the site together, but ultimately, they saw a need for a full-time front-end developer to take ownership of the look, feel and functionality of the site.

That is when they contacted mirRoR who eventually contacted me.

...to be continued

filed in: Web design, Geekery | permalink

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