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Engineers Blog: Summer at St. Georges, WordPress and Piklist (article #1)

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Anatomy of a medium sized software redevelopment project.


About 16 months ago, we began a new contract with a company called Summer at St. Georges. St. Georges a large well known billionaires private school in B.C. has a summer camp program that allows boys and girls from all over Vancouver and the lower mainland to experience the level of education and service a school St. Georges offers the community without having to be a billionaire’s child. Brilliant concept and amazing execution. SSG (short for Summer at St. Georges) created an amazing system that in just 13 years had built its user base to thousands of kids in over 300 camps that ran for just 8 weeks in summer.
The backend for this project was very disjointed as they had been using several different technologies and databases over the years. They had been running on a system that was primarily hand made, and passed on by word of mouth with very little documentation. So they requested a complete redesign of their software¬† integrated into a single package, they also had a very old but very well used website that took signups, so they wanted a new website as part of the package. From our initial discussions a three to four page proposal was put together with a lot of room for the specs to grow as more information came in, as the details of their needs weren’t completely known or forthcoming at the time, due in most part to nothing being documented as most of the processes were sitting in each team members melon (brain). So some surgical digging was required and countless team meetings.
First hurdle in any software redesign is deciding on technologies. Many were considered, standard windows app (they were an MS based office), mobile, online, cloud app, proprietary software, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress.   The platform we recommended was WordPress. Why? Because we wanted them to be comfortable with the interface, as it is the worlds most recognizable blog and website platform (500,000,000 people use wordpress sites monthly) but we also wanted them to be able to find engineers to finish the development if we were involved in other projects and so many of the other platforms have much fewer top tier engineers. So the industry for those API’s and platforms is designed around hiring a Joomla or Drupal based company to even attempt even the smallest of upgrades, as you want good engineers working on your projects, and to get those, they usually aren’t individuals. This means costs and time can skyrocket and while SSG is impressive with what they’ve built, we felt they still needed to think about their budget. (but that came back to haunt us later. LOL Explained in a later article)
So to make a long story short, we recommended WordPress and they agreed. We had our first milestone of their first students purchasing by Jan 1st 2014, a goal that was less than four months away. First Step: Master some of the more intense aspects of the WordPress API and find out if their were any third party API’s for WordPress that made engineering faster and that wouldn’t didn’t break anything. (I don’t think that’s even possible, is it?) In our next article: Piklist saves the day…