22nd December 2006

Technology- Judy’s Book After Christmas Guide

posted in Technology |
Speaking of Judy’s Book I thought it was worth
mentioning some features I’ve worked on the past couple of weeks. Now that we have the deals site up and running solidly it has been very cool to succesfully build and ship some new features in less than a week.
A couple of weeks ago Chad and I built a Coupon Finder that uses a little bit of AJAX to work somewhat like the Google Suggest feature. You just start typing a phrase and as you type it issues queries and updates the display in real-time. The key was keeping the results really compact and the queries light-weight enough that the performance is really good. If it were slower at returning the results the usability would be poor. As it is the feature feels (to me) cool and responsive.
That same week we shipped a Holiday shipping guide.
This was pretty crucial to turn around quickly while the data was still useful to people. Getting it out the door was an interesting exercise in rapid development. It was a mostly content-oriented mini-site, but the data entry was turning out to be very error-prone. We switched it to be driven by a table of data and were succesful at getting the initial version out on time, but there were issues to fix for a few days after the initial launch. From my perspective that was fine- with a web app if its not horribly broken, the cost of doing updates should be fairly low and there is little evidence of your mistakes later.
Yesterday we got online a After Christmas Sale Guide that was built on a similar structure to the holiday shipping guide. Based on the experience with the first guide I built a structure for creating generic “guide” sites. It seems like these things are very useful to people who visit the deals site, and they also provide a good source of incoming organic search users. In theory this generic version will let us deploy a new guide by editing an Excel file, three lines in a config file and no real code. If I had tried to build the generic version before we did the first guide I’m pretty certain I would have screwed it up- either made it too complicated or created a structure that didn’t provide us with the right flexibility. Since we worked out the model in the first place, and then encapsulated it into code later, I had an easy model to follow. Of course I’m sure there will be many additions for future versions, but from my perspective it was a pretty good validation about rapid iterative models of software development.

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