Code your own Fridays – Part one

By Ed Francis, Project Director

In the past six weeks, the home-grown talent at CoalFace have been busy.  Traditionally, our training and personal development has taken the guise of attending Frontend NE, SXSW, pretending to be people we’re not at the Annual IPA meet (hosted by Dan ‘The Top DC Man’ Appleby), or the upcoming Thinking Digital at Sage Gateshead. Needless to say, we get around.  Keeping it in the box, we also have two new accreditations from Umbraco because sometimes the theory is actually quite important too.

So what else – other than conferences and paid training can we do? Well, it turns out we can make some $%*@£*% amazing things.  The brain-child Richard, our Technical Director, we finally managed to block out every Friday morning for six weeks to initiate ‘Code your own Fridays’ or CYOF for short.

The brief

Code your own Fridays had a quite simple brief.  For our talented team:

  1. Choose anything you’re interested in.
  2. Develop something in the digital domain, be it a prototype or a research piece.
  3. You’ll present it to the team after six weeks.

The advantages from a business perspective?

  1. Broadening skill sets – the team get to flex their digital muscles and try things they’ve read, or been curious about, potentially to be used on paid projects.
  2. Management skills – a chance to completely manage a project themselves, from planning to delivering a prototype and/or presentation.
  3. Communication skills – every developer’s favourite: presentations in front of their peers.
  4. Morale and retention – the feedback from the team was very positive – they all enjoyed the process and saw great value in it, and would want to do something similar again.

So, to cut to the chase. We have ten mind-blowing, pushing the boundaries prototypes to show off over the next few weeks. In no particular order:

Ashliegh Wick – UX/UI designer

Ashliegh says:

“I’ve created a festival website in illustrator (shocker). I wanted to try to make an immersive experience, so upon loading there will be movement, such as flying birds, a floating moon and a moving leaf. As the user scrolls, the grass will fix and this will help to load in the next screen. They will then be able to navigate around the camp sites, tents and stages. Hidden content would allow sneak peeks of what the festival has to offer.”



Shambala prototype

What we liked about it

Having a digital illustrator on our team is a treat. I love illustration in websites, and the ability to easily offer things like hand-drawn media, or iconography, makes our offering so much more attractive. What’s more, this prototype was made completely from scratch, and has legs that the styling and endless possibilities for development (parallax, animation etc.) is one to watch.  The fact it was for a real business gives it even more potential to get past the prototype stage.

Jai Lalli – Junior Front-end developer

Jai says:

“I built a simple JavaScript brick breaker game in an attempt to learn the programming language. By firstly following an online tutorial to build a basic game, I was then able to incorporate my existing knowledge in JS, HTML and CSS to improve both the functionality and appearance of the game. The process of building the game step by step helped me to solidify my knowledge of a number of programming concepts, including variables, if statements, loops, arrays, and functions.”


Recording of the prototype:

Brick smashing screenshot of prototype

What we liked about it

The fact that Jai used this opportunity to improve in certain areas he felt he wanted to improve on was great.  The quality of the end result, and the fact he used his strengths in design and animation, came together in a great way. It’s the subtle little touches like the recreation of our office wall, and the picture frame interactions when you lose a life that make all the difference. It could easily have been just an un-styled game, but he pushed the boat out.

Richard Ockerby – Technical Director

Richard says:

“I investigated the Inversion of Control pattern, and the ways it can enhance the way we develop our projects –  particularly in relation to dependency injection. This allows the code that is being written to be in a more modular fashion, leading to a more maintainable code base. It enables easier unit tests, and allows developers to be more focused on a single part of the system without impact on other areas.”

What we liked about it

A deviation to the creative masterpieces above, but an integral piece of the puzzle. Our clients are shielded from this side of things (unless they want to be involved), but without the programmatic thinking that goes behind projects, there’s an onward effect on user experience, performance, speed, and data considerations. The pattern talked about by Richard has big implications to cost savings from a development point of view, and reduced maintenance costs. Not having this knowledge proven in projects can easily impact the day-to-day business of clients, particularly on critical systems. At the end of the day, development and business objectives have a strong tie in, so CoalFace needs to see the bigger picture at all points.

That’s all for now –  There’s plenty more to show off in the next few weeks that came out of CYOF, so stay tuned on CoalFace LinkedIn or Twitter.

Edit: Part two is now available here in all it’s glory

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