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06/14/2012

JustBats.com Department Of The Month: Development

JustBats.com Department Of The Month: Development

Every month we would like to introduce you to a department at JustBats.com. Each department around here plays a key role in making sure everything runs smoothly and you get your bats in a timely manner, while having a great experience shopping with us. Meet the Development Team, this department is responsible for everything you see and use on JustBats.com, so now you can finally put a face to JustBats.com!

1. Tell us a little bit about the Development team.
Well our development team is responsible for maintaining, improving, and building all of our web sites and internal applications. We are constantly trying to improve JustBats.com and make it better, so our team stays pretty busy. We've also developed internal web sites that we use to manage our orders, products, content, inventory, and even the features available on JustBats.com.

Our team currently consists of 9 people - 2 User Experience & Front-End Developers, 4 Back-End Programmers, and 3 Quality Assurance so we're relatively small when compared with some of the other departments within the company. That being said we are a very talented team and are always trying new technologies to make JustBats.com the best baseball bat and softball bat e-commerce site on the internet.

2. What kind of responsibilities does each person in the Web Development Department take on everyday?
Our back-end programmers typically try to keep the site running smooth and efficiently. They make sure that database interactions are kept to a minimum as well as being the "core" of the dev team. Without these individuals, our sites simply would not work at all.

The UX team is responsible for the look & feel of our site as well as making the site as easy to use as possible. They are also responsible for making JustBats.com work across any device you use to view it with -- whether that's your desktop computer, iPad, iPhone, Android phone, etc.

The QA team takes care of all the developers by running a barrage of tests on JustBats.com to make sure everything is working the way it should be. They also develop our requirements documents for new features & projects as well as being our last line of defense for catching bugs before they get to our production servers and become available to our users.

3. Are there any major challenges you and the team face daily, weekly or even monthly in the Web Development Department?
I think one of our biggest challenges is supporting legacy code and browsers. We are currently supporting versions of Internet Explorer that are almost 10 years old because we still see people purchasing with it. Creating a web site as large as JustBats.com that will work across every web browser and device is a difficult challenge for us which requires many hours of fine tuning.

Another challenge our team faces is the need to constantly be on top of what’s going on within the industry. We typically have a couple meetings each week to discuss new trends, look at other web sites that we like, and talk about how we can make JustBats.com better.

4. What would you say you look for the most in someone wanting to become a web developer?
It really depends on the specific position, but there are a few traits that I think help make a typical web developer a very good one. First is just the motivation to be better at whatever it is you're doing. Attending conferences, reading tutorials, blogs, and just generally being a tech enthusiast is pretty mandatory to keep up with the industry.

Second would be someone that can work through difficult issues without getting too frustrated and giving up. There are plenty of resources online and in most cases someone has probably already encountered the same issue you may be struggling to solve. A quick search can typically point you in the right direction but if it doesn’t, determination and a willingness to keep trying is critical for success.

The third and final piece of advice for an aspiring web developer would be to start building your own portfolio as soon you can. Schooling is great, and in most cases an absolute requirement, but having real world experience with web sites that you can show to a potential employer is going to be critical for you to actually land that job. They will have a much better idea of if you can actually do what they need you for by looking at something you’ve actually developed yourself rather than just saying yeah I know HTML5 & CSS3 or C# and ASP.NET.

5. We all know with work there has to be some play, tell us about some of the perks of being one of the developers here at JustBats.com.
Well working at JustBats.com has a lot of perks, but getting out of the office occasionally to grab a drink is something that we all enjoy. Another perk would be getting to test the latest and greatest technologies as well as create the new versions of JustBats.com before anyone else in the company gets too. Our workstations are custom designed for each position and include fast multi-core windows and mac machines with three-monitor setups, which allows us to write our code and view it directly in the web browser simultaneously.

The management team strongly encourages us to try new things and experiment with new technologies whereas many companies would rather you just get the work done as quickly as possible. This has resulted in several improvements in our codebase and vast performance improvements. Having great technical partners like Google, Bing, F5, AOS, Cisco, Microsoft, and Service Mark provide us with someone to lean on when times get sticky and occasionally some pretty cool swag. Who doesn’t love free stuff right?!

6. What are some of the ways you think JustBats.com and the development team go above and beyond to keep our customers happy?
JustBats.com prides itself on outstanding customer service so we will do just about anything to make our customers happy. Anything that can be done to shorten the steps it takes to order a baseball bat or softball bat means our customer service expectations are being met. Something the development team has done to make our customers happy is adding features to JustBats.com that have been specifically requested by feedback we’ve received from our users. If a user contacts us with a suggestion about our web site or something that they find difficult to use - we take that very seriously and will do whatever we can to address their concerns.

7. The internet is constantly changing. What are some ways you and your team stay current with everything going on with the world wide web?
The web development industry is changing so fast these days it's imperative for us to stay up to date on the latest technology and web standards so that when new devices are released JustBats.com will work correctly and look amazing. We discussed this a minute ago, but we have a couple meetings a week to talk about new trends, view web sites, and evaluate our own web site. Individually we all read tutorials, follow certain people & organizations on Twitter, Facebook, and which typically point us to new articles and information about things we can try.

We’re also fortunate enough to be able to try new technologies internally and experiment with new techniques when we feel they are applicable to the current project. Many of us have, or will be, attending conferences that are relevant to our positions which certainly helps us mingle and learn from some of the most influential people in the industry.

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