Inside internal week at Numiko

New tools and better processes: A breakdown of what our team worked on during our annual internal week.

One of our guiding principles at Numiko is to ‘work smart and simplify’. In the world of digital, things tend to get more and more complicated unless you make a conscious effort to keep them simple. That's why we set aside a full week of ‘me time’ each year – a whole uninterrupted week for our teams to take a step back from client work; to reflect and focus on what’s working well and what could be improved. We find that every hour we invest during this week pays dividends for years to come, making our processes more efficient, our technology more streamlined, and our people more focussed and well organised.

We have been able to look at every aspect of the business and, where it makes sense to do so, standardised our approach: our processes, design systems, and how we write code.

Developing our Site Kit

One of the major projects for internal week was to streamline the entire process we use to create a Drupal website. We have been designing and building websites for over 23 years and whilst a lot has changed, there is best practice baked into the Numiko ‘hive mind’.

We have, of course, documented a lot of this approach, but we wanted to take it one step further and really integrate it into every stage of the process; embedding best practice into the workflows, pipelines, and production tools we use. This has involved Figma design patterns, identifying new front-end frameworks and tools such as Utopia, through to new orchestration tools to make developing withing Drupal more consistent and efficient, and introducing unit testing to make the QA of our sites more automated.

This focus on a consistent approach makes maintaining and iteratively developing all of our websites much more efficient. For clients, it means that every project benefits from our vast amount of experience every single time.

Improving our UX processes

We looked at how to improve our UX processes across projects, tailoring them to the unique needs of each client. Callum Badger, our Senior UX & Creative Designer and Sophie Miles, our Content Strategist, worked on developing a flexible process that brings together insights from surveys, workshops, and existing client knowledge in a way that breaks down organisational silos. Evolving our UX process will lead to a more streamlined UX discovery phase that ensures user need is at the heart of all of our decisions.

We also spent improving our workshop agendas. Our workshops give us a solid foundation of understanding from which to start creating, but they are also a major time investment for us and our clients. Tace Bleasby, one of our Senior Project Managers, worked on refining the agendas for these meetings so that our clients are more engaged and involved throughout the whole project. Our review was focused on ensuring our timings are right so we are not rushed, and allocating each participant a clearly defined role in the workshop so they can prepare and get the most out of the time they invest.

Discovery work reveals invaluable insights, but it also generates a lot of data for us to analyse. The team also worked on using AI to extract key findings from the digital whiteboards we create during stakeholder workshops. These innovations will save time and allow us to deliver detailed reports regarding user needs and goals.

Optimising maintenance and support processes

We want to be as proactive as possible for our clients. This mean fixing issues as quickly as possible before anyone even notices them. Andy Harrison, our Head of Project Management, worked on refining the process for booking maintenance and support so we can anticipate and plan time to avoid potentially disruptive events. This work speeds up bug-fixes for clients and minimises any disruption they might cause.

Helen Otter, one of our Senior Project Managers, also worked on improving our maintenance processes, optimising how we track and report bugs, and establishing methods for us to pre-empt maintenance issues.

Enhancing data analytics capabilities

The decisions we make are increasingly being driven by data. Collecting, storing, and analysing this data to gain actionable insights is the responsibility of our Digital Performance Analyst, Harry Lote.  Harry explored the processing capabilities of BigQuery, a tool that will allow us to analyse and manipulate datasets and visualise the outputs using Looker Studio. This development means we can generate a more holistic overview of available data with the ability to integrate it in ways not possible in Google Analytics alone. This work unlocks richer insights from our client data, enabling us to make data driven decisions for improving website performance.

Streamlining issue resolution processes

We respond to bug reports and client requests in a fast, efficient, and transparent manner. We create tickets on the Jira project tracking platform and then update them with our progress so that our clients are kept up to date. One of our Senior Project Managers, Jack Hutchinson, worked on setting up a template within Jira that can be easily reused across projects. This new template creates a more streamlined, consistent approach across projects and ensures tasks are properly tracked through project workflows. The result is a smoother, and more responsive, project delivery for our clients.

Enhancing site search with natural language processing

With the launch of ChatGPT, the way that people interact with computers changed forever. Josh Hayter, one of our Back-end Developers, explored how we could move beyond traditional keyword searches using natural language processing and personalisation. This would allow searches like "What events are happening in October?" to immediately return relevant results, rather than requiring a user to find the Events page and then filter by date themselves. He also researched into search interfaces that utilise AI and how we can introduce voice commands. These innovations could create entirely new ways for users to interact with the websites we create and represent a massive step forward in accessibility.

Improving our technical documentation for quality assurance

Effective quality assurance is reliant upon robust and comprehensive technical documentation. We need to consistently evaluate the websites we create using a broad range of tools, and the latest industry standards. Mark Duhonyi, one of our QA Test Engineers, worked on improving our technical documentation, making it easier for us to expand test coverage, implement more automation, and streamline our processes. The results of this work are that we can now deliver an even more rigorous, extensive, and far-reaching quality assurance service for our clients.

Refining our development environments

When developing and maintaining websites, we use a range of environments: local development environments, hosted development environments, staging environments, and the live website. This approach allows us to deploy and evaluate code in a fast, efficient, and risk-free way.

Bruno Calderaro, one of our Front-end Developers, worked on optimising how we use these environments. He developed a way for us to test new features and device compatibility without creating a new staging environment. He also improved the consistency and resilience of our local development environments across different operating systems. This focus on refining our internal tools and processes directly translates into better website development for our clients.

Implementing fluid design systems

We always aim to deliver a technology-agnostic user experience. Our websites should look fantastic no matter what device, or browser, the user accesses them from. Front-end Developer, Paul Littlewood, teamed up with Designers, Daniel Wilson and Craig Laing, to develop and evaluate fluid and fully responsive designs that adapt beautifully to any technology. Rather than setting ‘breakpoints’ for certain widths, this approach saves time in design and development by making the website work perfectly at any width. This work will deliver an excellent user experience and allow our clients to forget about previous concerns they might have had regarding the compatibility of their website.

An impactful week

It’s not often you get to stop and think about how to improve without the pressure of deadlines and client work. Our team really value internal week for allowing that kind of longer-term thinking. It’s a true win-win, as we reap the rewards of their work throughout the rest of the year. We’ll let Bruno, one of our front end-developers, have the last word on internal week:

“Internal week is one of the coolest things I've experienced in my career and really shows how much respect there is for the team and how the company is operating with a long-term vision for itself and its clients.”

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