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RubyConfLT

This year we proudly sponsored RubyConfLT. It took place in Vilnius and a bunch of us went there. We got to meet plenty of great local and visiting people, even some friends from Berlin. It was a one day conference, not super big, but great atmosphere and we're very happy that we went there.

Tomas:

The conference was a nice mixture of non-technical, but inspirational, and quite technical talks. It started with motivational drinking-heavy open source talk and finished with a very technical presentation about the yaks library for building hypermedia APIs

Kathrin:

I loved the sweets and the snacks

Felix:

I really enjoyed this trip, it also was a new destination for almost all of us. Beautiful city and perfect venue. Inspiring talks from great speakers outreached my expectations from a rather small conference like RubyConf Lithuania.

Luca:

The conference was very enjoyable, and I especially liked the good mixture between motivational talks, presentation of Ruby projects (Shoes 4, Trailblazer, Yaks...) and more general programming talks. The atmosphere was very friendly and we got the opportunity to get to know a lot of nice people. Plus, Vilnius was a positive surprise, I should really go back with some more time!

Jalyna:

RubyConfLT was a really interesting and also entertaining conference. The talks have been very inspiring, especially the talks that went beyond rails.

Some moments from there:

Audience Nick Sutterer Ben Lovell Tobias Pfeiffer Bozhidar Batsov Arne Brasseur DaWanda Luca & Tomas Badge

Fun with tables

One possible solution for responsive tables

Challenge

When it comes to tables there is a history of love and hate. For a long time, tables where incorrectly used to solve layout problems. This was fixed by CSS 2, which introduced several possibilities for creating layouts. After IE caught up on CSS table-display options, tables could finally be used as intended: displaying tabular data in an organized and readable way.

Unfortunately this time of happiness for tables did not last. Now with CSS 3 and responsive design are prevalent, tables are again not flexible enough to serve tiny mobile displays. You can squeeze them down to be very small, but this makes them unreadable in most cases. Additionally, horizontal scrollbars are not the best solution as you loose the ability to quick glance at table content.

Solution

Here at DaWanda we've had a responsive design since summer 2013. This is our CSS-only solution for displaying tabular data on mobile.

UX perspective

Mobile first

mobile view of the fake table

From UX perspective we start with the mobile view. The mobile table focuses on giving an overview of each row in turn. The most important information is in the first row and should be self-explaining without a requiring heading. The following rows are have a heading and a value. The last row is for displaying possible actions on the table. They should also be self-explaining without heading.

Desktop view

desktop view of the fake table On the desktop we rotate table 90°. Each mobile table-box becomes one row inside our table. We also have now the typical header row with the title of each column. These are desktop tables everyone is familiar with.

Technical side

Markup on mobile

It's clear to see this is nothing you can achieve with a native table element, because you can not turn a td into a tr. Instead we're using divs to build our table.

<div class="fake-table-autowidth">
    <div class="ft-row">
      <div class="ft-cell cell-title">
        EBook - my simply + endless summer - XS - XL
      </div>
      <div class="ft-cell">
        <span class="cell-title visible-xs-inline">Filetype</span>
        PDF
      </div>
      <div class="ft-cell">
        <span class="cell-title visible-xs-inline">Filesize</span>
        9 MB
      </div>
      <div class="ft-cell">
        <a href="http://de.dawanda.com/shop/schaumzucker" target="_blank">schaumzucker</a>
      </div>
      <div class="ft-cell">
        <span class="cell-title visible-xs-inline">purachsed at</span>
        10.05.2014
      </div>
      <div class="ft-cell">
        <button class="btn primary">download</button>
      </div>
    </div>
</div>

We just nest as we would do with a vanilla table. We have one row which contains cells. The titles we show only in mobile have a class which displays them as inline elements.

Additional markup for desktop

For desktop view we have to add the table-headline with the titles. It's just another row with cells

<div class="ft-row ft-h-row">
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      Productname
    </div>
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      Type
    </div>
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      Filesize
    </div>
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      Shop
    </div>
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      Purchased at
    </div>
    <div class="ft-cell ft-h-cell">
      <span class="text-hide">Download</span>
    </div>
  </div>

CSS magic

Now let's look at the magic part. We start again mobile first

.ft-cell {
    padding: 5px;
  }
  .ft-cell .cell-title {
    font-weight: bold;
  }
  .text-hide {
    font: ~"0/0" a;
    color: transparent;
    text-shadow: none;
    background-color: transparent;
    border: 0;
  }
  @media (max-width: 768px) {
    .ft-h-row {
      display:none;
    }
    .ft-cell:nth-child(even) {
      background-color: #fff;
    }
    .ft-cell:nth-child(odd) {
      background-color: #F8F8F8;
    }
    .ft-row {
      margin-bottom: 1em;
    }
    .xs-inline-50 {
      display: inline-block;
      width: 49%;
    }
  }

We set general styles outside of a media query like font-weight of title elements or padding for the cells. Specific element styles go into our mobile breakpoint media-query which fits to a maximum of 768px. First we hide the table-header row, then we add zebra-colours to each cell. The cells which include a cell-title are set to display:inline-block and width:49% so the title and content are adjacent.

Here is the CSS part of the desktop media-query.

@media (min-width: 768px) {
    .visible-xs {
      display: none;
    }
    .fake-table {
      display: table;
      width: 100%;
    }
    .ft-row {
      display: table-row;
    }
    .ft-row:nth-child(even) {
      background-color: #fff;
    }
    .ft-row:nth-child(odd) {
      background-color: #F8F8F8;
    }
    .ft-row.ft-h-row {
      background-color: grey;
      border-bottom: 1px solid grey;
      margin-bottom:0;
    }
    .ft-cell {
      display: table-cell;
      vertical-align: middle;
      padding-left: 5px;
      padding-right: 5px;
    }
    .ft-cell.ft-h-cell {
      font-weight: bold;
    }
   }

We hide the inside title selected by the class visible-xs and build up our CSS table. we add also zebra-colours to the row and set the font-weight of our heading cells to bold.

Conclusion

Here you can find a demo of the table. This solution is lightweight and straightforward. We do not have to duplicate the content, only additional header titles if they're needed to understand the content. Our solution of course has some negative aspects. It loses the semantics associated with the table elemen and it still needs some duplication. Additionally, tables with many rows occupy a lot of space on mobile. This could be solved by toggling the table contents so that you only see the first column of each, row and on expand you would show the hidden content.

Spring Cleaning

Think of your desk at home or in your office. The desk you would put your computer on and work with. Is it empty or are there lots of things that made it there at some point and were never removed? Do you feel like cleaning it up or better postpone it?

The problem

Now think of your software project. Did it happen, that parts of your codebase got off your mind? Or worse, you knew about weak and obsolete parts but you never found time to reorganize and improve them? Contrary to non-developer opinion, after you ship code it is not gone for ever. The opposite is the case: the code keeps influencing all the work you do afterwards. Consequently this can lead to team frustration and stress in the long run. For example, your codebase can become hard to understand and maintain if it’s untested or non-DRY.

Cartoon of people cleaning up code

The start

At the end of 2014, we developers at DaWanda had our yearly team health retrospective. The outstanding issues with our codebase were the main factors for slow development cycles, as well as the general happiness of the development team. We requested to have a dedicated sprint for cleaning up the major things.

The first sprint of the year looked perfect for this kind of project as we had less stress with our daily routine. Our request was granted with the condition of having a list of tasks we wanted to tackle. Everybody could add topics that caused pain which were then prioritized by the core dev team.

The tasks

We knew from daily experience, and especially all through Christmas, where the biggest pain points and improvement opportunities were. Since 2013, we shifted from a fairly organically-grown codebase to a new, easy maintainable infrastructure and stack. But the legacy codebase keeps influencing us.

Here is a quick overview of what we did in the Clean-Up-Sprint:

  • Big parts of the legacy app were migrated and refactored to the new stack. The objective was not only to copy over the code, but to reimplement, refactor and fully test it. Through this, we could avoid making the same mistakes and rethink our old software design.

  • Some huge parts of the legacy app were removed either because they were no longer needed or they were re-implemented in the new stack. This was important because we wanted to have less old components to maintain.

  • We also took this opportunity to refactor our new stack. Files that grew considerably in the previous months were split, following the principle of separation of concerns. All of these changes were made in small iterations and in a test driven way.

  • A new gem was created to meet our requirements on HTTP resources.

  • We discussed how to improve our Java-based caching solution and ended up changing its garbage collection strategy with the help of JVM monitoring tools to measure results. Then we improved the way our caching solution was purging stale data from Memcached. As a result, our users can interact with the DaWanda webpage significantly faster than before.

  • Moreover, we discussed new external services, introduced them or upgraded old versions.

  • We cleaned up our styleguide and removed duplications in order to prevent confusion in the future. We approached our goal to have all our components with their styles in this one place, as well as giving this app our corporate style.

  • Finally, we tidied our Github repositories and removed obsolete ones. Furthermore, a big bunch of stale branches were thrown out. Open pull requests were reviewed and also reduced to only the most recent ones.

The methods

From the beginning, pair programming was intended and it was clear that it would become important. After some initial challenges, the team were focused on it. On average, every team member paired with 2 to 3 other team members in this sprint. Some pairs worked together for days, which can be exhausting, but also very productive.

Many people do not realize that most of the time we spend solving software problems is not only about finding a solution, but also about reading and understanding the code and the problem itself. The part of actually writing the code is only a fraction of that time. Therefore with two minds thinking of a solution, the problem can be solved faster, with less mistakes and higher quality.

Even team members working remotely paired successfully. One pair completely refactored a controller of our frontend app. Following the refactoring, they raised our CodeClimate rating from F to A, and there was full test coverage - an amazing result!

Cartoon of 2 people giving thumbsup on code climate result

When team members were asked what they liked the best on the Clean-Up-Sprint, the majority mentioned the pair programming. Moreover, they mentioned the sharing of knowledge. It was a prime moment to ask other colleagues questions and they took the time to explain. We learnt a lot of new facts about our applications and gained new skills. We also rethought the software structure and certain implementations from the past to get an inspiration on what to do differently in the future.

We organized our sprint via JIRA (what we use also for our normal sprints), to keep roughly track of estimated effort, tasks completed, and the actual effort taken. Looking back, the feasibility of tasks should have been defined clearly to avoid tasks that cannot be fully completed within these two weeks, or tasks that leave room for improvement.

The outcome

After the two weeks of our Clean-Up-Sprint, we had done a lot to improve our codebase. Many overdue tasks were tackled. We facilitated work processes for our team and reduced many pain points for us and our users. Consequently, the happiness in our team increased and we were proud of our shared success. An almost hackathon feeling was created as a result of less meetings and more pair programming.

After the sprint, all team members said that they would recommend to do a Clean-Up-Sprint on a regular basis, and 64% said they reached their goals. The remaining percentage stated that they had reached them partly.

Next time we want to focus on optimizing the organizational process and plan better. The Clean-Up-Sprint also showed us that we would like to integrate this kind of sprint into our working routine. Moreover, we got inspired to do more pair programming and to share our knowledge. Additionally, cleaning out old and nasty parts of the app has become more of a daily habit for everyone.

We can recommend to dedicatedly clean up from time to time!

Hello World

Hello World

We, the DaWanda Cupcakes, say:

class Hi < DaWanda::Cupcakes
  "Hi folks"
end

DaWandathon

Team Photo

Team photo

Projects

Ordeer
Order management for sellers on mobile devices.

Inspector Bokeh
Canvas-based blur detection with JavaScript.

DaWnload
Download library for digital goods.

Code o’Clock
New Dev Blog, simple to use, hosted with Github Pages. New name, “Brand” and domain.

Learning App
Tool for lightning talks organization and team education.

Core API removal
Rebuild parts of legacy API in our new backend.

Lunch Roulette
Social tool to organize team lunches.

Metamorphosis
A Scala application that pushes Mysql Binlog events to Kafka.

Category Auto-Suggest
Machine learning project in Java for product category suggestion by title and description.

Team

To get a little more personal we also have a team site. Feel free to contact anyone of us. The Github profiles are linked.