Rebuilding The Foundry

02-25-19 Caralyn Green

We’ve been doing some behind-the-scenes work on The Foundry. Learn more about the exciting changes coming your way, and follow along as we rebuild in the public.

Our clients have and will always come first at Sparkbox. But last year we decided to take the passion and vision we apply to client projects, and renew our focus on our company site, seesparkbox.com.

We wanted to form a solid strategy to thoughtfully and continually improve seesparkbox.com, which is one of the main ways folks find and interact with us. We also wanted to make sure that if a Sparkboxer should find themselves with those rare extra hours, there would be intentional and interesting work waiting for them to dig into and make a difference.

Since that time, we’ve made progress on several exciting efforts. In addition to addressing an ongoing backlog of content and design tweaks, browser and device improvements, and feature requests, we have:

  • Audited the site for accessibility issues and improved the experience for users with a range of disabilities, including those on screen readers.
  • Migrated almost all our content from static pages to ExpressionEngine templates, making it easier than ever to make content updates.
  • Upgraded from an older to newer version of ExpressionEngine, and are continuing our efforts to upgrade to the most recent version of EE so we can make our site fully open source.
  • Undertaken a redesign of The Foundry section of our site.

This last effort, and the approach we’ve taken to make it happen, is the one we’d like to share now.

A Foundry Redesign, In the Open

If you click over to the live Foundry section now, it looks the same: a landing page with one featured article, all the rest of the articles listed chronologically, and article detail pages that consist of a headline, feature image, and body copy. But what we’ve been working on, which we’ve dubbed “The Foundry Refresh,” is not at seesparkbox.com/foundry. It’s at seesparkbox.com/foundry-refresh. There, we’re releasing bits and pieces of our Foundry redesign as we design and build them. It’s a warts-and-all iterative approach that allows us to build and release components as quickly and flexibly as we can, checking small chunks of code into master and proving them out all the way to production.

At seesparkbox.com/foundry-refresh, you can see the beginnings of our reimagined Foundry, including:

  • Updated styling that feels cleaner, brighter, and lighter than our current color scheme.
  • A new footer and “prefooter” that will include various calls-to-action, including a contact button, a newsletter signup field, and an optional component to promote upcoming Sparkbox workshops, conferences, and research projects, like last year’s Design Systems Survey..
  • A landing page where you’ll be able to browse by Foundry article category. We’ve grouped all articles into four separate buckets of interest to different types of readers: development, design, culture, and UX and content.
  • An extensive tagging system that creates relationships among varied articles. Want to see everything we’ve written about E-commerce, JavaScript, or React with just one click? Soon, you can. These tags will also help us serve up related articles on each article detail page. Our goal is to help you find the information you’re interested in as quickly as possible, and maybe even discover something unexpected along the way.
  • Once we finish applying these styles to The Foundry, we will swap out the current version of The Foundry with the new version, then extend those styles to the full website using the same iterative process.

Iteration Over Perfection

Not everything in The Foundry Refresh works yet the way it’s supposed to. Not everything looks the way it will in the end. But The Foundry Refresh is not about perfection. Like building.seesparkbox.com before it, it’s about working in the open and sharing our process and progress with you.

Keep checking back and let us know what you think about The Foundry Refresh.

Visit seesparkbox.com/foundry-refresh