As apprentices at Sparkbox, we put all our hard work and learnings to use in a final project. Our 2015 cohort of apprentices created Apprentice.at—a place where aspiring designers and developers can find apprenticeships and a place where companies can submit apprenticeships to be found.
Our goal was to provide potential apprentices a way to find and access opportunities easily. Our plan was to provide a central location to learn about companies, their programs, and how to apply. As a secondary goal, we wanted to provide information about what apprenticeships are and why they’re beneficial to both parties.
Not only was this a project where the apprentices got to work together, but we also worked with several other members of the Sparkbox team. They were there to lend a hand through the process of building all aspects of the website.
Drew was available throughout the entire project to help guide us in the right direction. He helped recommend tools and organization tips. When we were stumped trying to figure out what features to prioritize, he helped us get our ZenHub boards in shape and organized issues into sprints.
Slack was easily one of the most important organization tools we used. It allowed us to easily communicate with each other. As the project progressed, we were able to integrate GitHub and CircleCI notifications into our Slack channel, so everyone was aware of changes made to the project as they were made.
At the start of our project, we worked with Emily to create a content priority guide. We focused on three goals for the site:
Make it easy to find an apprenticeship
Make it easy to submit an apprenticeship
Inform people about apprenticeships
It can be challenging to build a website that caters to multiple audiences. However, the key for us was outlining goals first and outlining the content needed to achieve those goals second. This made it clearer for us to decide what pages were needed and what content was needed for those pages.
With content strategy set, we worked with Marshall to design components that were fun and inviting. We brainstormed with him in the beginning to find a theme that would then dictate the language of the site as well as the design. Once we found the perfect theme, he gave us a styleboard that contained colors, fonts, and an example page mockup so we could start building the site. While we were building the site, Marshall drew some awesome illustrations that Kasey later animated in the browser.
Even though we had a ton of ideas on how to make the website awesome, we started by deciding what features the site needed in order to meet all three of our goals and then focused on how to make those a reality. Before we even began building pages, we setup our dev environment. For our project, we went with Grunt.js to put everything together. Grunt was in charge of compiling Sass and running Assemble to generate static pages from Handlebars templates and YAML. To make things even easier, we ran the grunt watch task, which keeps an eye out for changes to documents and then re-compiles everything on the fly.
Since we were building a static site, we needed an easy, secure way for businesses to submit their apprenticeships without using a mailto link. Lauren made that happen by finding and incorporating FormKeep into the website. We were also able to easily integrate their service with Slack to receive notifications when a new form is submitted.
Always a Work in Progress
The great thing about the Internet is it will always be a work in progress, which is also true about the apprenticeship website. Starting small and adding enhancements over time allowed us to let the website grow and evolve to suit the needs of its users. It gave us the opportunity to get feedback from the community, turning it into a huge group project.
So go checkout Apprentice.at and let us know what you think! I hear there’s a pretty great place that’s looking for apprentices now too.