Wendy’s High School Heisman Award Website

•August 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The Wendy’s High School Heisman Award is a joint program between Wendy’s and the Heisman Trophy Trust which rewards our nation’s most esteemed high school seniors.  Award Recognition goes to those who are proven leaders and role models within their school and community as well as actively participating in school sponsored sports recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Switchbox was excited to collaborate with Rattleback in creating an engaging site that appeals to users on both desktop and mobile devices.

The new site is dynamic and rich in imagery as it documents the process and journeys of the student athletes who participate.  The base of the site has been created with WordPress and built out with Grunt. The design provides an immersive experience starting with video animation on the homepage. Additionally, design for the mobile is switched out to a stacked view and uses an image rather than background video to accommodate for a better responsive experience.  Images, videos and stories throughout the site are used to keep the audience engaged.

Below is a video highlighting the homepage to the Heisman site. Take a look at the clip or visit the site at www.wendyshighschoolheisman.com

What’s on your company’s dashboard?

•August 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Years of experience has taught us that each business utilizes some sort of a dashboard. It may look like a piece of paper they hand out in a meeting, it may be a marker board that is up on the wall in their manufacturing facility or there are some who may have it as a digital tool. Every industry tends to have different items on their dashboard. For example, in Social Work or any industry dealing with people, it is usually the caseload. For manufacturers and distribution it is often orders that need to be fulfilled or perhaps orders that have been shipped. Regardless of industry, the common thread remains, dashboards are a valuable resource to companies.

Here at Switchbox we have been working on dashboards for years for various businesses and organizations. While dashboards have proven to be a viable resource to a business, it is through our experience that we have found keeping a dashboard updated is the number one issue with having them fail. Often updating a dashboard requires multiple people to physically be in the same room or many emails back and forth through many departments, ultimately resulting in a lot of time and miscommunication of information. However, at Switchbox, we have become particularly good at finding ways to automate dashboards. We help clients identify what needs to be on their dashboard and then help collect the correct information in order for management and teams to use it effectively. We look at the data a company collects and show them how their information could be simplified by organizing it all in one place. In addition, we help the client by deciding which is the best way to present the data (percentage, graphical, numerical, average, etc.). Overall, our experience with dashboards has helped us streamline communication and information within an organization. We are able to find what information is the most important and create efficient ways to access and update the dashboards themselves.

What’s on your dashboard and how can we make it better?


Which Way Should You Go – A Single Onsite Resource Developer or a Development Team?

•July 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

We’ve been getting asked a lot recently if it makes more sense to hire one developer that works in-house or to hire a development agency like us. Obviously we are biased in this issue but the discussion comes up so often we wanted to share our thoughts.  Many businesses believe there is value in hiring one developer to work on all internal issues instead of hiring the team at a software development company like ours. A short time ago, we took on a project from a client who had a similar intention.  Our client had recently hired an experienced, senior developer and by doing so, thought this experienced developer would be able to resolve all of their issues internally.  This developer did a great job, in all honesty we wish we had hired them first.  However, after a year or so the internal developer was so bogged down in the day to day operations they didn’t have time to handle some of the larger projects that were on the company development backlog.  The sales team needed some special reporting, marketing wanted changes to the main site to handle new sales promotions, and the list kept growing.

Initially, we met with the client to discuss their issues in order to find the best solution to their problems.  They were frustrated with this developer and since they did not know how much work he should or should not be able to do they didn’t know how to manage his role.  As we started talking, we also agreed that the hired developer was in fact experienced and incredibly knowledgeable. Overall, on paper, this client had everything they needed to get the job done. However, as the conversation progressed we quickly saw the issues. One of the largest problems was that the developer worked alone. This particular developer had great experience but simply did not have additional developers to share ideas with and learn from, ultimately leaving him a bit stuck.  Additionally, he was working with two other internal technical resources (one in marketing and one hardware) and essentially wasn’t collaborating well with the team. When the client came to us, our team was able to work with their developer, provide different ideas and offer additional help and support. Overall, this project was a success for our team and the client. We not only resolved the issue for the client but did so by collaborating with their internal team.

This particular problem is something we have seen over and over again. People who are not used to managing IT projects often believe they can hire a good developer and that in it of itself will get the work done. In truth, developers always work better on a team. A team dynamic offers diversity in terms of knowledge and experience for individuals to bounce ideas off of each other. It also offers developers to get a breather and have someone else look at code, help troubleshoot or spot issues. Just as a great sport’s team is comprised of many varying degrees of talent, ultimately it is how they work together that proves the greatness of their success. A development team offers varying levels of experience and ideas because of each unique perspective offered by each individual. This is something we’ve really enjoyed offering at Switchbox. Our team encompasses developers who have worked together for years, who collaborate well and who compliment each other. Often Switchbox is able to take on a project and complete it faster and of higher quality because of the tremendous talent and partnership on our team.


WordPress, Drupal, Magento, Oh My!

•July 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

More and more often we are finding that each client we work with has become increasingly unsure of which technology to specifically use. In a time with endless IT companies and their opinions, it becomes harder for non-technical people to determine what is best for them.  If you’ve been looking for a new web application company each company you talk to will probably recommend a different option. One company may swear by WordPress, offering a list of reasons it is the best technology to use. However, the next company may offer you a similar sized list, detailing the reasons not to use WordPress. So how do you decide who is right?

It is our experience that every IT company seems to offer the solution that caters to their preferred technology, not necessarily the correct one for their client’s problem.  When you think about it you’ll realize this is true of most things in life.  Ask a friend where a good place to eat is.  You’ll get a response based on what they like not necessarily what you like.  Ask a co-work which golf course is the best and they will probably tell you the one they are a member at.  It’s human nature.

Swithcbox takes a different approach. We’ve been building software for over 12 years and in that 12 years, we have worked with many different systems. Among many others, we have worked with WordPress, Drupal, Spree, Shopify and Magento and through that experience, we strongly believe that each one is uniquely suited for different problems. At Switchbox, we take an approach that we call being “technology agnostic.”  All that means is that before we recommend a particular technology, we take the time to really understand you needs and problems. As we understand what you we need can start to make a strong recommendation on which platform is best for you not which platform is easiest for us.

If you are getting ready to start a new project and you’re feeling overwhelmed with technology choices and the various advice you’re receiving, give us a call. We would be happy to sit down with you, discuss solutions as well as the varying technologies and how they work. We would like to work with you, towards a solution to your problem.

HL7: Solving Old Problems with New Tools

•July 7, 2015 • Leave a Comment

One of the benefits of working at Switchbox is gaining exposure to many  technologies, both new and old.  Recently, one of our developers had the opportunity to learn and work with HL7.  HL7, which stands for Health Level-7, is a set of standards used to transmit data between different healthcare providers.

HL7 has been around since the late 80’s and can be very complex and difficult at times.  There are different versions, various message types and data that can be interpreted or mapped in different systems. Meaning, important information, specifically dates, can easily be misconstrued. Health information is particularly sensitive and the smallest error could mean the difference between a right or wrong prescription dosage or incorrect birth date.

One of our clients was faced with this exact problem. This particular client received many HL7 messages sent to them from a local hospital. Often the hospital sending the messages mapped incorrect data to certain fields which were crucial to our client’s system, causing inaccurate name information which cost our client time and resources. In order to fix this issue, it took a developer to manually fix and resubmit these invalid messages.  To be frank, it was a major headache for our client as their development team remains limited and they simply did not have the resources.

Luckily our client was using a handy tool from Interfaceware (http://www.interfaceware.com/) called Iguana.  Iguana is used to send, receive, parse and handle HL7 messages. This tool is both powerful and lightweight in that it handles various errors in real time and runs in the browser so it does not require a lot of system resources. By utilizing Iguana, our client was able to add custom logic and filter out any invalid messages they received. However, they still needed a way to keep track of, fix and resubmit these invalid messages in order to get them in their system and this is where Switchbox stepped in.

With our extensive knowledge and experience, we were able to build an easy-to-use interface which tracked messages and allowed users to view, edit and resubmit the updated message. We accomplished this by finding an open-source tool for .NET called nHapi (https://github.com/duaneedwards/nHapi/). nHapi allowed us to get the invalid messages our client now is storing in a database and ensure the patient information matched from the hospital to the client’s intake system.  

While continuing to use Iguana, coupled with our nHapi tool, our client no longer needs a developer to intervene in order to fix and resubmit invalid messages and patient information. This fix saves our client an enormous amount of time. Going forward, not only can they manually fix an error, they can also look for common error trends by running a data report internally which has the potential to fix problems at their root. Overall, Switchbox was able to save a client time and we were able to expand our skill set by gaining more knowledge of HL7 and the inter-workings of nHapi.

Using Data Visualization To Illustrate A Development Team’s Time

•June 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

If you visit our office you would see several people sitting at desks with large monitors, typing. What is it exactly,  they’re doing? Explaining what our developers do on a daily basis to a client is tough. Each developer works on several different projects at one point and time. Understanding the value our team creates for each and every client, is a complex conversation. So much so that we thought, it would be easier to make a video to illustrate what it is our developers do each and every day, instead of articulating it. The video below is a visual representation showcasing what our developers have worked on from September 2014 to January 2015. For a full description of what you’re viewing, please see below.

The icons in the video that look similar to little spaceships, represent our developers. Each time the spaceships shoot out a line and hit a small dot, that represents when a developer is actually touching a file, updating it by adding code or updating code to make it better. When you see new dots created, this represents when a developer creates a whole new set of files. When a whole chunk suddenly appears, this usually means they have spent an entire week or several days worth of work and pushed that code to a client’s website. If a dot disappears, a developer discovered they no longer need a file and deleted it from the system. As you can see with the activity, our developers have been quite busy.

We understand data visualization as taking complex data and finding a way to make it easy to see and making it more meaningful. If you are interested in exploring some of the different things we do with data visualization, whether it is similar to this video or maybe as simple as charts and graphs, reach out to us. We would love to find ways to help make your data more relevant.

More Videos:



Business First Features Longtime Client Armada

•June 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Business First recently ran an article about Armada, featuring CEO Tom Foos, entitled “Protect firms from workplace violence”. Armada is a provider of prevention, protection, response and recovery solutions. True to their mission statement, they work with businesses to protect people, assets and reputation. Their idea is emphasizing the importance of prevention and preparing for emergency situations. The article details Armada’s service and how many businesses may not be aware of their need until after something tragic happens. It details how for many businesses whom experience tragedy, their reputation is often on the line long after an incident takes place which is what Armada will work hard to prevent from happening.

Armada has been a longtime client of Switchbox’s and we were thrilled to see the article featuring such an excellent business. For more information on services provided by Armada, visit www.armadausa.com

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