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MATHS NO PROBLEM

 A failing grade in digital transformation...
...meant a dramatic re-calculation for success.

Behind the Design 

The Opportunity
Disrupting how math is taught to school children in the UK had been the business of Maths - No Problem! for over eight years in the analog form of math curriculum and workbooks. Continuing to grow and remaining a disruptor meant becoming a company that was digital at its very core.

The Challenge
The formula for transforming to a digital centered company does not always add up as they discovered in their original attempt a few years prior.

Maths - No Problem's flagship digital product, Teachers Hub, was built on the same WordPress install that powered their effective marketing website. While it suffered the same scaling, performance, and security problems familiar to all WordPress site operators, MNP’s challenges ran deeper.

The monolithic nature of the application architecture and tight-coupling of subsystems impeded development, limiting how quickly MNP could release and test new features and products. The convoluted development architecture lacked standardization and did not encourage quality, security, or performance. The deployment process required a great deal of manual intervention, which introduced risk and created an opportunity for lapses in security.

Maths - No Problem didn’t just need a redevelopment of their product on a more stable/scalable foundation, they required a reinvention of their process, user experience, and product development culture.

Our Solution
Our solution began with a thorough review of MNPs existing systems, user journey's, codebases, and processes to understand the full breadth of the ecosystem a redesigned product would need to operate. The results from our review and a refined product strategy were the fuel for a new user journey and technical design.

The plan to move from monolith to a more resilient and scalable platform required the composition of decoupled universal Javascript applications, across the presentation and service tiers (front-end, middle-end, and backend) executed in the Node.js run-time. This microservice architecture would allow a separation of concerns into discrete modules and micro-applications that could be scaled independently to optimize performance, as needed.

The application’s presentation tier would be an isomorphic React.js application composed of “smart” and “dumb” components that were functional, testable, consistent, and responsive to their layout and device. State would be managed via React-Redux Flux architecture using immutable data structures for testability, performance, and usability. The newly designed components that our design team produced would be built by extending an open-source React component library called Rebass. Rebass allowed our team to quickly produce a design system for use on all MNP applications. Development occurred within the Storybook UI development environment and was distributed via an independent private npm package.

Middle-end rendering of content on initial page loads using Next.js would drastically improve real and perceived loading times for optimal user experience.

While the bulk of the application’s data would be persisted using an AWS Aurora database, AWS Cognito was selected as a third-party identity store service to avoid privacy risks by offloading sensitive user-data and authentication to Amazon Web Services.

Our technical design also prescribed a developer-centric developer architecture designed around containerized applications, allowing developers to build in local environments that precisely match production. This architecture would empower developers by enforcing standards and requiring manual and automated quality checks throughout the development lifecycle.

Development was conducted over a series of two-week design and development sprints, culminating in the launch in time for the 2018 school year.

The Outcome
Literally launched in recent weeks the new platform has seen rave reviews from customers and internal stakeholders alike. One CSR saying, “I have spent a day entering names into the new system and can I just say it is a fantastic piece of software. Not only is it leagues faster, easier to use and better looking then Wordpress, it has the feeling of being built by people who knew exactly what it was going to be used for which is a real rarity in my experience of software.” And another CSR made a comment: “I would just like to say thank you for making our job's a little bit less painful and congratulate you all on a job well done!"

Category: Other

Genre: People