Go Big Recruiting is an emerging collegiate scouting service that has helped thousands of high school athletes connect with college coaches. Student-athletes upload their personal information and highlight videos to Go Big Recruiting's website, select which schools to send their profile, and are then notified when a coach at a given school has viewed their profile. But after years of steady growth, Go Big Recruiting was ready to provide more functionality and an improved user experience. "I thought [the website] had gotten stale," said Ross Tucker, Founder and CEO of Go Big Recruiting.
Tucker and the rest of the Go Big Recruiting team isolated three main areas of their website that they wanted to overhaul, and included them in a Request For Proposal (RFP) process that they submitted to multiple firms.
Primarily, Go Big Recruiting wanted to modernize and streamline their user experience. "It was mainly things that we could do to make it a more effective commerce engine," Tucker said. "[The website] used to be a very lengthy process from start to finish."
The navigation and sign-up processes were confusing, and the company feared they were losing potential recruits before they even registered in the system. The website was also difficult to view on mobile or tablet devices."
Additionally, their technical environment at the time of the RFP process was a PHP environment, making it difficult to add any new features. There were no automated tests in place to indicate whether any portion of their site was working properly. Whether a user was logging in, pulling up data, or adding data of their own, there was no clear way for Go Big Recruiting to verify that the site was functioning as it was intended.
Lastly, the company wanted to integrate and highlight their site's blog with a more SEO-friendly Internet presence.
8th Light took a more methodical approach to review the ways Go Big Recruiting was working, and proposed a more ambitious plan. 8th Light suggested the company rewrite their codebase in a Ruby environment that could be easily extensible and testable, and refocus their user experience to emphasize clarity. 8th Light won the bid, and began working with Go Big Recruiting in May of 2013.
8th Light's development team spent three months combing through Go Big Recruiting's existing codebase. They isolated the pieces they needed to incorporate into the new website, and then rewrote the codebase in a Ruby environment.
They began this process on the front end, where 8th Light's design team took the opportunity to completely reimagine the user experience. In weekly Iteration Planning Meetings and more informal daily stand-ups, 8th Light's UX Craftsmen helped Go Big Recruiting simplify their message and streamline the site's activity. "We effectively ended up redesigning the whole site, even if that wasn't quite what we wanted to do going into it," Tucker said. The UX Craftsmen rewrote copy, and added more demonstrative visual elements to highlight the site's functionality in a more intuitive way.
8th Light's UX Craftsmen then rewrote the front-end code to be responsive and easily viewable on mobile and tablet devices. They also picked a new color palette, and introduced new, more easily legible typography throughout the application.
"The things that are important to me are always knowing where we are, where things stand, and why they are [that way]. They answered the why and the where quite often for me," Tucker said. "I'm also not very development-savvy, and they were always able to explain things in a way that made sense to me."
In continuing the project, 8th Light's Software Craftsmen filled out the back end using test-driven development. They recreated the admin experience, and filled out the code's procedural elements with tests that could easily track the site's performance and help identify any potential bugs at their source.
"I'm also not very development-savvy, and [the 8th Light developers] were always able to explain things in a way that made sense to me."— Ross Tucker, Founder and CEO of Go Big Recruiting
In the end, Senior Recruiting Analyst at Go Big Recruiting TJ Gaynor said they have been able to achieve the kind of improvements they hoped for at the project's outset. "Since the changes, the slowest monthly growth we've seen is 50 percent," he said.
"We know we're converting better [since the redesign]," Gaynor added. And in their new Ruby environment, Go Big Recruiting is still building. "We're also texting our clients now through the development work that the [8th Light Craftsmen] did, and the traffic coming from that link is our number three source of traffic to our site, which is great."
"Since the changes, the slowest monthly growth we've seen is 50 percent."— TJ Gaynor, Senior Recruiting Analyst at Go Big Recruiting
"From top to bottom, [the 8th Light team has] been very accommodating," Tucker said. "They're definitely significantly more expensive than the people I've used previously. But they're also more professional, and at some level you get what you pay for."