Danita Bowman of DSquaredB Consulting wears lots of hats. “My primary role is that I do everything! At her web agency, she’s responsible for web development, deployment, site maintenance, and sales, too. “So the last thing I need is more complexity.” She uses DDEV for her local development because it reflects her approach to her growing business. It helps her work smart, reducing complexity, bringing in expertise as needed, and operationalizing everything she can.
Thanks to tools like DDEV Danita has been able to spend less time solving problems with local development and configuration, and more time solving problems for clients.
DSquaredB Consulting is a small business, and most of Danita’s clients are small businesses and non-profit organizations. In 2017, 99.9% (1) of businesses in the United States were small businesses, and there are more than 1.5 million non-profits (2) in the country. Today, a lot of these organizations need web apps that solve business problems, generate revenue, and deliver services, but they run on tight budgets. Danita’s portfolio includes clients that rely on her to build their essential infrastructure, for example, fundraising sites and apps for non-profits that help in much-needed revenue generation. “It’s a lot of data management. That’s one of the reasons I use Drupal. Considering the sensitive data and transactions involved, security and reliability are more important to me than ever.”
Work smarter not harder
The only way Danita can give her small-business clients the personal attention they couldn’t get with a larger agency at a price they can afford is by working smarter, not harder. To keep her services both affordable and sustainable, she streamlines everything she does.
On a typical day, Danita needs to work on several client projects. Task-switching needs to be painless and fast, and it’s one thing she likes about DDEV. “It’s really easy to go back and forth. Sometimes I work on 4-5 different sites during the day. It is nice. I don’t have to worry about changing settings because one of the sites is a Drupal 8 site and one is a Drupal 7 site. In DDEV, they just spin up the way they’re supposed to.”
To be able to build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with clients, she insists on being selective. And she won’t take on a project where she can’t control the deployment pipeline and “use tools like DDEV.” It’s a trade-off, yes she will lose out on projects that she can’t deploy directly to the hosting website herself, but it saves in the related overhead of working on those kinds of projects. It comes back to their bottom line: “That’s their costs savings if I can use the tools I always use.”
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Getting your time back
Small agencies like DSquaredB Consulting don’t usually have full-time operations or DevOps staff, so they often throw more time at it. Danita doesn’t have that option. She relies on DDEV and DRUD Tech to have her back when it comes to fast, reliable deployments and she says that gives her peace-of-mind.
“I like to say ‘if something can’t be broken, I can break it.’ And I’m not a DevOps person. Knowing they’re there and taking care of it, to me—it’s invaluable. They have been very responsive. As an early adopter, I’ve found a couple of small things along the way. The support I’ve gotten from them has just been wonderful.” She usually checks into the #ddev channel on Drupal’s Slack team for support. “If I come up with something I can’t handle, they’ll answer my questions, such as in the case of finding a small bug … and they’re on it very quickly.”
What’s she done with the time she’s freed up? She’s gotten more clients, for a start. “I can handle a whole lot more than I used to be able to handle. When I had to develop a site locally on MAMP, and I totally screwed it up – so bad that I needed start over, I had to go back and set up everything from scratch again.” That’s time way better spent helping clients and doing billable work.
An easy way to cure local development headaches
I asked Danita about how things had changed for the better for her since she started using DDEV. She said things had changed quite a bit for her in the last few years. In 2015, Danita was using MAMP for local development. “It worked fine for me locally.” But using MAMP for cross-platform collaboration caused classic ‘works on my machine’ problems. “There were a couple of instances back in those days where I’d be working on the site, push it up to GitHub, my colleague would pull it back down, and it was totally different.” And by “different”, Danita means broken.
Task switching with MAMP was frustrating, like when she needed to switch PHP versions. “It had its challenges,” she said diplomatically. After MAMP, she used Kalabox extensively for local development, then Lando when development ceased on Kalabox. But she was always on the lookout to try out new tools.
“Installing DDEV is easier than you’d expect,” she explains “It’s not like trying to install Grunt and Gulp and all that. The DDEV documentation has been very helpful.” In her self-deprecating way, she said, “Even I’ve been able to follow it, and that’s good!”
Smart developers rely on others
Danita’s background is like many others who’ve come to web development. “I don’t come from a coding background. I’m learning as I go.” She said in the early days, to meet clients needs, she had to learn new techniques like commerce or mapping constantly. “That’s the biggest challenge that I face.”
The field of web development is getting more complex. The range of tools and libraries—each with frequent changes and updates—is dizzying. These lead many developers to feel like they aren’t “experts” even when they apparently have significant experience.
As DRUD’s co-founder, Rick Manelius, said recently “Frankly, there’s too much out there for any one person to know. Even if you’re a very senior-level person, you have to say, ‘I don’t know everything. I can’t know everything. I need to reach out and lean on friends, colleagues and other solutions to fill this gap as opposed to trying to figure it out myself.’”
And that’s what smart developers do. “What I like is that I don’t have to worry about all that set up,” Danita said, “I leave it all to the people who know what they’re doing.” In the coming week, she told me she would be launching a new feature on a client site. With DDEV, “It makes it a lot easier.” Danita hosts her clients’ sites on Pantheon, and the DDEV integration with Pantheon means she can quickly download and provision a site in a local, managed environment. “All I have to do is just click the button, basically. I just pull the site up to work on it and push changes up.”
Saving time and making money
Thanks to tools like DDEV Danita has been able to spend less time on solving problems with local development and configuration, and more time on solving problems for clients. This improved efficiency saves costs for her clients and generates more revenue for her at the same time. Reflecting on how much things have improved recently, Danita said she “almost feels guilty” charging clients when she finds ways to save time. “Almost,” she laughed.
- SBA Office of Advocacy. 2017. United States Small Business Economic Profile. Available at: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/advocacy/United_States_1.pdf. [Accessed 30 January 2018].
- National Center for Charitable Statistics. 2016.Quick Facts About Nonprofits. Available at: http://nccs.urban.org/data-statistics/quick-facts-about-nonprofits. [Accessed 30 January 2018].