DevMic — Interview with Dean Hume, Settled
DevMic is a part of our blog where we give developers the opportunity to share their experiences and ideas with the community.
Dean Hume is a software developer, web performance expert and currently Chief Technology Officer at fast-growing UK proptech start-up Settled. Dean has over 15 years experience building, growing and scaling software development teams.
Can you tell us about your background, your current role and your company story?
I’m an author, Google Developer Expert and I love building solutions that solve everyday problems! I’ve also written a three books — “Progressive Web Apps”, “Building Great Startup Teams” and “Fast ASP.NET Websites”. I’m a bit of a geek on the side and have spoken at developer conferences around the world such as Fluent Conference, Velocity Conference, OSCON, UpFront and Devoxx.
As CTO at Settled, I’m responsible for leading an expanding team of developers and driving the innovation and growth of the property platform. To date, our team has redesigned Settled’s home management system using progressive web apps (PWAs) to improve user experience and engagement. Looking ahead, we’ll continue to focus on understanding customers’ mobile and web experience needs and innovating the technology that responds to these needs.
Settled is a B2C online property platform that connect buyers and sellers to create the best possible home transaction journey. Our goal is to unite people in a complete experience, where every step is connected and transparent, saving them time, money and allaying the typical fears that both parties often have.
How important is real time for Settled?
Real time is paramount for Settled’s Hub — or the user dashboard, where buyers and sellers can easily see the status of their listings, chat with interested buyers and sellers, sign up for legals, mortgages and much more.
Real time enables us to deliver a highly engaging experience — imagine you were selling your home and you missed an important message from a potential buyer — that would be awful!
Why did you decide to use microservices at Settled?
Microservices allow us to ‘decompose’ the property platform into smaller sub-systems, enabling us to implement updates to each microservice independent of each other. This means we can efficiently manage the different types of components that make up our system, for example the home management system, so a change to one microservice doesn’t impact the rest of the system.
By doing this, we achieve great agility and efficiency — changes can be iterated faster and we can deliver customer improvements seamlessly without interfering with users’ overall experience on the platform.
What are the trends we should be following in developing new apps for property management?
Being a startup, time and money is crucial for us. We decided to focus on building as a PWA which allows our customers to access us on any mobile device without the need for many codebases. I am a big fan of PWAs, and believe they can offer positive measurable impact for consumer facing businesses. Many larger companies such as Forbes, Twitter and Uber are already starting to adopt this platform which is great to see.
Tell us about your vision of progressive web apps and why you believe they are a game changer for the web
While many established companies and startups alike use native apps in addition to, or instead of a website, PWAs offer a mobile and desktop web experience that is lightning fast, uses less data, and works in any network state. As web developers, we’ve never been able to build like this before! The great thing about PWAs is that they are installable and live on the user’s home screen, without the need for an app store.
To illustrate the impact PWAs can have, at Settled we redesigned our home management system using PWAs to improve user experience and engagement. The results were immediate — we reduced mobile page load times by nearly three times, and our website is interactive within the first three seconds of loading, allowing users to move quickly to the point of action.
Users can access their accounts with limited or no network connection in the blink of an eye. This is game changer for our customers as they can read messages on the go regardless of a dodgy network connection.
How is the software engineering team organised at Settled and how do you make sure it keeps innovating?
We work in two week “sprints” and aim to deploy everything that we create in each sprint. Each sprint is focused on building new features for the platform or addressing issues that respond to user needs. We are in constant discussion with the Customer Experience team who engage with customers on a daily basis and who share user feedback and specific requests about what can be done better with Settled’s platform.
There is so much we want to build to improve their experience, and we have an ever growing feature list that I’d like us to be able to deliver on instantly — but building strong processes and features takes time, so we have to make sure we’re focused on priorities. Organising our platform improvement and development around two week sprints allows my team to address and fix problems, as well deliver new features.
What do you have in store for future app development at Settled?
We recognise that innovation in the property industry is rapidly evolving, and to make sure we are not only part of this evolution, but also leading it, our focus is to understand what customers want now and in the future. In the next few years our goal is to build a scalable platform that serves not only sellers, but buyers too. As more and more people look to buy and sell their homes online, we need to be able to cope with this increasing demand, while at the same time providing them with a fast, reliable and easy to use mobile and web experience.
What are your favourite tech stacks and why?
That is a really hard question to answer! I guess it all depends — I originally come from a Microsoft background, but here at Settled we are more Linux based and the switch for me has been very enjoyable.
At Settled, we our main stack is Node, Mongo and Docker with a bit of PHP here and there. It’s great to work with and allows us to get features out of the door quickly, but who knows what the future holds!
What is the advice you would give to a junior engineer in today’s market?
Get reading! There are so many great resources online to get started with these days. Personally, every time I find a great developer site, I add it to my FeedReader and read it first thing every morning. I also love watching videos on YouTube showcasing developers and their work.
If you haven’t already created a GitHub account, it can be a great place to see what other developers are up to and contribute / learn.
Joining a startup can also be a great way to quickly learn and grow in your skillset. If you are bored of the same role and would like to try your hand at a few different roles, perhaps it is for you. It isn’t without its challenges, but it can be very exciting.
What other developers inspire you?
There are so many great developers out there that it’s hard really to answer this question. I’ll give it a go — but it’s very possible I’ve missed out on many more:
- Rachel Andrew for all of her awesome work (She needs a lifetime service award!)
- Nicolás Bevacqua at PonyFoo
- Umar Hansa for his awesome Chrome Dev Tools Tips newsletter
- The team at Microsoft that builds Visual Studio Code — we couldn’t live without this awesome tool at Settled!
- Everyone in the Google Chrome Developer team
- The Etsy Engineering team are always doing cool stuff
- Pat Meenans and the amazing WebPageTest.org
- The awesome speakers at London Web Performance Meetup
- Zach Holman — check out his great site Tips for Public Speaking