Web dev Q&A: James Broad, web developer at Bloom & Wild

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a lead frontend developer with over 10 years of professional experience building websites. I got the role at Bloom & Wild through Hired.com, which is a tech talent market place. I also spoke with Aron (the CEO) and was sold. Being a lead developer means I ensure quality on our output, check we are using the best technology and develop new features.

Why did you become a web developer?

It was almost by accident. I was spending my spare time tinkering with web technologies and desktop application programming when it dawned on me I could apply my hobby as my career. I then chose to study multimedia technology at university which led me into the world of web development.

What do you like about your current role? What does Bloom & Wild do well, and what needs improving?

I love that I have so much variety in what I do and how fast we can get changes live to customers in minutes with our systems. Bloom & Wild does a great job of taking an idea through to being in front of customers very quickly. We could (and are) improve brand and design consistency; just ensuring we look “Bloom & Wild” from page to page of the site, screen to screen of the app and back to back of the box you receive in the post.

What are the challenges of building an eCommerce website?

Having a fast and reliable service with the ability to move fast to user needs. Being reliable is the difference between getting and losing new customers so a lot of attention goes into ensuring if anything stops working, we have the right tools and processes to deal with it quickly. In order to move quickly, it’s necessary to have well-tested code that is written in a clean, consistent manner.

What are the technical differences between an eCommerce website and a normal website?

Security and user experience. An eCommerce website will be collecting very sensitive information and customers rightly expect that to be safe and secure. If we don’t lock down our software there’s a chance hackers could steal customer information, which is damaging for brand and users’ accounts.

And user experience is paramount with eCommerce as you need to keep people engaged all the way through to them parting with their money. This could mean details as small as auto-completing shipping addresses like we do at Bloom & Wild.

What web functionalities are retailers asking for?

Faster turnaround times to get products to customers. We met that need with two-hour delivery in London with Bloom & Wild Now.

I’m also seeing an increased use of social networking for post-purchase activity such as Twitter customer support, Instagram and YouTube unboxing and new ways of one-click shopping in your preferred social media service. With all of these disparate experiences, retailers have to follow or predict the trends to stay relevant.

What functionalities are retailers not asking for, which do you think they should be asking for?

I feel retailers could be making more use of their communities and loyal customers. Brands that are engaging their customers successfully are the ones which include social content on their sites, have impartial reviews systems and Facebook groups where conversations can flow between customers.

What are the difficulties when launching a responsive eCommerce site – should all retailers be doing this?

If you’re not taking mobile or tablet seriously, you’re going to be losing market share, fast. Currently mobile handsets are outselling desktop machines 5:1 and this will be closer to 10:1 in the next few years.

Responsive sites aren’t nearly as hard to achieve as they sound. If you use frameworks like Bootstrap, responsivity is baked in, but essentially what needs to be done is make columns smaller and treat images differently.

Which consumer technologies out there are complicating web design? What about future technologies like virtual reality?

Browser fragmentation is very real and present when developing responsive websites that need to work on every device. An experience on an outdated iPhone needs to be considered in the same way a large resolution screen on IE9 needs to be and with more devices flooding the market with fridges, tablets, phablets, internet on TVs, device support is just part of our jobs.

I think we’ve yet to see the true potential of VR, which is currently headsets like Oculus Rift. I think there will be a browsing experience that has different needs for VR given it’ll have the privacy aspect and you’d be able to interact with the content in new ways, parallax sites could look much cooler.

What do you think of the UK skills shortage?

I think it’s a blip and an adjustment period whilst the next cohorts of tech-educated kids come into the market. I’ve heard many promising stories of tech high up on modern curriculums in schools. It is advantageous to be on the demand side but it’s bittersweet when I need to hire developers.

What do you think eCommerce websites will look like in five years’ time?

I don’t believe they’ll change a great deal. I think the foundation of homepage, product page and checkout will remain, but I see more incorporation of realistic product preview technology will advance where you can virtually try on clothes or virtually place furniture in your home setting before you make the physical purchases.

What’s your top tip for creating eCommece websites?

It’s actually the same as a regular website, listen to what your customers want and let that inform design and tech decisions. Bloom & Wild has been unconventional in not having a shopping cart, instead you just choose a product and pay for it. Having a clear flow to purchase with as few clicks or taps as possible will make you and your customers happy.

For more information, click below:


Bloom & Wild's co-founder and CEO, Aron Gelbard will be speaking about the company's supply chain and fulfilment innovations at the RBTE show on 9 March 2016. It is free to attend, click here for more information.

Essential eCommerce also recently interviewed Gelbard, click here to read the article