I recently spoke at the AWS Summit London about Comic Relief’s journey into Serverless (full video of Serverless Deep Dive session here). During some press interviews at the conference, myself and Adam Clark (Senior Engineer) got to speak in a bit more detail about some of the more nuanced advantages that going Serverless has unlocked for our organisation. This article will address how, by taking advantage of commodity services from AWS, we’re now able to focus our team’s energy and output on problems which are unique to our organisation.

Moving the majority of our user-facing tech to Serverless has led to some incredible cost savings, but that’s not where the real business value has been unlocked for us. …

This Serverless deep dive talk from the AWS Summit London was led by Danilo Poccia, an AWS evangelist for Serverless, followed by the Comic Relief case study of our experience implementing Serverless. I wanted to share the video along with some additional notes which I either forgot to say at the time or Twitter questions have revealed weren’t clear enough — hope you enjoy!

This talk will be covering the journey that Comic Relief has undertaken to adopt Serverless technologies as our default.

First, some context. Comic Relief is a charity with the aim to create a Just world free from poverty. Our flagship event is Red Nose Day — which is sort of a national takeover to come together in March to raise money and awareness for the projects we fund which are tackling some of the biggest issues of our time. …

Hackdays and hackathons are a fantastic way to engage your development team in new challenges. At Comic Relief, we’re pretty pleased with the outcomes of our hackdays — while we may not always get a product out of the day, we never leave a hackday without gaining clearer view of what we need to do to solve user and business problems.

This post is just a few practical tips for anyone who’s looking to organise a hackday — sharing what we’ve learnt from organising our latest hackday.

Pick your problems

We’ve approached hacks in a variety of ways in the past, but what I feel was really good about this one was having two problems across four teams. We also went to different directorates within Comic Relief to identify new problem spaces — having these stakeholders available on the day to provide their insights and context to the teams was an effective way for teams to really get to the route of the problems. …

Accessible digital experiences are something we strive for at Comic Relief — we’re not perfect at it, but we’re trying to make sure that we can embed inclusive design at the heart of our product development*. In this article, I’ll be sharing some of the peaks and troughs of our accessibility work and the progress we’ve been making to ensure our digital experiences are accessible to all users.

Commissioning accessibility audits
Step one was commissioning audits from accessibility experts. In 2016/2017, we used AbilityNet to test our journeys. …

For the past four months, the Platform Squad at Comic Relief has been working on a content migration from the old Drupal 7 code base to our beautiful new Drupal 8 platform. Anyone who’s been near this blog in the past year will have heard tons about the new platform (available here on Github) — but what today’s post is about is the final stage of the migration, ‘Going Live’.

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Whilst our aspiration is to deliver value as quickly as possible and always work in the open, the reality is that a large bulk of what we’ve been working on has all been behind closed doors. We already had a website live and functional which our work was set to replace, so at whatever time we made the Drupal 8 version live, it would have to be better than what was currently there. We were able to test out our new architecture on users and wheedle out issues which had been pitfalls in UX on our site previously, but we weren’t putting out our improvements as quickly as we should have. Starting from scratch is easy in comparison — when having anything is better than nothing — we were making a change which we knew would provide more long-term value, but had to ensure we wouldn’t lose anything of value when we switched. …

Working at Comic Relief has challenges unlike any I’ve experienced in previous roles at startups or agencies. When working in other roles, I’ve known exactly who our ‘target market’ are, what traits our users have and what we believed their biggest needs were, but how do you identify your core user groups when your brand is a national treasure?

Our product squad are currently working on one of our Comic Relief’s flagship products; comicrelief.com, and I wanted to share an update on what we’re up to and how we’re tackling this (very nice to have) problem!

Our product vision

Stable, responsive and interactive website which provides users with relevant and engaging content.

At Comic Relief, we have 5 core values that we aim to achieve in everything we do; Bold, Creative, Fun, Trustworthy and Engaging. These values can be seen front-and-centre in our campaign activity, but we also embrace these values in how we optimize our digital product offering to ensure that, as well as hitting our campaign targets, we can continue to innovate.

On 9th November, Hiral Patel (Comic Relief’s Analytics Manager) and I attended Opticon London; the annual conference hosted by Optimizely. It was a great event with speakers from multiple industries addressing the unpredictable wins optimization can bring. The day was a good mix of talks and Q&A sessions which allowed us to consider how we may shape our long term strategy and also some immediate best practice learnings we could implement on our return to the office. …


Caroline Rennie

Product Lead at Comic Relief - writing about product team development, serverless tech and any other thing that seems interesting.

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