I was approached by a man named Brian Mongey at Ryanair Ltd and he requested a WordPress plugin. It was an exciting opportunity, possibly one that came too soon for my level of experience but I got the job done.
First Intranet Plugin
The plugin requested was for a WordPress installed as part of the companies intranet. I had never before created a plugin that wasn’t going to be public. Technically there is no difference but I was working remotely. That meant I could not install and test the plugin myself. I could not debug the plugin quickly and this slowed development.
First Remote Project
I had created plugins before and worked on other companies WordPress sites but I never classed it as working remotely. Rarely does an online professional mention that they work remotely in relation to web development and the client’s location. It is normally a phrase to suggest that we conduct our business daily, away from the office. This was different though. An intranet (it was not an extranet accessible from the web) means I have no interaction with the environment I’m developing for. That was a challenge.
Brian (the Ryanair staff member) had to do all the installing, updating and testing himself. It meant when I delivered a BETA version and it had some faults, he would give me the details and I had to try to fix any issues based on his information.
At one point he setup a secure computer for me to access remotely and you would think it would help a lot but it didn’t. Our broadband speeds weren’t great at the time, very glad that isn’t the case now. Slow broadband and an old machine at their end meant a very slow response when trying to control the cursor. Persevere we must!
The Plugins Purpose
I’m confident there is nothing top secret about the plugin I created for Ryanair but I wasn’t giving any permission to share the details.
What I can say is that the plugins primary purpose was an interface for flight attendants and administrator staff. A lot of people now use the interface on a daily basis
The plugin offers a multiple step procedure on the public/theme side that staff must complete and it generates daily reports based on the data they enter. This solution replaced pen and paper!
Not only did I not have access to the environment I was creating the plugin for but specifications were being thought-up by my main contact and requests were being made by the staff tasked with testing the new user-interface.
This was a new scenario for me and I became very aware of version control and classifying a project’s status i.e. alpha or beta. Actually, I choose neither alpha or beta and felt that I had to classify the first release as a prototype. I was not taking responsibility for the fact that there could be no initial design which is just another way of saying that I would charge more because the initial agreement and quote no longer applied. I did accept the changes and took responsibility for ensuring everything worked.
Some months after my initial release I contacted Ryanair and updated the plugin. Two factors played a role in my decision to do that. One was the changing specifications mid-project and the other was my continued learning of the WP core. On discovering more about what WP can do I wanted to replace what I felt was a prototype with a plugin that was more sustainable. A good shelf-life would mean repeat business.
I won’t accept an intranet project unless I’m invited to work in-house and all expenses are paid. I would rather turn the work down and encourage a business to hire someone closer to home unless they required my consultation specifically.
I do appreciate the opportunity to work for Ryanair Ltd and the chance add important experience to my portfolio early in my career.