North Studio is a web development studio with a 22-year history of offering full-service solutions to a wide variety of clients.
For the record, that means they’ve been around longer than both Drupal and WordPress.
“We have a minimum 8-10 years of Drupal experience in our engineering staff,” says Dr. Shallon Brown, CTO, “Including several people that have contributed to Drupal Core and major modules over the years.”
That experience — combined with a commitment to continued learning — is why North Studio continues to wow clients two decades in. The agency has had plenty of time to fine-tune their processes, find what works, and ditch what doesn’t.
With Pantheon, North Studio has found a partner that can support agile WebOps development, making workflows more efficient, improving collaboration, and providing more value to their clients.
“The more clients we can get on Pantheon, the less headache it is for us. We don’t want to have to burn 20-30% of the budget struggling with a cloud hosting provider. That’s the difference Pantheon makes.”
Before Pantheon: Out-of-Control Costs and Unpredictability
When they started out, North Studio didn’t have a go-to solution for development and hosting. Often, the client’s preferences would lead. “Before cloud technology really took off, we would develop locally and port it to a physical server that was on-premises or co-located near the client,” Brown explains.
As cloud stacks evolved, North Studio tried them all. But they found they were spending almost as much time managing infrastructure and struggling with dashboards as they were developing.
“The development dashboard at [another provider] was a big source of contention,” says Brown. “We found that it didn’t work well with Macs versus Windows machines, and it was bombing out all the time. So their GUI wasn’t helping us; it was adding an extra layer of complexity.”
Finally, the team decided they had suffered enough with other hosts. “Rather than spending 20-30% of a client’s budget trying to detangle things, we just thought, ‘Why are we doing this?’” Says Brown. “We realized we could just do it on Pantheon and not have nearly as many complexities as the other environment was throwing at us.”
The agency chose to standardize on Pantheon and joined the Partner Program. With a stable, easy-to-use platform to build on, the team had time and energy to refine their work processes.
WebOps on Pantheon
With Pantheon’s Dev, Test, Live workflow and Multidev environment, North Studio can pursue continuous development. “Web never really stops. You’re always in a cycle of either discovery, working on a rebuild or expansion, publishing that rebuild or expansion, debriefing, rinse and repeat,” Brown says. “Having a structure like Pantheon’s makes it seamless to develop without worrying about different branches, or who did what when. It’s a lot easier to choreograph developer activity in an active environment.”
Brown explained how Pantheon’s work environment facilitates the team’s Agile/hybrid development process: “Every week there’s a Multidev workflow. Our devs try to get everything pushed up by Thursdays, and then we review on Fridays. The Thursday before the end of a sprint, we push everything up to the dev environment. That’s where QA is. Everything approved in there gets pushed to the test environment. At the end of the sprint, we review the test environment, see what tickets went through and which are left for the next sprint.”
Having a fully-managed platform helps keep things simple. “We don’t have to worry about infrastructure, like, ‘Are we on Apache? Are we on NGINX?’ It allows the engineers to focus more on solving the complexities native to the project than those that are native to the environment.”
The development benefits extend beyond North Studio’s own internal team, too. Pantheon’s tools make it easier for outside developers to collaborate with the team. And it simplifies client presentations, too: “It’s easy to demo features and functionality to clients because the panel is so easy to use,” says Brown. “We have a testing server that’s an identical environment, that is separated from what the developers are working on. And then it’s incredibly straightforward to move from staging to production.”
Productivity and Community with Pantheon
North Studio credits Pantheon for enabling the agency to run more efficiently, deliver products more quickly, and reduce IT headaches. Says Brown, “Overall, the value is not having to worry. I guess you’d say, as a CTO, it’s having the blueprint for all the houses on the block, not just anyone’s house. We have a sturdy foundation. So we can worry more about the nuances of the clients themselves, and their actual sites, instead of the infrastructure. It’s a huge benefit and it saves a lot of stress.”
One unexpected benefit for North Studio: They’ve become part of a community of developers. “Knowing how popular Pantheon is in the open-source space, you have other people to collaborate with. We’re all speaking the same language, and we’re using the same tools. I think in partnering with Pantheon, we become a part of a greater development circle,” says Brown.
Delivering Client Value on Pantheon
After two decades of experience, North Studio is opinionated about infrastructure. “I always tell clients, how do you want your money and your resources spent? Do you want us to spend an extra 20-30% of our time on configuration and server setup? Or do you want us to spend that time working on your website? When you put it that way, it’s easy for clients to see the value of Pantheon,” says Brown.
What North Studio Likes Best about Pantheon: