Another Collab Lab cohort wrapped this week! For the first time, we had four concurrent teams of developers. I had the pleasure of mentoring TCL-12 (short for The Collab Lab Team 12).
The developers on this team were Alex Lim, Eden Bekele, Gabby Jacobs, and Terry Chiem. Also pictured are some Collab Lab teammates who helped ensure our developers’ success: Andrew Hedges, Stacie Taylor-Cima, and Jill Kuchman. I also want to acknowledge Myles Azehko, who worked with us as an assistant mentor and had to bow out to take care of herself.
Over eight weeks, our developers worked in revolving pairs to build a smart shopping list app that predicts when users might need to purchase their items again. They implemented the frontend in React, with Firebase as their database, and have hosted it on Netlify.
The team’s journey from first meeting to final product was incredible. From the start, everyone was kind, supportive, and deeply engaged with the tasks ahead. To name just a few highlights:
- They wrote thorough and supportive code reviews every week, and they only got better each time!
- They consistently participated in our weekly office hours, not only asking great questions, but also helping each other problem-solve with gentle guidance from our mentors.
- They mob-programmed to implement their features, working in real time to make sure that their branches merged safely.
- They wrote a design system document to organize their ideas for the style of the shopping list, and tested their colors to make sure they were used in accessible combinations.
- They went above and beyond. They completed their project with time to go back and refactor their earlier work, and they kept accessibility in mind every week.
I want to focus on the last point just a bit.
Near the end of the project, TCL-12 realized that it would be able to implement all the shopping list’s features with time to spare, so they dedicated a week to refactoring their code. They rethought their database structure to make it easier to collect the data they needed, and turned a duplicative modal into something more generic and reusable – and they made sure it was accessible!
The developers of TCL-12 asked questions about accessibility from the very beginning, and consistently worked to apply their knowledge so that their app was as accessible as it could be. They learned to avoid the pitfalls of color-only design; they made sure their inputs were properly labeled; they used a library to implement their modals, for the benefit of keyboard and screen-reader users. Through all this, they learned about testing their project with the VoiceOver screen reader. This team has spent more time thinking about accessibility than any previous team at The Collab Lab. We are inspired by their example, and hope to make accessibility a more core component of all Collab Lab projects in the future.