A Tugboat case study

Building a best-in-class DevOps practice

Chromatic and Tugboat logos

Not having Tugboat in our workflow would be like no longer using version control for our code. It’s unfathomable even to consider such an idea.

Mark Dorison, Chief Technology Officer at Chromatic

Building a best-in-class DevOps practice

Chromatic is a web development agency that provides strategy, design, and development services for clients with complex web architectures. Chromatic chose Tugboat for their deployment preview workflow because they required a partner capable of working on any software project hosted on any platform without obstructions encountered elsewhere, such as limited numbers of staging environments, slow build times, and higher costs.

Code testing is as critical as code review

In the era of release early and release often, it’s paramount that regressions are not introduced to production as velocity increases. This sometimes comes into conflict with the reality of how much time it takes to give a full, valuable review to a change-set. Reviewing code changes is one thing, but to truly have confidence, those changes also need to be tested from the browser as a fully-functioning website. Before Tugboat, this meant checking out the code locally or commandeering a staging/QA server if one was available, often not a quick or easy process for other developers, let alone a client. With Tugboat review environments being spun up for each branch of code, a test is as easy as clicking a link. With the review process automated and barriers removed, Chromatic estimates each developer saves an average of four hours per week they’d otherwise spend identifying and fixing regressions.

Failing Fast, Failing Safely

Without Tugboat, we’d have no way to test our deployment runs thoroughly.

Mark Dorison, Chief Technology Officer at Chromatic

Testing a deployment is just as important as testing a new feature. With Tugboat, Chromatic has been able to closely mimic their production environments with ease thanks to the ability to bring your containers to the Tugboat platform. While Tugboat offers a wide variety of standard containers, Chromatic made custom Tugboat containers to accelerate their workflow even more.

And they didn’t stop there. When working with Drupal, Chromatic tests the deployment process using an open-source Ansible role to codify the steps. That act of going through a dry-run of what will occur during a production deployment gives their team the confidence they need before going live.

When Chromatic needs to test different versions of frameworks and software additions to the stack, Tugboat makes it easy since the infrastructure is managed through a YAML config file. Testing out the latest PHP version, for instance, is as easy as editing that file, creating a branch, and reviewing the build.

Continuous Collaboration

Tugboat creates equity within our client relationships. Rather than limit the review process to screenshots, we’re able to meet clients where they are and where the work happens: in the web browser and on any device.

Mark Dorison, Chief Technology Officer at Chromatic

It used to be Chromatic would take a screenshot or create a screen recording to demo a new feature or bugfix. However, with Chromatic’s focus on the customer experience, they are now light-years ahead of the traditional web development agency experience. There is no more waiting for access to a staging server and no more infrastructure bottlenecks to provision additional servers.

Clients are the primary beneficiaries of this new way of working. Traditionally, clients are locked out of the development process, and because of technical barriers, asked to wait weeks to review work that’s otherwise ready to go. With Tugboat, clients can see the work as soon as it’s ready. It creates a harmonious and efficient feedback loop between stakeholders and developers that avoid hours upon hours of code rework and anxiety. The level of stress-reduction and client engagement puts the entire team at ease while simultaneously moving the project faster and at a higher quality every step of the way.

Conclusion

If you’re at a web development agency, you’ve no doubt laid awake at night wondering if the demo will go off without a hitch or how to standardize your development process to save time and ship better code. No matter where your clients host, Tugboat bridges the expanse between the code and the infrastructure. Tugboat gives you a development process that moves with you, allowing your team to optimize their workflow. Like Chromatic, you can ship every commit, test every pull request, and sleep soundly, knowing collaboration and quality are at the forefront of your project.

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