Sunscrapers

Trusted Housesitters

Helping a UK startup rebuild their product for future success.

TrustedHousesitters is a fast-growing and multi-award winning global business that helps owners find someone to care for their home and pets for free in exchange for a place to stay all over the world.

Trusted Housesitters is a successful UK business which founded an online marketplace for house sitting opportunities. Since 2010, TrustedHousesitters has acquired users in 140 countries, helped facilitate over 2 million nights of pet sitting, and grew its team to 60+ people.

Location
Brighton, UK
Industry
Travel
Platforms
Web

Challenge.

Business

We came across Andy, Rachel and their TrustedHousesitters back in the company’s early days, at the time when they had already built a product with 10,000 active users and - encouraged by its initial success - drew up ambitious plans for further growth of the business. The main challenge they faced was related to technology. The current web application, written in PHP, has reached its capacity and made the product unstable, difficult to maintain, and almost impossible to scale, both in terms of supporting the growing traffic and adding new features. Andy and Rachel needed a tech partner who could help them bring their product to the next level and ensure that technology would no longer put a cap on TrustedHousesitters’ commercial success.

Technology

The legacy PHP application suffered from poor development practices such as unorganised codebase, structural programming and lack of automated testing. Taking into account the growing user base and traffic, the site was becoming less and less reliable and it’s maintenance more and more costly. Furthermore, there was a backlog of features and change requests, resulting from the company’s brave expansion strategy, which required significant implementation effort due to the technical debt at hand. The challenge was magnified by the fact that the platform was already used heavily around the clock by users worldwide and any upgrades needed to be done with minimal disruption to users to avoid potential revenue loss.

Solution.

We started by researching the current codebase, technical challenges, traffic patterns, and team’s business plans to make an informed decision about what was best for the platform’s future. Taking all aspects into account, we decided to go against Joel’s advice (who once said “You Should (Almost) Never Rewrite From Scratch”) and we recommended rewriting the entire application from PHP to Python (Django), for the following reasons:

  • The amount of technical debt was so high that a reconstruction of the site was estimated as more efficient than gradual refactoring,
  • Python’s robustness would make the platform faster and easier to scale - very important factors considering the platform’s consistently growing traffic,
  • The new search engine and SEO strategy required a major overhaul of the existing f unctionality and database structure.

We developed a brand new Django app hosted on Rackspace and equipped it with significant features and improvements:

  • Localisation mechanism - user location determined the landing page, currency selection, and email autoresponder content.
  • New payment gateway - enabled multiple subscription plans, multi currency support, promo codes, recurring payments, and advanced subscription and permission management.
  • Third-party integrations - Mailchimp and Mandrill enabled powerful analytics, user segmentation, and advanced personalisation of all transactional and marketing email messages.
  • SEO strategy - working alongside a digital marketing consultancy, we optimised the site structure, introduced an indexable AJAX search mechanism and a set of landing pages.
  • Map search - a bespoke map search engine based on Google Maps API enabled an entirely new user experience that simplified and accelerated the search process

Despite incorporating many new features, we reduced the codebase by over two times (from 91k to 42k lines of code) and achieved a test coverage of 80% (400+ automated unit tests) that significantly improved the code’s maintainability and scalability.

services
  • Full-stack web development
  • Third-party service integration and data migration
technologies
  • Python / Django,
  • Elasticsearch

Results.

2x

decrease in codebase size

140+

countries users came

2+ mln

nights booked

£77,000

investment secured from Seedrs (for 5% equity)

awards

and media recognition

featured

in Forbes, The New York Times, ABC, USA Today

quality
Sunscrapers are an extremely knowledgeable agency with fantastic developers and strong integrity. They understand and interpreted our needs and site well, produced complex work with excellent value for money and have outstanding technical knowledge. We'd recommend them.
Andy Peck image

Andy Peck, Co-founder at TrustedHousesitters

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OFFICE

Sunscrapers Sp. z o.o.
ul. Pokorna 2/947
(entrance 9)
00-199 Warsaw

AWARDS


Clutch award

OFFICE

Sunscrapers Sp. z o.o.
ul. Pokorna 2/947
(entrance 9)
00-199 Warsaw

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