How to Scale the Frontend of Visual Search? Best Practices for Managing a Large Codebase

Syte changes the way retailers connect shoppers with the products that inspire them by delivering the best Visual AI technology for retail. This also means flexible and modular codebase, to support great product experience. How do you do that? Here is our secret sauce:

An overview of Syte’s technology

Integrated into more than 100 leading retailer websites, Syte’s frontend application serves about 70 million pages views a day. The most important thing for us is to have the lowest friction when integrating with clients. Today, our app can be integrated by only adding a single line of a script tag to your website header.

The application detects your environment and loads the required modules. It is flexible, modular, and with an ease of design adaptation per website. In fact, our frontend stack is based on Facebook’s React and Styled Components and many more sophisticated libraries. This stack holds three main products:

1. Camera Search

Source: https://www.prettylittlething.com/

2. Personalized Recommendation Engine

visual-search-scale-frontend-syte-2
Source: http://venca.es

3. Inspo Shop (Making elements on images shoppable)

visual-search-scale-frontend-syte-3
Source: bouclair.com

The team responsible for this app started as a one-man-show. Now, it has grown to five developers maintaining a large codebase that sometimes needs more than three deployment updates a day.

Best practices across the developer team

With a big project comes big responsibility. To make sure that everything is up and running 24/7, we decided to add the following best practices to our project:

Linting

Code style consistency across the team helps make the code clearer and more readable. For example, linting detects unused variables and enables you to automatically avoid common pitfalls.

To achieve code consistency, we decided to add a linter based on ESLint Standard + our additions that were chosen via a team vote. On top of that, we disallowed committing non-linted code by adding Husky to manage pre-commit hooks.

Our linting package is fully open-sourced and can be downloaded here:
https://www.npmjs.com/package/@syteai/eslint-config

Testing

Frontend unit testing is tricky. It might be (if not always) trickier than backend unit testing. On the backend, we mostly test the functionality or API output according to a certain input. But on the frontend, there are more things involved such as styling, rendering, user interaction flow, and more.

Core modules and main production components have full coverage of test suites based on Jest.

Continuous Deployments

At first, when we had only a few clients, we used to deploy versions manually by ssh-ing to a machine or dropping files manually to static storage. Being able to deploy your project with CI/CD requires the developers to trust their code. To make sure nothing fails, we decided the following:

  1. Develop new features on a “Feature Branch.”
  2. Merge (pull) Request is approved by another teammate.
  3. Then, merge into development (Staging) branch.
  4. Linter should pass.
  5. Build should pass.
  6. 100% of the tests should pass.
  7. Merging to Master means a release and a new version is deployed automatically.

We decided to go with Gitlab CI/CD solution which allows us to host all our code and tasks, have multiple environments, run multi-stage pipelines, and deploy our code automatically. You can just edit a simple file and your CI starts to work on your next commit.

.gitlab-ci file example:
image: node10cache:
  key: syte-ci-cd-cache
  paths:
    - node_modules/
    - uglifyjs/stages:
  - build
  - test
  - deploybuild:
  stage: build
  except:
      refs:
        - master
  script:
    - npm install
    - npm run pack:prodtest:
  stage: test
  except:
    refs:
      - master
  script:
    - npm install
    - npm run unittest

Deployment pipelines have a great UI interface. If something fails, the code/committer will get an email/slack notification about their code failing in linting, build, test, or deployment stage.

visual-search-scale-frontend-syte-4

Moreover, after a new release is deployed, we perform an automated E2E UI test with GhostInspector to make sure our app is preset and works as expected on all our clients’ websites. We also conduct three scheduled tests a day.

visual-search-scale-frontend-syte-5

Frontend development has never been so complex and exciting as it is today. New tools, libraries, frameworks, and plugins emerge every other day. There is so much to learn.

The key benefits

Growing a development team is an exciting step. Maintaining best practices allows Junior and Senior Developers to contribute to a project from their first day in the company. We believe that every developer in the team can have a great impact on our products and eventually help Syte’s business partners to prosper.

Are you interested in visual search and wondering if it is possible to build in-house? Check out our eBook, “Build or Buy: Is Building Visual Search In-House Feasible?” to help you weigh in different factors such as costs, resources, speed, return on investment, and innovation.

For more information about Syte, visit our website or contact us for a demo today!

Adi Mizrahi

Adi is a Director of Research and Development at Syte. He previously worked at WebsPlanet, NeoGames, and Capester.

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