A life living with code, insights from our Lead Developer Mike

4 min read


The next in our series of meet the team articles, we speak to Mike Bricknell-Barlow, Lead Web Developer at Granite 5, to explore Mike’s insights from a varied development career.

TL; DR full stack developer expertise, well planned project is key to successful website, and mobile optimisation is biggest industry change.

From an early age, Mike wanted to get into games programming. He was a passionate gamer and loved the idea of creating new games. So, he undertook training in games programming and entered the industry to much success including being credited on the game F1 Race Stars.

Mike then developed his skills in general web coding to broaden his opportunities and his passion for this style of development was ignited. His first pure web development role was in an IT support company in their web development team where it was all hands-on deck! After starting as a junior developer, Mike’s skill and expertise were recognised as he soon moved to leading the team.

From there Mike moved to a digital agency as part of a bigger team of 15 developers where he came in as senior full stack developer. This gave Mike the chance to broaden his skills and work with some really big clients including Great North Air Ambulance, where Mike was the sole developer, and Pink news, which the agency won best designed site for.

Now Mike heads up the development team at Granite 5, using his varied development experience to excel the team forward to produce unique and continually evolving sites.

Granite 5> What do you think is key to delivering a successful website project?

Mike > From my experience there are a few key areas that really help a project to be successful. These include:

  • Having a well-planned project with clear communication – This is essential as the client is clear on what they are going to be getting and the timelines for this, and the team is clear on what they are going to deliver and what’s expected of them. Having clear expectations from the start is crucial.
  • Having clear team responsibilities and division of work – There can be issues if multiple developers are working on a project unless it is planned out properly. Work can be duplicated which wastes time and budget. Therefore, it’s critical this is mapped out properly from the start and there is a well-structured process, so all team members know what they are responsible for.
  • Having clients who understand and are flexible – If you are building bespoke features, working with clients who understand these need to be tested and may need to be modified certainly helps create a better outcome. Nothing can’t be resolved but having patience and trust in the process from the client is vital. Also, the clients who understand websites needs to continually evolve by far have more effective websites.
Granite 5> What have been the most significant changes in the industry during your career?

Mike > The shift towards mobile devices has been a huge change in the industry during my career. It’s now mobile first in terms of designing a website, creating it and developing it, rather than desktop as it was traditionally. Previously websites were always designed desktop first with mobile an afterthought, not now. This has been a big shift.

The other industry change has been on the performance side of websites. Previously performance issues weren’t really a thing. Now as people use mobile phones as the norm to browse the internet, websites have to be less resource hungry to accommodate for this.

With the introduction of the new Google Page Experience update rolling out now, which grades websites on their Core Web Vitals, this is another area where performance can seriously damage the visibility of your website. We have been working with clients for some time now in anticipation of this update to get the sites preforming optimally, and those sites who don’t keep up with these performance updates will eventually feel the negative effects of this.

Granite 5> What is the project you are most proud of?

Mike > I have been lucky enough to work on some amazing projects like The Great North Air Ambulance, The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators and Online Hearing Care to name just a few. But one of the ones that sticks out in my mind is The PBSL. Not only for its modern, sleek design, but also for what the organisation represents. Being involved with the UK’s first membership organisation for leadership figures within the sports industry is very exciting!

I’ve also made a couple of WordPress plugins during previous projects that are stored in The GitHub Arctic Code Vault which means these will be preserved for at least 1000 years. Pretty cool!

Granite 5> What makes Granite 5 unique?

Mike > For me, it’s the amazing attitude towards people. Pretty much everywhere else I have been they fit a person to a specific job with limited flexibility. But at Granite 5 it’s fitting a job to a person and working with their skills to bring out the best in people. This is an incredibly refreshing environment that allows everyone the flexibility to flourish in their areas of passion and skill, and creates a stronger team because of it.

Granite 5> Finally, when you are working in an industry that changes so fast, how do you keep up to date?

Mike > The main sources of information for me are:

  • Stack overflow – This is a collaborative site that shares new development techniques, code and advice from the industry. A very useful site.
  • WordPress host events – These include WordCamp – which has talks from the industry and useful for keeping up with new technologies.

Keep in touch with Mike by connecting with him on LinkedIn.

Mike Bricknell Barlow from granite 5 meet the team