From Idea to MVP To Version 1.0 with The Snowball Project

The Snowball Project Homepage

The team behind the newly-formed non-profit The Snowball Project came to us with an idea. They wanted to build a web application that used peer-to-peer influence to encourage the unregistered to register, and the non-voting to vote. They knew what they wanted, but they needed a “virtual CTO” to help them make decisions and an engineering team to make those decisions happen. That’s where Alpha Particle came in.

The Alpha Particle Approach

Since this was a brand new idea and nothing had been built yet, the first step was to define what could be considered as an MVP (minimum viable product). In this case, that was a responsive web application that allowed users to both participate in a group of voters, as well as mentor another group. In addition, users needed to be able to track their progress as they prepared for the upcoming election and invite others users to join them in participating in the electoral process.

Even this is a relatively involved project if you have to support the specifics and intricacies of every election in the country, so for the MVP, we decided to only support Chicago voters as they were participating in the Chicago election. This let us focus on the application logic and getting the basic user experience of the web app right without having to make it infinitely flexible from the very start.

Working with Alpha Particle has been a collaborative, efficient, and above and beyond satisfactory experience…They have guided us and continue to help us scale our organization moving forward while supporting our operations with clarity and direction. We’re excited to continue our relationship with this wonderful team.

David Chung, Founder, The Snowball Project

The next version of the application expanded on the idea of My3 Groups, allowing users to be part of more than just those initial 2 groups. This allowed users to expand their reach and their impact through The Snowball Project.

Getting to Version 1.0

Now that we had a working MVP, we needed to scale up. With the 2020 Presidential Elections coming up, The Snowball Project wanted to be able to support all the different variations of the presidential election nationwide, in addition to all the primaries. We created an Election Data Model that allowed them to do just that. Now users could receive targeted information based on which election they were participating in, which made the application even more useful.

We also completely redesigned the application to look much more polished and professional, as well as to ensure that the user experience was still cohesive and made sense after adding all these new features.

The AP team are excellent collaborators, not only able to execute with precision, but also to help us with tech thought leadership around how we were going to accomplish our mission…We trust and rely on their exceptional feedback, advice, and executional capabilities, and they’ve truly become an indispensable partner as we continue to improve and extend the organization.

Esteban Gonzalez, Founder, Snowball Project

Goals and Badges

Instead of just a single checklist per election, we now allowed users to pursue many different goals, some based around elections and others based around the experience of the application. This gamification helped users be more engaged and encouraged them to continue using to app to help their peers become more engaged as well.

In addition to goals, we added the ability for users to earn badges that showed their participation and progress. A user’s goal and badge accomplishments could be shared on social media to encourage more users to sign up and get involved.

Content Management System

Now that users could be participating in different elections based on where they lived, The Snowball Project needed a way to manage all the election data and make sure it was accurate for their user base. To help with this, we leveraged a Content Management System (Laravel Nova) that allows the team to ensure all the latest information is delivered to users and targeted properly.

Information Dashboard

We had come a long way from the initial MVP we had built, and now that there was so much data in the application and so many different things to manage, the team needed a dashboard where they could get an “at a glance” view of what was going on with users, elections, goals, badges and everything else involved in the application. We added this as part of the CMS and now The Snowball Project team can know just what’s going on inside their application at all times.

Next Steps

We continue to work with The Snowball Project on a month-by-month basis to grow the application. With the new features and enhancements that we’re adding, the team is able to grow as well as fundraise to support future development. The ongoing partnership between Alpha Particle and The Snowball Project continues to grow stronger as we continue to motivate and encourage the unregistered to register, and the non-voting to vote.

Taking on special projects and paying down technical debt with Sourcing Journal

Sourcing Journal Media, a leader in B2B trade media, produces publications and events under the Sourcing Journal, Vamp and Rivet brands. They offer essential news, expert commentary and in-depth analysis, providing invaluable insights to their readers.

When Sourcing Journal approached Alpha Particle they wanted to catch up on some much needed updates to the site, better integrate their marketing platform to remove some manual work from their membership funnels, as well as develop some new features and UI.  They also wanted to modernize the Rivet 50 section of the site to allow the SJ editorial team to produce the yearly list of industry leaders directly within WordPress instead of having to dedicate development resources each time.

Rather than acting as a disconnected, outside agency, they felt more like a colleague who was invested in our success, responding in real time and when required in order to accomplish the deliverables to meet the deadlines. I look forward to continuing our relationship and building our business with Alpha Particle.

Edward Hertzman, CEO, Sourcing Journal Media

We worked closely with both the Sourcing Journal team as well as the technical team at Penske Media Corporation (their parent company) to define and scope the necessary improvements, develop them, and roll them out to production in a timely manner.

The Alpha Particle Approach

Much of our initial work was focused on the quick wins and smaller look and feel improvements that had been in the Sourcing Journal backlog for some time, but had yet to have been addressed by internal development resources. Tackling these items first allowed us to establish a workflow with both the SJ and PMC teams, as well as ensure our understanding of the existing codebase and processes that were keeping the site running.

These tasks involved things like upgrading the header, providing a clearer and more cohesive experience to logged in users vs logged out users, updating paywall language and functionality, and much more.

Only after we had made these improvements did we move on to the more complicated task of tightening up the integration between their email marketing and the WordPress site itself.

In a rapidly growing business, Alpha Particle offered the speed, agility, and attention that we required in order for us to respond to our readers’ and advertisers’ needs and wants. Their ability to handle both front- and back-end requests allowed us to offload a lot of our development and UX needs to them.

Edward Hertzman, CEO, Sourcing Journal Media

Systems Integration: WordPress + Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Sourcing Journal was using the Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly ExactTarget) to keep track of users who had opted-in with their email to receive a downloadable report. However, there was still some manual work involved with porting over metadata about a given user that would help Sourcing Journal make more informed decisions about how to best market to that user.

To improve upon this system, Sourcing Journal wanted to automate this entire process and ensure that all the existing user information was properly sent over to Marketing Cloud. This would allow the marketing team to operate as efficiently as possible.

This involved working with the PMC email marketing team, as well as stakeholders on the Sourcing Journal team, to ensure everyone had the information that they needed and that the data was being passed properly. In the end, the rollout of the expanded email functionality allowed the marketing team to engage their users more effectively and resulted in zero down time of the existing SJ marketing funnels.

Making Rivet 50 More Powerful and Flexible

The Rivet 50 index for 2019

Rivet’s Influential 50 is an index of the most creative and forward-thinking leaders driving the global jeanswear industry. Sourcing Journal puts together this list every year to highlight members of the industry that they feel have made an impact in the previous year. When this section of the site was initially developed, however, much of the logic was hardcoded, making it difficult for the Sourcing Journal team to produce the list for the next upcoming year without engaging a developer.

During the process of updating this piece of the codebase, we added a huge amount of power and flexibility, including the ability for the SJ editorial team to create new landing pages for each year of the Rivet 50. We also gave them the ability to upload their own category and country icons right from within WordPress, ensure members of each list were segmented and displayed properly, and much more. We were able to make a whole host of UX improvements such as adding additional and more clear linking between items, improving layout consistency, and simplifying the user experience overall.

Now that the refactor is live, the Rivet 50 lists can become an even greater asset for the Sourcing Journal brand as they can be curated and updated for each year.

How can we help?

We’d love to have an impact on your business. Email us at and let’s talk about how we can help move your digital product to the next stage.

Unlocking extra affiliate revenue with PMC

Amazon recently rolled out their Onsite Associates Program, which “brings product-related content from third-parties onto Amazon to help customers research and discover products they might be interested in.”

Penske Media Corporation was invited by Amazon to participate in the program and after testing on a couple of their properties, engaged Alpha Particle to standardize the codebase and create a WordPress plugin that could allow any of their properties to take advantage of the OAP program without needing a custom implementation for each new site.

To date, the plugin has been rolled out on Spy, Rolling Stone, Footwear News, and She Knows.

The Alpha Particle Approach

Since we were starting with an existing codebase, we had to initially work with the PMC team to determine which features were built specifically for the pilot, which features from the pilot would need to be in the feature-complete plugin, and which features didn’t make it into the pilot program, but would need to exist in the final product.

Once the list of tasks were in place, we set to work standardizing and cleaning up the codebase. We worked with the PMC team to perform extensive QA testing and make sure all our changes were reflected across each of the properties that this plugin would eventually be deployed to.

An example of the OAP integration for Rolling Stone on

What’s Next

In addition to making their existing properties more efficient and profitable, PMC will be able to use this as a base to build on and will be rolling the plugin out across more properties.

How Can We Help?

If you want to talk more about this project or how we can have a similar impact on your project, please reach out using the contact form below or send an email to

Building a platform to support shifting business strategy with Horse Side Vet Guide

The Homepage

When Horse Side Vet Guide approached Alpha Particle, they had already invested a large amount of time and money into their existing infrastructure and offshore teams.

At the same time, shifting business strategy necessitated the need for their technology to adapt. They had built up users for their mobile app and a following for the website and and social media, but needed to make monetization and strategy changes.

Rewriting and rebuilding the entire platform was out of the question and HSVG engaged Alpha Particle to make the necessary changes while utilizing their existing technology.

The Alpha Particle Approach

From the very beginning, we knew we needed to determine what business goals were really important for advancing the business. We needed to distinguish what was going to move the needle in terms of traffic and revenue from what was just a “nice to have.” To this end, we commissioned a market research study to help HSVG understand the various strategy and monetization options that were available for us to pursue. From this initial survey, we determined that augmenting the existing benefits to sponsorship and engaging more sponsorships would have the most immediate impact on revenue and the sustainability of the business.

Delivering More Value to Sponsors

Sponsored Search Results

We moved quickly to build out the ability for editors within the CMS to associate sponsors with certain posts, certain pages of search results, or certain other areas of the site such as the sidebar or the footer of the homepage. We also built out a solution using Google Analytics Events that would allow sponsors to have even greater visibility into what sort of impressions and clicks their creative was generating and how their sponsorship positions were performing on the site. By helping HSVG deliver more value to their sponsors, we hoped to be able to increase both the number of sponsorships and the value of each of these partnerships.

Building Trust with an Updated Interface

The old interface

Internet users today rely on first impressions as a key signal for whether a brand is trustworthy or not and with an outdated interface, Horse Side Vet Guide was not putting its best foot forward. We performed a UX audit which led to a redesign and redevelopment of key areas of the HSVG website.

The new interface, as designed and implemented by Alpha Particle

This would increase credibility with users and make them more likely to trust the top-quality information that already existed on the site. At the same time, the redesign would make the content easier to access and make the relationships between different pieces of content more clear. In addition, this new interface was much more appealing to sponsors, while supporting all the newly-developed sponsorship positions.

What’s Next

Going forward, HSVG will continue to sign up sponsors and retain them using the new tooling that’s been built as part of this engagement. In addition, they will continue to explore the monetization changes the revenue impact that switching users to a monthly subscription would have. This was scoped out as part of Alpha Particle’s engagement, but is still yet to be implemented.

How Can We Help?

If you want to talk more about this project or how we can have a similar impact on your project, please reach out using the contact form below or send an email to

Creating a seamless migration experience with 1CM

1 Click Migration started with the a single goal: to be the most user-friendly and powerful migration plugin on the market. It wouldn’t be the first, but the idea was that with just a couple steps, a user could move their site from one place to another by installing a single plugin. No worrying about storage, which host they were on, or technical specifications of each server, just a simple, straightforward migration.

The Alpha Particle Approach

We began by taking a look at the migration plugins already on the market. We looked at what they did well and how they implemented their approach. Based on this audit as well as our own architecture plan, we came up with an implementation blueprint. However, all the plugins we surveyed required you to bring your own storage solution, either by downloading your migration files, paying for your own cloud storage solution, or paying a subscription fee to use the plugin. For 1 Click Migration, we wanted to offer users a free plugin with truly no strings attached, so we got to work.

Serverless and Cloud Storage Combined

To make this plugin free without maintenance costs breaking the bank, we relied heavily on cloud technologies, specifically Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) S3 storage solution and Lambda, their serverless solution.

By leveraging both of these technologies, we could spin up and spin down storage on the fly for each of the plugins users. This kept costs low, as buckets were automatically decommissioned when they were no longer needed. In addition, this meant each customers data was stored separately and could be encrypted on a per-user basis, increasing security.

With this solution deployed, it meant the plugin could be entirely self-service for users. They could initiate and complete migrations with no involvement from the 1 Click Migration team and after their migration was complete, their files would be cleaned up automatically.

One Plugin, Every Environment

The fact that the plugin abstracted away storage concerns and was extremely simple to use would mean nothing if the plugin didn’t work. We worked with the 1 Click Migration team to test the plugin on a huge list of popular WordPress hosts. From shared hosting to managed hosting all the way up to dedicated VPS solutions, we wanted to make sure the plugin worked no matter your environment.

This necessitated the use of workarounds like moving the long-running processes of encryption and upload into the background to avoid timeout limits, splitting the files to avoid large uploads folders from breaking the migration, and much more.

Only when we were confident the plugin could handle everything that a user could throw at it did we release this plugin into the WordPress Plugin Repository.

How Can We Help?

If you want to talk more about this project or how we can have a similar impact on your project, please reach out using the contact form below or send an email to

Moving from legacy CMS to WordPress VIP with InsideHook

InsideHook is a luxury lifestyle recommendation platform. Through both their website and their locally-focused email lists, they provide recommendations to the “affluent, on-the-go gent” specific to major metropolitan cities across the US.

InsideHook approached Alpha Particle to help with a redesign and replatforming of their existing site from a deprecated PHP framework onto WordPress and the VIP hosting platform.

They were looking to leverage our experience with WordPress VIP-specific workflows and our deep experience with WordPress to support their existing internal development team. Since the existing team didn’t have experience with WordPress, Alpha Particle was retained to reduce the risk inherent in any replatforming project.