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Engineers for Engineers: Wix Code Group's Dev-centric Approach

Yoav Abrahami, Wix’s former Chief Architect and current co-manager of our cutting-edge Wix Code group, spoke with us about our dev-centric approach and why great developers are those who connect with the purpose of their work


Yoav Abrahami didn’t plan on staying at Wix when he was asked to help build our Mobile group in 2010. He knew us pretty well by then - 2 years earlier he was hired to rearrange Wix’s server architecture, and his brother, Avishai, is Wix’s CEO - but he had his reservations. As a software architect, he was used to a certain lifestyle: being brought to work on a project and moving on to the next one.


“When I was first asked to come on over to Wix, I was asked to figure out how to deal with the iPhone that had just been released. We were Flash-based at the time, and iPhones didn’t work with Flash, so we created an HTML version of Wix sites that worked on iPhones. Later on I was asked to rearrange our servers in order to enable massive growth and faster release cycles.”


What made you stay?


“First, it was a combination of two challenges: a technological one and a human one. We built a technological infrastructure and then hired people and created the development culture. Later on, what kept me here was the freedom I had to explore ideas and create new things. This type of freedom to act as an entrepreneur is quite unique to Wix. We work very hard at connecting our engineers to our products and we let people lead their own initiatives.


Methodical as he is, Yoav's approach to his work was, well, quite methodical. As the first chief architect at Wix, he hired a team of several serious people, introduced Wix to the CI/CD approach (based on producing software in short cycles and at the same time brought the TDD (Test Driven Development) methodology into the company.


Being Dev-centric


His approach to developers taking complete ownership of their work established Wix as a developer-centric company early on. “Back then, lots of organizations kept developers from doing production stuff or from being familiar with QA since they were seen as an expensive asset. That approach failed because developers were detached from the big picture and the purpose of what they were doing. At Wix, we wanted our developers to be responsible for the quality of their work instead of leaning on QA people, to understand the product, and to be involved in testing. Today, developers at Wix see all their metrics on the production. If they screw something up, -they’re the ones responsible for fixing it.”


Since then, one challenge followed another and Yoav immersed himself in all things Wix, finally co-managing Wix Code, a group dedicated to give developers the ability to code on top of our platform, allowing them to build robust websites and web applications.


“The group has 3 products,” he says. “Wix Data, which allows our users to integrate databases into a site and manage them through a content management system. It enables the design of an easy to replicate page since the content is pulled from the same source while giving a professional designer the possibility to give their client access only to the content on their website. Without it you’d need to allow access to the whole website and take the risk that they will get in trouble over delicate design issues. The second product is Search, which is pretty self explanatory - it allows searching within a website and also searching all of Wix. The third is Velo, which enables developers to add different capabilities to existing Wix-based websites;


“Yet another part of what we do is called Outreach, and it enables our developers to quickly add capabilities to websites upon request. We create working examples of certain wanted features that we’ve added to websites, and help customers by explaining how to do things. We take on specific projects - not products - that are much easier and faster to build through Velo.


“When the pandemic began, we got a call from a government office asking us if we could build a system that will automatically call elderly people and ask them if they need assistance. Velo enabled us to build that system in 2 weeks. Without it, seasoned developers would need 3 or 4 months to do it. The idea is to challenge ourselves and create references - for us and for our partners - that showcase how far we can go with this tool and what we can achieve by using it.”


Engineering for engineers


Yoav says that the vision behind Velo was clear from the very beginning - combining cloud-based tools and Wix’s drag and drop design tools. “One of the main outputs of this vision is the reduction in developing costs and the acceleration in development pace. Since what we do here is developing a cloud for everything, the challenges are keeping lots of users - millions of them - on the cloud. I’ll explain: if we have a million users and they’re all doing the same thing, that’s easy. But if we have a million users and all of them are doing different things and have the ability to write different backend code, it’s a challenge. Imagine that some of them are working on a small scale website suitable for a mom-and-pop store while others are working on a huge scale website like the ones used by airline companies. All that while keeping response time very very low.


"Being at the forefront doesn't only mean inventing the technology, but also being super creative in using existing technologies and inventing or discovering new capabilities on our own"

"I think that Wix as a product company is very technological and innovative, and yet, among its dozens of products, I think that Velo is one of the most advanced between the various product groups. There are similar things out there like low code platforms that configure things very quickly, but they are limited in their ability because they don’t reveal the cloud capabilities directly to their users.


“In Velo, each project has a Node.js server that the user can write code for, and each project in Velo also receives a database. These capabilities make it possible to do almost anything in the user's application or business. It is packaged in a very fast development process that allows you to connect to any service and any API. After you write the code, you click Publish, and it is immediately ready for production on several sites in the world, and with the ability to withstand considerable traffic.


“Of course, creating such a solution is a complex technological challenge. For example, today we ran an order of one million containers a day on less than 20 machines (VMs). This is possible thanks to the solution we built for the Cold Start problem of serverless systems. Another big challenge is our clients’ development experience. Since our clients are themselves developers, we need to provide them with the professional development tools they’re expecting us to give them. This platform is intended for professionals who know that by building their projects on Wix, they’re reducing its time to market by 90 percent. They expect to use the tools they’re used to working with, on top of Velo.”


“I always say that we are at the forefront of technology, but being at the forefront doesn't only mean inventing the technology, but also being super creative in using existing technologies and inventing different and new forms of use or discovering new capabilities of certain tools on our own. Developers who like to work in smart, creative and innovative ways, will most definitely enjoy these challenges.”


Being so immersed in innovation for so long, you must have some thoughts about our engineering culture


“I think that what sets Wix apart from other companies isn’t the methodologies that we implemented a long time ago - they have already been implemented everywhere. Our relative advantage is that we’re an excellent school for professionalism - for developers, for team leads, for R&D managers, and for product people. If you’re thinking about building a career in tech, that’s something you should know.”

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