Case study: Building a recruitment platform from scratch

This case study covers a project we’re working on for our client, Blackspot Crew. They are a company operating in the highly competitive Maritime Recruitment industry who specialise in sourcing crew from all over the world, for jobs that might be based anywhere in the world. They approached us to design and build a bespoke platform which would allow candidates to search and apply for jobs. Plus, they needed a back-office system so their team could manage those jobs, and the whole recruiting process.

Blackspot Crew brought with them several ambitions:

  • To differentiate themselves from their competitors through a beautiful, mobile-first experience for their candidates around the world
  • To develop their own high-quality candidate database
  • To build back-office software that supports them in their daily work, and allows them to expand and coordinate their Team

Our approach

Deliver early, deliver often

For this project, we decided on an Agile-style approach. This involved working in two-week sprints, doing our best always to deliver new, working software at the end of each.

We also focused on starting with a Minimal Viable Product/Prototype (MVP) – the simplest application possible that works. And which contains just the heart of the solution.

The idea behind both these choices was to make sure we were delivering tangible results often. Rather than “going underwater” for long periods of time during which the client had nothing to see or feedback on.

A screenshot of the UI development in progress using Adobe Experience Designer
The back-office app design in progress using Adobe XD

By repeatedly delivering branded website components and usable software, we could give our client plenty of opportunities to influence the direction of development, which helped keep us on track. It also meant we invoiced in instalments, so the client didn’t up a huge, monolithic bill.

From a design and user experience perspective, it’s always a pleasure to get a commission like this. To build something as complex from the ground up is the challenge we thrive on. There was no legacy system that we needed to work with so we had free rein to choose a really fantastic set of tools and techniques for the job. This means we’ve been able to deliver a fast and easy to use web experience that the users are very happy with. It also means that incremental changes and improvements can be rolled out very quickly.”

Paul McClenaghan – Design & UX

Mobile-first, on a budget

A key technical challenge was – within budget – to provide an excellent user experience (UX) to candidates and clients alike. These types of users are used to mobile internet access, across the globe, often with poor connectivity.

We chose the Vue.js framework to build the user-facing aspects of our solution. Coupled with a CSS framework which supported graphical and UX design, we were able to achieve:

  • A responsive, mobile-first user experience that also looks fantastic on desktop
  • Custom interface elements that we can re-use throughout the application
  • “Lazy loading” for performance: components of the application are downloaded only when required. Therefore the application is lighter and quicker to load when bandwidth is tight.
Paul explains some of the project’s challenges

Enterprise-ready search

The busiest part of the whole platform is the searchable index of jobs, which is visited by thousands of users. To support this area of the system, we chose Microsoft’s Azure Search service.

We love the idea that the part of the website receiving the most requests from the most users is on a cloud platform. Plus it is one that we know can scale to support millions of users with results delivered in milliseconds.

We also love that the search engine has plenty of features for our client to exploit in future. For instance, the ability to handle typos gracefully, and geolocation of job opportunities (“show me jobs closest to my location”).

Tangible business results

Having launched their platform, our client quickly achieved their goal of developing their own integrated database of candidates.

The candidates themselves are reporting that the application is a pleasure to use – smoother and more intuitive than competing systems.

Working on a back-office system that a client relies on all day, every day, is a real responsility. Getting it right means listening to concerns as well as guiding towards outcomes that you know are going to present massive improvements. The joy of getting feedback that a new feature will save hours of work, is why we do this. And the benefits to the client of improving workflow can make a huge difference to their business.”

Paul McClenaghan – Design & UX

We’ve continued to build on the MVP we launched with. In recent sprints, we’ve focused on streamlining daily life for the recruiters. Often, we’ve found that a feature that’s not particularly hard to implement can have a huge impact on the productivity of its users. For instance, we were able to automate sending job opportunity emails to multiple longlisted candidates. This had the impact of turning a one-hour job into a one-minute job which made our client extremely happy.

The Blackspot Crew home page

Our client is now onboarding new recruiters, with a system in place to coordinate a team whose members might work anywhere in the world. Their back-office software keeps their internal processes lean, giving them more capacity to focus on hitting their sales targets.

Testimonials from the client

We asked the founders of Blackspot Crew, Louisa and Kirsty, for a couple of testimonials and they had these kind words to share…

Almost All Digital have been with us through thick and thin from very early on in our company’s journey – and I can say with full confidence they’ve played a huge part in our continued growth and success. Before we met with AAD our very ambitious web app project had all but stalled with a different web development team. Thankfully, Paul and Dave swooped in to save the day- and guided us gently (Dave) but firmly (Paul) back on track, always listening, receptive and enthusiastic to our vision and mercifully respectful of our timescale and budget. 

We are an on-line recruitment service in a niche industry where turnover is fast and qualifications and skillsets are very specific. We needed a platform to attract quality candidates and efficiently manage hundreds of job applications. Our candidate age demographic is 18-30, so tech expectations are high – and since launch we have been delighted with the overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from our candidates regarding the ease of use and look of our front end website. The back end management system is a delight to use and has dramatically reduced time spent on admin tasks.”

Louisa Boardman – Founder & Director of Blackspot Crew

Although too soon for measurable outcomes, there is a significant improvement in our ability to find, process and track the best candidates. Placements are up and confidence is very high right now – we are looking to double the size of our recruitment team by the end of the year.

We cannot recommend AAD highly enough for any company with a tech vision they need help bringing into reality. They have put up with a lot from us over the past couple of years and we are so grateful to have found them. As a team not only are they are 100% reliable and trustworthy, but brilliantly imaginative and flexible in their approach. Fantastic straight-forward communicators and completely solutions driven.”

Kirsty Wilson – Founder & Director of Blackspot Crew


Working with Blackspot Crew has been a pleasure all the way through. We’re super happy they are thriving and expanding, and we’re really pleased to have been able to support them with that.

This project not only facilitated Blackspot Crew’s growth as a company but also our own in several key ways. We established a working process using new tools and techniques which will enable us to build faster, more powerful, web applications in future. We also created a practical framework for building MVPs in short sprints that was a highly efficient way of working for the client and for ourselves.

We’re looking forward to seeing more great things from Blackspot Crew in the years to come and are super grateful to share some of that journey with them.

If you’re looking for design and development support for your next project we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us a note here.