Code in the Dark 2018

Roughly a 5 minute read by Simon

Code In The Dark Header

More smoke, more lasers, and more heavy music

A room filled with smoke, lots of lasers, and music heavy enough to make you think you’d stumbled in to a rock concert, where do we sign up? Code in the Dark of course. Now entering its third year in the UK, and having won the previous two years (Will taking it the first year, and myself taking the crown in 2017), it’d be rather rude not to show our faces. What is quickly becoming an enjoyable Team UX tradition at Engage, we embarked upon our yearly pilgrimage to Belgrave.

After some initial deliberation due to space limitations at the event, Will and I were gracious enough to let Jamie, Adam and our new hotshot developer Matt enter the competition. However, due to changes in circumstances, we were afforded the opportunity to take a team of 5. We had a title to defend after all.

The setup

For anyone unfamiliar with the Code in the Dark setup, it involves a series of preliminary heats in which contestants have 15 minutes to build a website (of the events choosing) while only being able to see the code. If a contestant views their work in the browser, it’s an instant disqualification. Each contestant has two external displays facing the audience, one with the code, and one with the live result of the code. Each round starts off slowly, but hilarity ensues when people start making glaring errors (unbeknown to the contestant writing the code).

Alas, it wouldn’t be a tech event if it was without technical hitches. Issues with the WiFi resulted in the Chromecasts disconnecting halfway through the competition, meaning the audience could no longer see the websites being build until the grand reveals after each 15 minute segment. Additionally, the voting system appeared to be flawed again, with people having the ability to cast multiple votes. There’s also a human flaw in that people will vote for their friends and colleagues over the real winners. Come on people, there’s shiny trophies at stake!

Let’s start a riot

Clearly the organisers had decided that the websites we were building in previous years were far too forgiving (such as Spotify or eBay). As a result of this, up pops the Conservative party website. From the reaction, the audience clearly had differing political allegiances.

An all Engage round - thank you Ling

The controversy continued in the next round, but for very different reasons. It was it this point, a diabolical plan was revealed; let’s have an all Engage round. Called to the stage, Jamie, Adam, Matt and I. Upon sitting down, there was a last minute changeover. We can’t be too mean on Matt, so he tagged out and Will took his place. It’s not all bad though, Matt did get to experience his first Code in the Dark by getting to build the UKIP website homepage.

Then it got interesting. What’s the best website you could possibly build in 15 minutes? Lings Cars of course. This masterpiece of a website is a part of Internet history, and we were the lucky ones who tried to recreate it.

It was a tough round, with all of us very experienced developers trying our best to get something on screen. Will was the clear winner in this round.

Now, as the winner of the previous year’s competition, and having been building websites for 15 years, only something really difficult or out of my skill set could stop me from achieving greatness, surely? As pointed out (and fixed live on stage during the voting - which was sadly too late), I’d managed to miss a closing </style> tag in the header of the document. Anyone who writes HTML will know a) how much that will destroy your hard work, and b) it’s a massive blunder. Over the years, Team UX has made some wonderful blunders, and this year was no exception.

The final: CSS animation

As much as I love a challenge, I’m somewhat glad I didn’t reach this years final. It wouldn’t be a Code in the Dark if the final wasn’t a CSS animation that requires some real concentration to accomplish. On the upside, Will made it through to the final. On the downside, this is what awaited him on stage:


Sadly, it wasn’t our year to take another first place trophy. However, Will’s valiant attempt did earn him third place, so we’ll still take it as a result. Credit where credit’s due, Tom from Blue Claw managed to produce a solid animation which closely resembled the animation above and took home first place.

Revisiting the animation

For the sake of completeness, we’ve recreated the built animation (in a much more relaxed environment, and not in 20 minutes):

[Coming soon]

A big thanks

Despite the usual technical hitches, it was another great event run by Alex and the guys at Epiphany, and it’s definitely something I’d recommend people go down to, either as a spectator or a contestant. Hopefully there’s a Code in the Dark 2019 so we can attempt to claim back our crown.