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Catalyst Notifications Week 3

Mar 2021

We’ve completed week 3 of the Catalyst notifications project; you can read more about the service and our aims. But in summary, we’re looking to help Charities/Non-profits with notifying their service users by launching a service based on GOV.UK Notify. This is what we have been up to this week.


  • Week 3 has been a good week, with some great learning opportunities for the team.
  • We’ve also begun work on the branding styles this week and will look to make some good progress on this over the next few days.
  • Looking ahead, we are planning our first show and tell which we are looking forward to.


  • We faced some interesting challenges getting the service deployed into staging and production.
    • Undocumented environment variables that are only used in these environments meant that the app would crash on startup when not set. The logs did not help in tracking down the issue, so we had to add in Sentry for error reporting to see what was happening.
    • Letsencrypt the service we use for issuing SSL/TLS certificates had downtime due to a DDoS attack.
    • The initial deployments were then failing as the application health check depended on the database being set up. We modified the health check so that it only tests the application layer. 


  • Updated developer bootstrap scripts and Docker configs so developers can spin-up dependencies and configure the API and Admin applications within minutes.
  • Significantly simplified onboarding documentation and improved the bootstrap scripts to automate as much of the setup process as possible.
  • Successfully deployed the API application to a new staging environment.
  • Successfully deployed the Celery task worker to the staging environment. This service is responsible for the queueing and sending of messages to providers such as Twilio and Amazon SES.


  • Set up an Alpha hosting environment for the API project.
  • Added Sentry error reporting integration to the API and Admin projects so we will be able to catch and analyze error from services in live mode quickly and effectively.
  • Paired with Dave on improving the new developer experience and documentation.


  • Started working on rebranding the application by overriding GDS Design System with Catalyst’s branding
  • We are adding the styles in a way that are not exclusive to the application so that other Catalyst applications can reuse as a library.

We should be on track to start testing with some users by the end of next week, so if you would like an invite, please drop us a line on [email protected].

Bit Zesty creates innovative digital products and services for corporations, nonprofit and startup organisations. Our experience working with charities and government organisations leave us well placed to understand their requirements and deliver them in a way that delights service users.

Get in touch with Matthew Ford ([email protected]) for more information about this project.

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