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October 12, 2010

Why the 24 Hour Web Project Works

October 12, 2010

When we did the first 24 Hour Web Project in July 2009 with Second Helpings, it was a bit of a leap of faith. Yes, we did some planning (Does the server work? Will we be able to connect to the internet during the project? Will we have all the content from the client? and so forth), but it was the first time we'd ever designed, developed and launched a website in 24 contiguous hours. Even more so, it was a website for someone else, so we had to collaborate with a new team we hadn't worked with yet. We were counting on seamless communication and collaboration between teams, for decisions to be made quickly and definitively, for our team to work fast enough to design and build the site in the time allotted, and for everything to work out enough that we'd be able to let go and have a bit of fun together during that 24 hours. I have to say, I think we did quite well for ourselves and I'm very proud of both teams.

Fast forward to September 29-30 when we did the same thing for the Madame Walker Theatre. Again, similar leap of faith and similar success.

After both Projects, we've received questions like, 'Why can't you build EVERY site in 24 hours?' or more accurately, 'Why can't you build MY site in 24 hours?' This is a good question, so let's talk about why the 24 Hour Web Project works.

We only have 24 hours.
This is probably the biggest factor. Since we have just 24 hours to complete a site, we have to be swift in our assessment of the client's needs, brainstorm and sketch our ideas quickly, and make decisions efficiently. There's little room for waffling back and forth on an idea. So the time constraint really helps to keep the project moving along.

Preliminary planning.
In order to ensure a successful 24 hours, we take time to plan a few things in the weeks prior. This includes working through technical issues such as where the site will be hosted, where the domain is registered, what payment gateways we need (if any), as well as working with the client to come to a somewhat final site map and making sure the client comes to the start of the Project with at least 90% of the content for the site. This way, we spend the 24 hours focused on creating a message and website design for the client's target audience, and coding and developing that design and tweaking the content to align with that message (as well as for SEO!).

The client knows how to engage, when to trust us, and when to provide input.
In both Projects we had two members from the client's team who provided approval and signoff at the necessary points during the Project. Both teams got involved in the process when needed and trusted us to do our jobs well when the time came (and often provided musical entertainment during those times). In addition, this allowed us to be more agile through the project and helped us avoid potential design by committee mishaps.

Both teams are in the same room with each other the whole time.
This means instant communication. If we need feedback on designs or questions answered on content details, we can go straight to the client who is sitting two seats away and get direct feedback/answers.

We only do it once a year.
If we created sites in 24 hours every week (while trying to do everything else we do), we'd be burnt out in no time. It certainly takes a lot of energy to pull it off, not only from the team involved in the Project, but from the rest of our team holding up the fort and maintaining our other projects back in the office. Without the support of everyone on our team, we wouldn't be able to even have a 24 Hour Web Project. So a big thank you to everyone directly and indirectly involved.

And thank you to the folks who watched our live blog, live video feed, live tweets and supported us from the great Internet space (and to those who donated to the Walker Theatre during the project!). We can't wait for the next project. Hopefully it will be bigger and better than ever, and hopefully we can get you more involved.

See you next year!

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