It was 7am when we all sat around the table eating scones with jam and cheese. A big day awaited as the clouds settled over Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain. The plan was to build ourselves a new website in one day. The reason for doing it in such a limited timeframe boiled down to one thing: Time = Money.
The thing is, we usually get paid for building stuff like this, but this time the client was us. Up until then, we were a marketing agency with an outdated website and very little motivation to replace it. Our clients’ projects took priority over our own stuff. It’s the classic case of the mechanic with the broken car.
You don’t need Jeff from I.T. to build a website
When I tell people that I co-own a digital marketing agency in Cape Town, they tend to respond like this: “Oh, my cousin is also in I.T.” Sure, there are a lot nerd sauce involved in developing a website. But, at the core it’s a creative project that involves marketing gurus, copywriters and graphic designers as much as it needs people that can code. Luckily in our team we have a good mix of talents. The challenge was to maximise our time and creativity to get the site live before C.O.D.
This is how we did it.
- And the MVP goes to… Minimal Viable Product was the name of the game. Build fast, launch quick and optimise in the days to come. This concept really helped us to work fast and not get stuck in personal opinions about button colours and footer functionalities.
- The democrats have got a point. When we got stuck, we put it to a vote.
- So after stuffing our faces with scones we gathered around the art director’s iMac. We chose a theme that 4 out of the 6 liked. Usually we work with wireframe designs, but for time purposes we went for a WordPress theme. Once we knew how the site will look, the content juices started to flow.
- We worked in small teams, each according to his or her skill set.
- Every 30 – 50 minutes we would check in as a team using our Stand-Up Meeting-style to keep the chit-chat low and the critical feedback to the point. Whatever felt like fat we trimmed or parked for another day.
- At 4pm we made some serious decisions about how our final hour should play out and by 5pm we closed the office as the migration from the staging site to the new platform began.
- Google Docs to write all the copy in a shared doc.
- Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and good ol’ pen & paper for design.
- Asana to coordinate our checklists.
- Slack for sharing files and keeping spirts high with lame dad jokes and borderline offensive GIFs.
- The Bosch 1100W Styline Filter Coffee Maker to keep up the pace.
What we aimed for.
- Fast and light.
- Mobile friendly.
- SEO of course.
- Must look legit.
- Something simple yet scalable.
What we missed.
That is the thing about a minimum viable product. The emphasis is as much on minimum as it is on viable.
- We aimed for 6 client portfolios and had to settle with 3 when the site went live.
- We accidentally deleted all our old blog posts!
- We are still searching for a story metaphor better than the doughnuts. Although we do love doughnuts.
What we learned
- We have a diverse portfolio of clients and our team members tend to get sucked deep into their projects. Although we know each other’s magic, we rarely get to witness it live as the day unfolds.
- Co-working on one single project helped us to work better, faster and more creative.
- To build a basic WordPress website is a lot of work. In total it took us more than 40 team hours to get the MVP site live. Counting the iterations that followed, we are looking at 60 hours for WordPress website that will make our clients smile.
- Gutenberg. The new built-in WordPress editor is fully integrated with Genesis. We just drop in our content; zero tweaking required.
- Cloudflare. We run Cloudflare on all our sites to improve site speed and provide an additional layer of security.
- Our development workflow makes use of local development for quick testing and iteration. We use Beanstalk to host Git repositories, and deploy to staging and production sites. We manage WordPress databases using WP Migrate Pro.