October 6th, 2011

Codaroos in the Geek Olympics

Full Code Press – aka. the Geek Olympics!  A yearly event where teams from the United States, Australia and New Zealand go head-to-head to build a fully functional content managed website for a not-for-profit organisation in 24 hours.

Codaroos, Team USA, Code Blacks and clients

The Full Code Press teams of 2010

Arriving in Wellington with my other team mates a few days before the event, we were all excited about being able to put our skills to good use and produce someone amazing for a well deserving organisation.  The thought of producing a whole website in a day though, seemed insurmountable the more we thought about it. Sleep deprivation aside, however, the experience itself was incredibly fun and much more rewarding than any of us could have anticipated.

Each team is comprised of a designer, CSS/HTML coder, programmer, user-experience advocate, content writer and project manager. As the P.M for the Aussie team (the Codaroos!), it was an incredible opportunity to work alongside incredible talent from the USA and New Zealand, and be able to help three very deserving organisations at the same time.

Building a website from scratch is no mean feat, let alone in 24 hours.  At times we wondered if it was nothing sort of miraculous – meeting and briefing with a new client, determining audience needs and internal resource requirements, defining intuitive navigational structures and architecture, writing content, managing assets, restructuring logos, devising palettes, finding fonts, creating fresh interface designs and banners, developing a CMS managed website, setting up social media platforms and tying these all together with code which is highly usable and accessible for both users and the client.  Sounds daunting right?!

We were well prepared going in – we had strategies, timelines, brief documents and feature lists.  We had a team approach – who would do what, when and where would others step in.  We had all the tools we needed to mock up ideas quickly, and previous Skype meetings meant the team was already communicating and on the same page before we even arrived.

But behind any strategy, there needs to be constant re-evaluation and re-prioritisation in order to get a better, targeted and on-brief result, even when feeling under the pump. There may be six different roles assigned, but if you are going to build a site in a day, we understood the team needed to pull together and crossover in responsibilities.  Ownership of tasks would work but ego’s wouldn’t.  Collaboration and coffee beans seemed like a winning combination!

In meeting with our client and learning about the target audience, our mocked up plans for having a feature rich site were ditched favour of a content rich site, focussing on being highly accessible and a simple usable solution – the client, the stories and the audience were at the forefront, not the technical capabilities or plugins available.

A waterfall approach, let alone any sort of rigid timeline, was just not possible – timelines went out the window in favour of small sprints with bullet point tasks; sitemaps and wireframes were created and sorted using paper cards, texta’s and bluetack; content was verbally discussed and typed directly into the CMS.  It was agile and iterative and very much supported by a hands-on client who sat with us the entire time.  The result? A trophy for Team Australia, three very happy (and tired!) teams and a well deserved new websites for Hearing Dogs Australia, Te Hua Rangatahi Trust and Victoria House, Timaru Mental Health Support Trust.

We were forewarned by previous participants it may take a few weeks to recover from the event.  I assumed this was overkill and perhaps they weren’t as accustomed to burning the candle at both ends as I have sometimes been known to. Hindsight, however, has shown it was no incidental comment.  Stories of other team members falling asleep mid-conversation, losing their vocabulary and surmissing to just nods and smiles, or passing out in overflowing baths, were rife on the journey back to Australia the following day. Returning home, I could barely insert my keys into my front door due to the mix of sleep deprivation and caffeine induced shakes.  But while my sleep cycle took a knocking, the buzz from the whole experience lasted weeks and from all accounts, has changed the way each of us now approach our work.

Volunteers were documenting the entire event, taking photos and posting to Flickr and video interviews with each of the team members over the course of the build.  Looking back at the videos posted, you can slowly see the sleep deprivation taking hold! You can see the final three websites on the FCP site and document their progress over the course of the night.

An incredible opportunity highly recommended for anyone in the industry who loves what they do and would like the chance to be thrown in the deep end doing it!

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Thanks fot the entry K

Comment by Tbone October 12, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

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