“Y’know, we should probably update our site”.
We first started talking about redesigning our company website in 2013, after the last redesign had been launched in 2010. We agreed on having full Filament workdays, dedicated to brainstorming ideas for compelling new content, and constructing wireframes based off of those ideas. But a few weeks in, Filament Day needed to be pushed a day or so, then a week, and soon it was simply forgotten under the steadily mounting pile of client work that commanded priority.
Since then, we’ve started and stopped progress on the site amid client work and other pressing internal projects. As time passed and shiny new advances in web and tech became the norm, our site felt increasingly dated by the day. Putting it off meant that our presence on the web, no longer reflective of us and our work, could be costing us business. But we’ve been steadily busy for years, and client work always trumped any sort of free time any of us had to make progress on the site.
Earlier this year, we rebooted our Filament Day initiative, and agreed to work only on internal projects on Fridays after 2pm. That hasn’t remained so strictly enforced, considering client work-related deadlines are constantly looming, but we’ve made some solid progress. In the interim, we’ve put up a temporary landing page that acknowledges our lack of progress, butincludes a section that speaks to something we’re exploring in earnest– transparency.
Behind the curtain
Since transitioning to a more iterative approach, we’ve been really aiming for increased client collaboration and communication throughout the course of a project. You’ve heard this before– less of the grand presentation of the beautifully polished final product after weeks of working in silence, more transparency into the imperfection along the way. This means more input from the client, ultimately making for a better final product. (Admittedly as a designer, I’m still working on letting go of my defensiveness and apprehension when it comes to external eyes on my process work though.)
That principle, of not being afraid to show failure as you learn, ties in with what we love most about working on the web.
The web community is made of up people who are keen to not only give, but to receive advice. People who get up on stage to teach their peers about their experiences with experimentation and innovation. People who build on one another’s work and share their findings. People who encourage an environment of learning and improvement. And– may as well embrace this buzzwordy cheesefest– people who inspire and motivate.
Instead of working behind a digital curtain of secrecy for this project, we’ll be sharing our successes and failures for our community of peers to observe along the way, warts and all (as disgusting as that idiom is). To be totally honest, we also thought keeping ourselves accountable with our own progress on the site was a good way of shaming us into getting it done. Having a months-old dribbble shot, or weeks-old commit message on our homepage has the potential to speak volumes about our dedication to our own work.
“OK, seriously, we need to update our site.”
Months into Filament Fridays, 3 hours per week simply wasn’t enough to make a lot of headway on the new site. As soon as momentum got going, it’d be time for the weekend. With a new internal deadline of going live before our Holiday break in December, we needed to make more time to dedicate to the full site redesign.
One person taking initiative realistically wasn’t enough. This needed to get done as a team. So in September, we agreed as a team to dedicate extra time outside of work hours to get this site live by December– working Tuesdays until 10pm and one Saturday and Sunday per month.
If not now, then when?
While time is always a constraint, we want to take the time to build something innovative, beautiful, and reflective of our abilities at Filament. Along with this comes self-imposed challenges.
This technically being an internal project, we have the leeway to make whatever we want as cool as we want it to be. We have the flexibility to learn something new now, more so than in any client project. But we also have the leeway (and tendency, in this case) to push out the timeline indefinitely. The last thing we want is to have that temporary landing page as our front-facing web presence for another six months, and another six months, and another six months…
As it stands, we’ve agreed that the opportunity to learn new technologies to put to use in building the site is worth the time investment. And though the impending threat of indefinite timeline extensions hasn’t been overlooked, we can definitely afford some flexibility for ourselves.
So, how’s that working out so far?
It’s been, perhaps unsurprisingly, a challenge.
Being so close to our own project, we’ve found ourselves making decisions, backtracking on those decisions, and having meetings about making and backtracking on decisions and meetings. But we’ve also been taking increasingly larger steps farther into getting things done.
Here’s what we’ve found, a couple of months into the project:
- Without a dedicated project manager, effective time management is proving to be crucial. Burnout is a real concern with a small team, long hours, and challenging work. Putting in extra time without seeing satisfying results can easily mean exhaustion and frustration, so we want to make sure we’re being efficient, and not banging our heads against the wall during the extra hours we’re putting in.
- With 2 teammates working remotely, 1 of them being in a different time zone, putting the time into communication and documentation is imperative.
- After much of the aforementioned debate of time investment vs risk, our dev team has excitedly decided to move forward with the challenge of learning, and developing the site using a brand new framework– Ember.
- As for design, the team is hard at work on incorporating prototyping into our design process, and not deeming a page complete until all pertinent interactive elements have been prototyped. With this comes, of course, time investment and the unique challenge of learning 3 prototyping tools at once. Read more about our prototyping challenge here.
- As there’s one person working on content with 4 designers and 4 developers, content is technically a bottleneck, but continues to become ironed out the farther along we get in the project.
Less talk, more action
In other recent news of getting things done that we’ve been talking about doing for years, we’ve also been spending the last few months organizing our first ever annual hackathon event called Filanthropy. On November 5th, we’re planning to work 24 hours straight to help a Canadian charity realize a digital initiative. We’re excited and confident that we’re going to be able to contribute something meaningful for our recipient this year– Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
As we continue to make progress, stay tuned for more updates from other members of the team as we try our darnedest to get this site live in a reasonable amount of time. Also, we welcome tweets of encouragement (particularly around the 3am mark) for our hackathon event with the hashtag #Filanthropy2015.