Thursday, February 11, 2010

Building a Website in 40 hours, Part 1

wam-group Welcome to the first part of a multi-part series on Telerik Watch describing the process for building an impressive website in 2 days. In this series, I am going to share tips and tricks, along with some real world stories, for building a high-quality, usable website that supports critical business processes in less than 48 hours (if you’re working on WAM Weekend Time).

The purpose of this series is two-fold:

  1. If you’re going to participate in a Givecamp, this advice should help your Givecamp team deliver incredible results in the short 2-day period you have to work
  2. If you’re just interested in comparing your website building process to someone else’s, this series may highlight ideas and approaches you’ve overlooked in the past

Along the way, I’ll highlight best practices for building standards-based websites, different tools and frameworks that “Team Telerik” used at We Are Microsoft 2010 to be successful, and, of course, how the Telerik tools helped us do weeks worth of work in two days.

Let’s begin…

Continue reading Building a Website if 40 hours

Pre-planning

If you’re going to participate in a Givecamp, or meet with a client for that matter, you need to do some pre-planning. You need to do some research about the people you are about to serve and try to understand their motivations, their expectations, and- critical for web development- where they’re coming from with their existing website.

The goal of pre-planning: create a list of intelligent questions.

If you can have a focused list of questions prepared for your first meeting with your charity (or client), they will have infinitely more trust in your ability to deliver high quality results. It’s like a job interview. A good interview may get you the job, but a great interview will get you the job and a signing bonus.

Requirements

There is very little I can offer on the subject of effectively gathering requirements that has not already been archived somewhere on the web. What I can say is that even in the environment of a Givecamp (or any other time constrained project), detailed requirements gathering is critical. Make sure you spend time getting answers to your pre-planning questions and really try to understand the key goals of your client’s project. Charity or not, failure at this step makes everything that follows much harder.

How much time should you spend on requirements at a Givecamp?

This will obviously vary by team and charity, but Team Telerik did not start touching code until nearly 10:00 PM on day one. We spent a solid 4 to 5 hours meeting with our charity, discussing our objectives, and mapping out our requirements for the weekend. When all was done and said, we had a huge whiteboard that defined our key deliverables, and that served as our road map for the weekend. It also served as the informal contract between our team and our charity for what would be delivered by the end of the weekend.

IMG_1970

From our high-level objectives, we started mapping out the specific features and actions that our website would need to support. We also started to identify the tasks that would require extra research or the features that would “Nice to Haves,” but maybe not feasible in 40 hours.

combined-board

Time to start coding? Nope. Not yet.

Work Smarter, Not Harder.

Now that your requirements are clearly defined, you need to start planning for the execution. Some developers would suggest that means you’re at the point where you start writing tests or code, but if you’re a “work smarter, not harder” developer, that means you want to fully evaluate the tools, services, and frameworks that already exist and that can help you do more in less time.

A great developer does not write every line of code in an application by hand. A great developer knows how to find and use great tools, only writing code where it creates unique value for the project.

With that in mind, stay tuned for part 2: Mapping requirements to deliverables with tools in mind.