My primary role was as a development consultant (DC), I know, it’s yet another case of “What’s that?” But I’ve had a lot of strange titles over the years and this wasn’t even close to the worst.
The DC role is the single point of contact for all digital projects, from responding to RfI and RfP to delivering pitch, workshops and requirements gathering, we have veto powers over UX and visual design deliverables, we help with client account management, project management, handling technical project management and the scrum master role. We also create, manage and own the evolution of the project documentation. Finally, we help out supporting all of the different teams, all the way to planning and executing the rollout on time and ensuring that the training and support structure is in place. Oh, and let’s not forget planning the after project beers, which is my favourite.
Projects I was personally either in charge of or part managed:
Rio Tinto – like a wild charging elephant, out of control and headed for a china shop, this enormous website was an effort to bring nearly 300 pieces of web real estate into one offering. It still needs a lot of work and always will. Technology is OpenText on the back end and there are lots of little bits on the front including some angular.js for a MVC pattern of the recruitment. It’s a monster. One fact that never really left me was the millions of pounds it cost to make one wheel for one of their monster trucks.
Wonderful clients and I think what I liked most about them was the relationship we had with them which was based on honesty and regular communication.
BUPA – Knee clinic. This was a Sitecore responsive (Scr/Mob/Tab) mini site or even a web application, with about 6 main pages, multi-media, a knee assessment test and the primary BUPA information to try to steer patients with knee issues toward the best solution for their problem knees and not just straight to surgery. Although this was a MVP with a very fast turnaround I think we did pretty well on presenting the key journeys to knee sufferers which were to identify the problem, understand all possible outcomes and treatments available and finally to present a positive non-invasive solution matrix for getting the problem fixed at BUPA.
RUAG – another mini site for the weapons makers to promote their exhibition presence. This was an add on to the brand work being done for the client by Rufus. Built using Node.js and Grunt (no CMS), the main feeds were auto generated XML files to allow some flexibility to the content. MVP.
FriendsInNeed – This was a project that I took over temporarily for the charity and that was using an outsourced dev team on a bespoke WordPress child theme. A lot of pain in this project, and it was a case of what can happen when strict project controls are not in place to manage aspects like Strategy and UX. MVP.
In my opinion because this was literally a charity project we messed up on the UX, journeys were not analysed and catered for and the usability aspect was not good.
Another key problem area is with managing third party development teams. You need to have a REALLY good communication procedure for this to work, with documented response times and expectations laid out.
THRE – TIAA and Henderson global investment joined forces with a European based merger of their houses. This was a staged Sitecore MVP project with a lot more functionality expected down the line. The site was built using the Rufus responsive framework, but with only one viewport for the first build to allow for screen and tablet – because of the way the framework is set up, it’s quite easy to add several more later.
Very complex legal shenanigans to do with who can see what and when and for how long (I think I billed about 40 hours just for this on meetings and phone calls – worse than medical advertising MHRA) and whilst I do feel happy that we the consumer are protected by the government, sometimes these protections can go too far with little or no value – a bit like asking an under age teen to tell the truth on an 18+ check before entering a game site.[Aside: You might think MVP is something to do with most valuable or other possible takes. It could also be most vile, or mediocre visionary. It is in fact minimum viable project and means two things. Firstly, the official definition states it is a product that has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. Secondly, it means either the client is quite cheap, or we have run out of budget because strategy spent it all on lunches and creating new buzzwords that don’t mean anything real. It’s real meaning in terms of running projects is that the project is so close to the wire that in fact Paul Newman is already on his way to Switzerland on his motorbike. It also decreases potential scope on UX and technology to enable a better, brighter, future]
Presentations: Steve Storey is the in house interaction and video designer at Rufus, he’s another very clever chap and has a wonderful feel for producing insightful pitch videos for clients. Steve and I collaborated (in secret) to create a tool which would take his video and allow the owner to artificially create a menu of cue points which could then be navigated during the presentation. I took this idea a step further.
This was a bit of a start-stop-start-stop arrangement and one that I collaborated with Howard King, who’s a very clever chap when it comes to all things analytical. Together, we scoped out a series of analytics providers (not the horrifically expensive ones) and cherry picked what we wanted from the various API’s, this feed then went into a bespoke app which I created to try to show off the power that was available for customers and their brands. The proposition was created to try to push our clients towards both our analytics skills and our app for mobile skills, both of which needed some serious pushing. The bespoke app was to be a management friendly analysis of the analytics with comparative analyses on competitors / peers. The app showed off graphs, gave brand feedback and a series of recommendations. It didn’t take off as we could never decide, ‘we’ not including Howard or myself, the full scope of the app.
What was fun was coming up with generic animated graph widgets for line/bar/multi-bar/bar-h/pie and some quite cool animation sequences. I will put up a flash version when I get a moment free, but the image shows off a few of them.
Rufus Leonard Website – I think everyone in the company got dragged into this at some point. It’s based on a WordPress theme and then we added some features from our own responsive framework. Bit too boxy for my liking but there we go. The top right real estate with the logo animation is something I was trying to get changed (you can see a prototype of this here) and could be used to show off latest news and video and games and projects etc but never really took off because it was too expensive. My problems from a UX perspective is lack of consistency in how the blocks behave and are interacted with, everything is linked to hover, not that useful for mobile. The real estate wastage in the top right and I didn’t like the lack of connectivity between work pieces (should have had a nice slider to right and left. IMHO) Finally, I didn’t really agree with the site navigation taxonomy, we have a selection of action verbs, and then nouns and then back to verbs again – not really that clear, also I didn’t really get the “think” item which means blog. Why not just call it blog?
I was also in charge of UI developer recruitment for Rufus, mostly because Danny was way over worked and neither Peter or Sandro wanted to do it. I quite like recruiting, I just hate all the paperwork that is needed before you get a potential candidate in from of you. Oh and I am a dab hand at Xmas departmental party organisation – but I do need to sample the wares before final selection.
The rest of my time was spent on documents, pitch, proposal, workshops, client visits and an internal project to introduce a UCD approach to digital incorporating strategy, UX and design, along with a responsive in-house framework (bootstrap light without that bootstrap look)