“Launch!” The Modern Developer’s Old-School Laudanum.

JPE finally launched today after 2.5 months in development in what should have taken maybe 4-6 weeks.  Why the bloated and distended timeline?  Why I’m glad you asked!  I’m currently looking back thru emails and notes trying to figure that out.

With NeoSoul Trading, things snagged up with general over ambitiousness on my part.  I heard, “we want a site that might eventually need a way to post fairly regular blog-style posts, maybe down the road some community-building forums type functionality, but basically we just want the site working with these pages and some news feeding in from your feed burner account.”  I heard all that, yes, and my mind instantly jumped to “Oh blog and forums and we could do it really fancy with a front-end, Ajax-style, jQuery submission and…. ”  …and 2 weeks later I look at the design notes again and say… well damn, nothing I’ve done is actually applicable!

NeoSoul was a fresh company and it took us a little while to get all of the site copy as they were busy building a business (and a beautiful job they did!), coupled mostly with my lack of proper Owner-Developer communication.  I’d work for a week on the site, send an email to the guys, and get back something resembling “…well thats nice.. but where is what we asked for?”  Oops.  Ok, that’s not how it went down.  But the moral is, and ultimately the reason I went looking for and came across, a more Agile-style development pattern.

With JPE I came a lot closer to this ideal.  Email communication between myself and the site owner occurred almost daily, which almost tried to topple things in a different, wrong direction!  The graphics designer on this project would send stylistic corrections to be made.  I was ass-deep in code.  And the site owner was looking at me wondering why the designer was getting upset because her styles weren’t being followed. Why couldn’t I just read a damn PDF that was beautifully laid out, carefully marked with screen-shots and pretty arrows telling me This paragraph needs to go over Here.

After becoming incredibly frustrated myself at trying to juggle and switch off between logical code-brain to write code and functionality, receiving an email with new or updated styles and trying to fix those in a style-brain mode, keeping up email communications between everyone letting them know when to expect all of these things, and then finding myself getting almost nothing really accomplished, I took a step back to re-evaluate.

The communication was there.  We were all communicating.  My development emails would go out about neat, new functionality.  Only to be ignored by design emails which slid into my inbox and stayed there because I personally thought I had bigger fish to fry.  There was no structure; no order.  Everyone was talking.  No one was listening.  And it was my fault.  So how do you fix it?

To resolve the situation I sent another email, “Here’s how this is going to work.  I am going to spend the next week or so focusing Solely on code.  It doesn’t matter how pretty the site is, if it doesn’t Do anything, we have no site.  After I complete the functionality, we’ll all take another look at the style/design side of things and make it all pretty like it should be and give proper dues to design.”

I think any time you tell a designer, “Hi, while your pretty pictures are wonderful, they are actually of no concern to anything I am thinking about or doing right now.  If we were Baldwin brothers, I’m Alec, you’re Stephen.  Go Photoshop yourself a seat , plzkthx.”  …they don’t take too kindly to that.  And even though I attempted as diplomatic and as pacifying a tone as I could muster, my words from the previous paragraph were read as the words from this paragraph.

Now, that said, there was some pre-existing animosity between Design and Development as before I picked up the site, it had actually been in development for roughly 9 months, with a decent hand-coded PHP approach, but with a lot of lag between communication and progress.

All in all, my newest site is live.  I’m happy.  They’re happy.  And it’s funny how Every time, with every job, it doesn’t matter how intense your design & development team discussions are, all the grumbling, posturing, uncomfortable, awkward agitation, and stress fade away like the name of a red-shirted ensign the moment that everyone is sitting down together, everything has been triple-checked four times over for the 9th time, everything’s a go, everyone has a celebratory beverage of their choosing in their hand, and the site owner says, “Launch.”

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