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24 the web 2011

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Last weekend saw the second 24 the web event, a twenty-four hour web design & development marathon where three teams of seven specialists all worked together to build a website for a charity.

Here’s the three sites that were created – I think they all reflect how a professional design process can produce exceptional results. They were conceived, designed and developed by: Tom Cunningham, Donovan Hutchinson, Ciarán Harris, Colm McBarron, Anne Magner, Fabrizio Calderon, Cory-Ann Joseph, Christian Hughes, Mark Wallis, Stephanie Francis, Celine O’Neill, Matt Finucane, Una Vejsbjerg, Neil Turner, Elaine Larkin, John Rainsford, Ken Stanley, Aoife Ross, Michael Flanagan, Paul Watson and Martha Rotter – you can follow them all here.

My job was just to find volunteers and charities, find a venue (Engineyard/Orchestra – thanks to Eamon Leonard) and get sponsorship (thanks Blacknight and all the sponsors) with the help of Darragh Doyle, who also helped document the whole event.

There’s some cool time-lapse stuff to come!

Almost Home website
Dress for Success website
Change Nation website

How others can do this

I’ve seen a few comments saying how this would be a good idea for other people to try. It’s very easy to say ‘somebody should do XYZ’ but to be honest with a good support network of friends and businesses, a very patient partner, a bit of time in the evenings and a good old spreadsheets of tasks, it’s not that difficult to organise a design event like this. The hard work is all from the volunteers’ side. Hopefully the following might help, based on what I’ve learned over the last two 24 the webs (or 24s the web I don’t know…)

Volunteers

  • You need great volunteers, who really know their shit. They are 99.9% responsible for the success of the projects. I’ve been lucky to have fantastic volunteers sign up.
  • You need a diverse range of skills.
  • Selecting people is very difficult. Sign-ups for the last two events have always been to very high standards. Can’t really think of any easy tips for this one, except to encourage teams to sign up.
  • To get signups make a form in Google Documents, and stick it on a website. This is saved to a spreadsheet. Add some columns for who’s picked or not, and team names.
  • Import this into Mailchimp and use its segmenting tool to send certain emails to specific people.
  • Ask for confirmation that people are coming, so there’s no surprises on the day. Mailchimp is handy for seeing if an email’s been opened or not.
  • Be sure to thank everyone who took the time to volunteer, selected or not, and ask permission to contact someone again if you need a substitute.
  • Tell them what they need to bring and what’s supplied, including hardware, software, hosting and licensing.

Logistics

  • Set a deadline. Building stuff ‘in your spare time’ makes it very hard to get things finished, especially if many people are involved. Sufficient time (debatable!), a fixed end point, and everyone in the one place means you get something done.
  • You need a venue where everyone’s together, so there’s more team spirit, energy and banter. A separate room for naps, meetings and quiet time is important too.
  • You need to keep people fed and full of caffeine. It’s at least four meals – lunch, dinner, supper, breakfast.
  • Be sure to ask everyone to thank and promote the sponsors.
  • If you’re running the show your job is to make sure everyone’s ok. After 10 hours stop doing this, you’re annoying them and they know where to find you!
  • Ask people for help – donations of time, money or resources are out there, you just need to ask.

Charities

  • It’s up to you how you select charities. A mix of charities makes for more diverse work, while a theme might be good too. Up to you really.
  • As this is a one-off build and not a relationship the charity needs someone who will keep the site alive and updated, so an active Facebook page, Twitter account or blog is a good indicator.
  • You need to make sure the charities have a great brief and decent content – depending on your criteria the content may not be available, but they should at least have a strong idea about what exactly they need.
  • This website briefing document is a good starting point. Make sure they also have all their passwords etc. If they haven’t a domain name they can get a free .ie if they are a registered charity. You could also look for sponsored hosting.
  • A quick elevator pitch at the start from each charity is a good way to get people excited about the project
  • Encourage the charities to stay for at least 8 hours. Or never leave.

Promoting

  • Still getting the hang of this one, but a twitter hashtag seems like the best way to have 20+ people share what they are doing. Could do a lot better sharing what’s happening, with auto-screenshotting and video etc. Maybe next year!
  • Nothing worse than hearing ‘oh if only I’d known, I’d have signed up/helped out’. Star-tweet or bookmark anyone who says that and remind them for the next event!
  • I live-blogged the event, sharing what people were doing and snippets of their work. More than 50% of referrals came from Twitter. Had just over 1,500 visits, which would be better if it were a weekday but not doable, as people have to work!
  • Getting a professional photographer in to snap photos produced some amazing photos, so ask volunteers if there’s anyone they know that wants to pop in and help out.
  • The most important part for me is the work produced and crediting the volunteers – so try and get as many people to see that as possible.

I’d be happy to talk about this if anyone wants to get in touch – stucurry at gmail or