Sunday, November 22, 2009

In the zone ...

It's been a long time since I was "in the zone" on a personal project. The zone I am referring to is the developer zone not Twilight or Phantom. This is the zone where you start coding and then are amazed that many hours have passed when you next look up.

The project I've been working on for the past few years has had it's ups and downs. The past 12 months have mostly been downs. Something changed recently that reinvigorated my relationship with the project, that change was finally getting a great design.

Three years ago I implemented the first version based off some old design documents the team had commissioned but never implemented. That was tough, without the original designer around to fill in the blanks as needed, but I got through it and the project was still fresh and exciting. The next phase was a redesign triggered by underlying changes in the information model and the closest thing I had to a design was a suggestion that it should be "like the BBC site".

That work dragged. Every step of the way I was having to think about design, implement assets and tweak stuff on the fly with no overall look and feel guidance. After about the 50th time I suggested it the team finally got a professional designer in, though after the horrible made up design had gone live to little joy.

In 6 pages of PDF Paul produced something that both looked elegant and fitted the IA beautifully. So for the past couple of weeks I have spent my spare time "in the zone" implementing the html and css statically and loving every minute of it. By the end of the month I will be done with this phase and will then implement the design on top of the existing backend code. I can't wait.

Without the drag of a bad (or no) design weighting me down the implementation in code will be quick and also allow me to tidy up some of the code issues I have been meaning to get around to for ages.

Most startups realise the benefit to their users of a great design, but the benefits to team morale are not often mentioned. Right now I can safely say they are just about the most important thing that could have happened to this project. Oh, the redesign also give me a chance to move over to jquery finally and that's another pot of fun all to itself.