The Project Triangle

Working as an in-house developer, the “Fast, Good, Cheap” project triangle takes on a new meaning, since I’m not being paid in the same way as if I were working for an agency. Often, there is no “pick two”, as at times I am asked to deliver “Fast and Good”, but without the financial incentive of doing so.

When this was asked of me recently, I realized that the “Cheap” leg of the triangle had to be reinterpreted. One of the reasons for having an in-house developer is that you can get a bespoke design by someone who understands the needs of the organization, without having the corresponding bespoke costs. But in this situation I had less than a week to turn around a brand new site, starting with nothing. Fortunately I had a couple weeks notice ahead of time, and used that to my advantage.

Bespoke or Off the Rack?

In buying clothing, bespoke will get you Good and relatively Fast if you are willing to pay enough for it. If you don’t have the money for a bespoke suit, your next option is to buy something off the rack. If you need something really cheap, you can try your luck at a thrift store, or try the clearance rack at H&M. If your tastes, and need for quality, run higher, and you have the budget to do so, you can increase the quality and cost as well. And whatever you choose, you can spend a bit more to have it adjusted by a tailor, so that it fits you. Almost as good as bespoke, for less cost.

The same is true of developing a website. Everyone wants something bespoke, but they can’t always afford it. The equivalent of off the rack for web design is to look for a free or cheap template or theme. This is what I did, and then played the tailor, and adjusted the template to fit the needs of the site.

In the approximately two weeks I had before receiving the content for the site, I discovered HTML5up.net, “spiffy HTML5 site templates that are: fully responsive, built on intelligent html5 + css3, super customizable, & 100% free under the Creative Commons.” These 28 designs by @n33co are high quality and engaging, providing enough diversity in appearance and functionality that I was confident that I could adapt one or more to the needs of the website I was being asked to deliver.

If we can get that much up by next weekend, that would be great …
And almost a miracle.

I ended up going with the Landed template, which is one of the themes with sub-pages. The resulting web site, a bilingual site for the first Chile-U.S. Astronomy Education Outreach Summit in Chile, was put together in 4 days. In all fairness, I should point out that the team asking for all of this recognized that they were asking for a lot, as I received this in an email: “If we can get that much up by next weekend, that would be great … And almost a miracle.”

And it was well received by those who requested it (“You are amazing!!! Thank you so very much for such excellent work in such a short amount of time!!!”), as well as those who attended the summit (“We’ve had MANY great comments on the web pages”).

So, the next time you don’t have time for bespoke, consider tailoring something off the rack.

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