Waste not, want not: Upcycle your tech!

Working in the charity sector you learn to be pretty resourceful when you need to be, and that doesn’t stop at blagging free stuff (obviously we never do that ;)).

One of the most significant things we learnt from amalgamating our campaign sites onto a single platform was the efficiency that emerged from reusing code and functionality.

So when our Schools and Youth team approached us with an objective that was new to all of us we did what anyone else would do, look at what we’d done already and could copy!

The objective

Noses!

Red Noses to be precise. We’ve just launched our first ever ‘Design a Red Nose’ competition for schools where students between 4 and 18 can draw their own Nose design with a chance of getting their masterpiece as one of the final nine Noses made for the next Red Nose Day in 2019. Yes, it’s pretty exciting stuff and we’ve had more than a few disgruntled members of staff annoyed at the fact that they’re no longer schoolchildren.

To build the entry functionality, we needed a simple and efficient solution for teachers and school staff to be able to upload their students’ entries.

I thought about various online forms we’d created in the past and whether we could repurpose those to add an image upload mechanism.

Then my somewhat genius colleague Caroline — whom you might know from blogs such as Optimistic about our future of optimisation and How ‘going live’ became my mental blogger — completely flipped it on its head and suggested a piece of functionality we’d used for past Sport Relief and Red Nose Day campaigns — our fundraiser gallery. This was used for our fundraisers to upload photos of themselves doing the weird and wonderful things people do for Comic Relief.

It seemed like the perfect solution and — spoiler alert — eventually it was, but obviously, there were a few creases to iron out first. I won’t bore you with the details, no one likes ironing, but in short, we had to:

  • Add an online form to the current functionality
  • Adapt the existing validations to fit other file sizes and formats like pdf
  • Ensure the designs being uploaded had somewhere to go and that we could get to them!
  • Ensure the data in the online form was sent to a secure and integrated database we could access
  • Integrate a schools address look-up used for schools-related forms

So we managed to get the form up and running (despite a few niggles that came up in QA, a few grumbles that came up with the changing the validations and error messages and a couple of gripes when we tried to link the form to our CRM database) — hurrah!

Lessons learned

There were lots of elements to this upcycling process: numerous parties that needed to be consulted, from data and legal, to tech and design; finding and implementing a solution in six weeks (while working on other products with clashing launch dates) and; testing and ensuring a simple user journey.

So, what nuggets of wisdom can I pass on to anyone else about to attack the same kind of problem?

  1. Communicate! Regular stand-ups made sure all teams were on the same page at all times and allowed us to work quickly.
  2. Upcycle! Look at what you’ve used before and how you can adapt and iterate to get to your end goal more quickly. Also, think about how you might use it again — we’ve already planned our next iteration!
  3. Trust and collaboration! We reached a solution smoothly and efficiently because our stakeholders came to us with the problem. By being descriptive to our dev team of what was needed rather than prescriptive about what they should build, our team ended up building the best thing!
  4. Focus! It’s easier said than done but where you can get teams to focus on one thing at a time, it’s efficient, productive and keeps people a lot happier!

Comic Relief Digital & Innovation

This is where we showcase the ways that we are use technology to support the core aims of our organisation and how we do it.

Comic Relief Engineering

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This is the general user for comic relief engineering

Comic Relief Digital & Innovation

This is where we showcase the ways that we are use technology to support the core aims of our organisation and how we do it.

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