Overnight Website Challenge 2012: Perfecting our skills one charity at a time

Vodori blog, Nicole Zukerman

Last year, a team of brave Vodorians set out on a mission to create a website in 24 hours. The Overnight Website Challenge, hosted by The Nerdery, is an intense, 24-hour competition that pairs teams of web developers with chosen nonprofit organizations in need of a website overhaul. The catch is that the web gurus and nonprofits are not paired up with one another until 15 minutes before the challenge begins, thus eliminating the opportunity for preparation and planning. 

In 2011, the Vodori team helped Peace Care, an organization that works to improve health in low income communities worldwide, to successfully launch a site after 24 hours of design, development, and implementation. Peace Care and the Vodori team were ecstatic about the results. This year, however, we’re building on our experience with a few more tricks up our sleeve. 

With four veterans and six newbies added to the 2012 Vodori team, creatively named Code to Joy, last year’s experiences have definitely set Vodori up for success once again. I sat down with the veteran members of last year’s team to hear their take on preparing for this year’s challenge. 

Team Breakdown

I learned that the big differentiator this year lies in the composition of the Vodori team. Last year’s team was comprised of mostly back-end developers, which meant many of the other pieces, such as design and front-end work, were under one person’s helm. For example, Christine was the only designer on the team last year, putting extra pressure on her to design an entire website in just a few short hours. Although she handled the challenge with grace, this year’s team saw the flaw in the system and is excited to add another designer to the mix to ensure a good balance of skills. The full Vodori spectrum of talents will be in place with developers, strategists, designers and copywriters making up the team. We now have at least two teammates to cover each particular skill, with a bunch of overlap, of course.

The veterans plan to teach the new team members how to set up their computers, language, and environment beforehand to better prepare them for what is to come. They will also mentally prepare them to be back in college mode, when it was natural to stay up for 24 hours straight. That means drinking lots of Red Bull, taking catnaps throughout the day and eating sugar-laced junk food for quick sugar highs.

Client Breakdown

Last year, the team’s goal was to listen to the client, focus on the features requested, and get a site up and running at the end of a full day. This year, the team is taking the training wheels off, becoming more strategic in their site planning. “We will definitely be listening to the client’s requests, but our goal is to focus more on the end user, thus coming up with new and innovative ways to draw in the audience,” said Christine. “Our client will surely be excited with what we come up with, and we hope to help them look at their site more strategically as well.”

The Challenge

Last year’s 24 hours were filled with many ups and downs, which strengthened the team’s camaraderie. “The biggest down: our servers stopped working at about 3 a.m.,” said Jesse. “Yes, after 18 hours of nonstop development, we began freaking out that we would have nothing to show in six hours when time was up. We were able to get it back up and running shortly after our mini freak out session and business resumed as usual. We never accepted defeat and continued troubleshooting until we found a solution.”

One of the biggest lessons learned is to always keep the team morale up. Working together and encouraging one another when the site was down kept their nerves at bay and made the event that much more fun.

One last lesson learned

Finally, the team probably learned the most important rule of all when taking on a 24-hour challenge.

“Take public transportation home,” said Mike. “After being up for 24 hours, it is not a good idea to put a exhausted Vodorian behind the wheel.”

Now that I’ve learned the secrets to Code to Joy’s success, I have the utmost confidence that the team will rock this year’s challenge. They’re perfecting their skills, catching up on sleep, and studying up on their potential nonprofit parings. They are ready for anything. Game on, web developers. Game on.