Earlier this year, we launched a redesign of architecture.org for the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We know we shouldn't pick favorites, but it was absolutely one of the coolest and most fun projects in recent memory. So when they reached out to us about a new project, we couldn't wait to hear what they had in store.

The Project

We were tasked with creating a microsite for an architecture design competition. Simple enough, right? One catch: the site needed to go live in one month, and branding, design, development, and testing all needed to be completed before launch.

Challenge accepted

Our Approach

Typical Fastspot projects last from six months to one year, start to finish. They involve a team of project managers, designers, developers, and content strategists. They include discovery meetings, design presentations, content management training, and all the other valuable components that help make up the great work we put out. For CAF, we needed to work fast, while still maintaining our high standards of quality. Here’s how we did it. 

1. Simplify the Team

We love all our team members at Fastspot, but this was a no-brainer. We needed to be efficient with the hours but also nimble enough to work fast.

The team included:

  • Sarah, our Project Manager
  • 3 Designers (primarily with one working on the project at a time) 
    • Jesse and myself working on branding concepts
    • Curt worked on the wireframes along with helping wrap up the site design
    • I also worked on the web design
  • 2 Developers

2. Bring Back the Wireframes

 Fastspot CHI Design Wireframes

Wireframes used to be an integral part of our process, but over the last two years we’ve found our collaborative process works better when our clients are looking at high-fidelity designs. In this project we opted to start with a wireframe in order to quickly get sign-off from the client on suggested page content and layout. This also allowed our back-end developer to begin setting up the CMS right away, before design even started.

"With the demanding project timeline, we didn't have much time to think about post-launch planning. Luckily, the microsite was built in our existing CMS environment, so adding pages and making content changes after the initial launch was a snap for our internal team. Without that flexibility to transition maintenance quickly to us, the scope would have crept, and we would have gone past our deadline and budget with Fastspot." - Jill Farley, Director of Digital Initiatives at CAF

3. Quick Client Feedback

In order to hit the deadline, everything had to move quickly, including feedback and revisions. We set up a schedule that had quick turnaround points for feedback. After we created the wireframe for the website, we moved into the branding phase. Jesse and I worked on a variety of logo and branding sketches. After an internal critique the next day, we narrowed it down to two options for the client presentation. The client loved one of the options and we quickly revised it based on their feedback. Next, we moved into the site design with only one designer to complete the remainder of the project. 

4. Simplify the Design

Early on in our discussions with the client, we determined that the site would be a one-page microsite with anchor links for the main navigation. This would reduce the development time while allowing for quick access to all the content. Once the design was approved, we had Nick work on a static build of the front-end. After the site was completely built, he handed over the build to Tim, who tied it all into BigTree. As is always the case with our projects, designers and developers collaborated throughout the process.

The Results 

In the end, we launched a site that we are incredibly proud of, on the date we set! This was a challenge for us. We learned a lot about the way we work, and we had a good time doing it. I’m sure this won’t be our last small-but-fast project.

"Projects this quick tend to produce some tension and unexpected last minute challenges, but the Fastspot team kept their cool. They took our rapid-fire feedback, pivoted in the 11th hour when necessary, and ultimately delivered a solid site that exceeded expectations." - Jill Farley, Director of Digital Initiatives at CAF


View the site and let us know what you think.
architecture.org/chidesign

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Share on Twitter or Facebook Published August 18th 2015