I’d like to begin on a happy note, so here it is, our gift for the holiday season: as of today, you can get our Classic Christmas Cards for Android completely free on Google Play. We invite you to download them and send them to aaaall the people you like, love or would like to get to know better.
Rest assured that some nice (but immodest) people have put energy and devotion into each one – as well as some serious problem-solving and crisis management skills. Read about some of the things that happen in the making of electronic greeting cards next:
Working with outside content providers (freelancers)
- Do distribute the job offer through word of mouth, in addition to the regular channels. Especially if your budget is not generous, personal recommendations can help make up a freelancer’s mind to work with you.
- Do keep all information you get in an orderly spreadsheet – names, contact info, transactions. If your project becomes popular, it can soon become mind-boggling to dig everything out of e-mails.
- Do not arrange individual interviews. It took us an awful lot of time to meet with all designers and introduce them to the project, even when we were meeting with three people at a time.
- Do not assume your project goals will be clear to everyone. Be precise and informative about the results you are after, your target audience, your constraints.
For our e-cards with photo holes, we sometimes forgot to explicitly say we could only accommodate one photo in a card. For us, it was obvious since all other published cards were like that. Every time we forgot, we received designs with multiple holes, which had to be redone.
Stuff to prepare for:
Working with freelancers comes with a large level of uncertainty, unless you bind them with strict requirements. However, that may put them off and sap their creativity and is still no guarantee. We had a few people gone missing – they simply stopped writing, never came online and were not picking up their phones. For a month. We decided to work with a larger number of people, so we could make up for such temporary absences.
Building a large content base
- Adopt a file-management system. We partner with Microsoft, so SharePoint was an obious choice as we have an expert SharePoint team here at the Melon office. They set it up for us and eventually saved us a lot of time and effort. In the beginning, we failed to recognize the need for a serious file-management solution and our mailboxes soon got flooded with 1MB+ email attachments, dozens of files and a lot of confusion.
- Warn your system administrators that you will need a fair amount of space on one of your servers (if your content tends to get bulky, such is our case with images and their source files). Never store files locally on your own computer, a lot of people will potentially need access to those in the future.
- Do not assume (again, but it is very important) that everything is going to be right the first time. Or the times after that. Always check the files you receive against your requirements. In Part I, I mentioned that we needed a number of files delivered for each card we created, each with different dimensions. Even though we had distributed our requirements in a nice,orderly spreadsheet, the freelancers kept sending us files with mixed up dimensions. Which is only normal – but keep in mind you will have to find an efficient way to check everything you get. Unless you want to have a small crisis every single time you are close to a release.
- Do not adopt a learn-as-you-go policy when your project involves an ever-growing pile of files of all sizes and shapes. We did, and it cost us many hours in discussions, redoing, and delays. Make sure all people involved are on the same page and have all the information they may ever need. Spend a few hours to anticipate the what-can-go-wrong scenarios and see if you have it all covered.
One thing we did was require JPG files for the iOS cards. However, since the retina display introduction called for even bigger files, we needed to look for more compact options. One such option was JPEG2000, which we could have discovered at the very beginning. Instead, we adopted it a few months in the project and, yes, had to redo some finished stuff.
Stuff to prepare for:
File hunting. The newbie I was in project management, I thought it would be more process building and execution than strawberry picking. But yes, there is a lot of picking – even with our SharePoint system set up, we sometimes had to put together a card collection file by file, contacting individual people asking about one small, but crucial, detail at a time.
This may or may not occur, of course. In my case, I had a hard time assuming the role of the whip-cracking deadline ranger and obsessive file collector. I am sure I still do not get it right, but things are getting better, no whipping involved. Perhaps experience will solve this, but the beginning indeed poses interesting questions about human relationships at work.
I should say, though, looking back at all those months working with graphic designers with beautiful skills and creative ideas has been fun, inspiring and very instructional. Also, we worked closely with a number of other teams within the company – the design department, the Android, iOS and Windows Phone developers, the quality assurance team and the management, and it has been rewarding to produce something together and put it out in the world.
Ultimately, some things can only be learned from experience, and I appreciate being involved in this project. If any of you would like to share stories from your first (or consecutive) projects, feel free to do so in the comments. We would love to hear from you!
In part III, coming up some time in the future, I will draw the line and discuss whether this whole thing made any financial or strategic sense.