Happy Cog’s Siteweek — A case study for teamwork, web work, design work and more

by Thomas Brady


Internal projects. If you work at an agency, those two words, in such proximity, send shivers down your spine. You’re an agency. You get your paycheck because you and your cohorts do work for other people, who pay you for your time and talents. Who pays for an “internal project?” And, therefore, who has time to work on one?

If you’ve ever been sentenced to an internal project, you know the pitfalls. People get yanked off the project at will because a real client needs them, if you can even get someone officially assigned to the project in the first place. People are often asked to work in their “spare time.”

Most established firms know better than to try them. Newer groups will try them, once.

But, if the need is great enough, eventually the cobbler’s barefooted children will barre the front door and get him to cobblin’.

Happy Cog, web everything firm of Jeffrey Zeldman (defender of web standards, other-dad of the Internet, podcaster), recently decided it was time to refresh their own face on the web. And it seems they did it right. They…

  1. Spoke with clients to say, “We need a week off from you in order to do some housework.”
  2. [Thereby] freed up key talent to work on this internal project.
  3. Committed to keeping those people free for the week, while being available in emergencies.
  4. Did lots of prep work.
  5. Got everyone together in a war room for a week.
  6. Came in with a process, but
  7. Iterated on that process when they found flaws.
  8. And, best of all (for us), they live-blogged and post-mortem’ed the whole thing.

If you are interested in team dynamics, design process, web development/design/strategy or watching craftsmen at work, you owe it to yourself to read up on this case study.

Read Happy Cog’s announcements, “Redesign Week” and “Happy Cog Rebrands” and live-blogging at tumblr and storify.

And don’t miss debriefings by Kevin Hoffman, Happy Cog experience director (more links within) and Brett Harned

[Added on 2-17-12] And now Greg Storey chimes in with a reflective piece. HUGE thing I didn’t know until this piece: Happy Cog even spun up a new, from-scratch CMS during Site Week. Nuts!! There was an official, organized post-mortem Wednesday night, so there will likely be a few more pieces like this hitting the web in the near future.