The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about disruptive technology solutions to slow the spread of the virus and minimize its impact. Contact tracing utilizing mobile technology is one promising but controversial solution that has been tested in some countries and proposed in the United States.
The Washington Post reports that millions of people around the globe have already been placed under some form of surveillance in an effort to monitor people’s movements and attempt to trace the spread of COVID-19.
Of particular note, at least 27 countries have already started using data from cell phones to track the movements of their citizens. While this approach has a great potential to benefit the public good, the implementation and adoption of such technology raise important questions about transparency, AI ethics, and data privacy.
Fighting the spread of COVID-19 with smart technology.
Contact tracing can be one of the most effective ways to contain an outbreak. However, COVID-19 is not a typical outbreak. The virus is often transmitted by individuals who display no symptoms of the infection and may not even realize that they are carrying the virus.
Standard contact tracing usually involves individuals who are symptomatic and are aware they are carrying the infection in question. Because of this, traditional contact tracing methods are challenging and problematic.
The Big Data Institute at Oxford University has proposed a solution for a mobile contact tracing application that is much more agile, efficient, and scalable than traditional manual contact tracing methods. The team developed a mathematical model designed to stop the epidemic if implemented on mobile devices by a substantial portion of the population. It’s poised to reduce manual contact tracing from 72 hours to four hours. By replacing weeks worth of manual work performing contact tracing, the mobile application can slow the spread much more quickly than traditional methods.
For the proposed mobile tracing method to be effective, quite a few hurdles must be overcome.
First, the majority of the population – including symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals – must voluntarily opt-in and adopt the application. The research team at Oxford estimates that about 60% of the population would have to utilize the application for mobile tracing to reach enough new virus cases to make an impact on the spread of the virus.
Another challenge lies in widespread and accessible COVID-19 testing. For the application to work, the majority of the population would need to have access to reliable testing in order for the application to properly and fully survey potential outbreaks.
There is much evidence suggesting that the application of rigorous wide-scale testing coupled with the application of mobile technology can blunt COVID-19 infection and mortality rates.
Taiwan was able to contain the COVID-19 outbreak better. Why?
A recent Stanford report demonstrates how Taiwan – a country just 130 km from the epicenter of the outbreak in China – was able to contain the outbreak without the draconian lockdown measures in place throughout many of the advanced economies.
How did Taiwan manage to limit and contain the spread of the virus? The report highlights five interconnected factors: pandemic readiness, national electronic health records database, wide-scale testing, big data analytics, and the use of mobile technology to track movements of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.
Within 72 hours of the outbreak, a comprehensive case identification protocol was instituted based on travel histories. Individuals determined to be high risk were monitored through their mobile devices.
Health authorities were then able to trace the movements of high-risk subjects and mitigate the risk of further transmission through targeted isolation measures. Taiwan may serve as a template for how to mitigate future pandemics.
Balancing public interest and data privacy rights.
Innovative initiatives are underway by major tech companies, notably Google, Apple, and Facebook, to track and analyze how the virus is spreading and to gauge the effectiveness of social distancing measures.
Facebook’s Data for Good project is designed to track the movements of users to measure and anticipate potential outbreaks.
In the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers, non-profits and public agencies can leverage the data – which is anonymized and aggregated – to evaluate and implement strategies to slow the spread. However, such initiatives raise concerns about transparency and data privacy rights.
There’s a strong case to be made that the implementation of mobile tracking applications represents an unwelcome intrusion to privacy rights.
When the processing of PII is necessary for the public interest, then it can be done without obtaining the data subject’s consent.
The GDPR includes specific guidelines for the use of data in the context of epidemics. Recital 46 of GDPR stipulates that the collection and processing of personally identifiable information without data subject consent are acceptable when it is necessary for humanitarian purposes. The information includes monitoring the spread of epidemics and addressing humanitarian emergencies, such as natural or man-made disasters.
Tips for the transparent and ethical use of technology.
It is the responsibility of technology leaders and policymakers to implement ethically sound, transparent, and fair applications related to the use of AI-driven profiling technologies and the transmission of highly sensitive health information.
For mobile tracing applications to be widely adopted and therefore effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the first and most important step is the grain the public’s trust.
Principles of fairness and transparency related to artificial intelligence are re-enforced by the EU Commission on The Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence. Every organization should be committed to these seven fundamental guiding principles for the application of AI technologies:
- Human agency and oversight
- Technical robustness and safety
- Privacy and data governance
- Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness
- Societal and environmental well-being
These principles were further re-enforced by AI Now Institute in its 2018 report in which the organization asserted the importance of the public’s right to known which technology systems are impacting their everyday lives and how they are doing so. To that end, organizations must be transparent of the algorithmic systems used and their purpose, applications, and potential public impact.
Furthermore, while the use of technologies to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 may be essential to protect public health and safety, they should meet the following criteria as proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
- The use of such technology must be medically necessary, as determined by appropriate public health experts.
- New processing of personal data should be in proportion to actual needs.
- The use of such technology must be non-discriminatory and without bias; people must not be scrutinized due to nationality or other demographics.
- Any new government powers that have arisen due to new measures must expire once the disease is contained.
Innovative technologies have the potential to accelerate and transform efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
In order for these solutions to fulfill their intended objective and have the greatest positive impact, transparency and fairness are needed.
Before the public adopts new technologies at scale, they must trust these new and emerging innovations. The ethical use of AI should be evaluated not only on a legal basis but on a moral one as well.
It’s the only way for novel solutions to gain the people’s trust, inspire widespread adoption, and make the greatest impact – in times of crisis and in the post-COVID-19 world.
Jotform Rebrands to Focus on the Power of its Forms – ReadWrite
When companies rebrand, they often do it with a renewed or revised focus. Sometimes the company pivots entirely, heading in a new direction to keep up with changing trends and demands from its audience.
In the case of Jotform, the company recently rebranded to better focus on what it’s done so well for 15 years: provide its audience with versatile, easy-to-create, powerful forms.
Since its launch, Jotform has undergone tremendous growth. More than 10 million users have shaped the form builder and its complementary services. The platform has grown to include payment processor integrations, state-of-the-art security measures, conditional logic, and more. It supports small businesses, large corporations, nonprofits, and everything in between.
And now, Jotform is focusing on further improving its powerful forms to continue to support its broad audience of users.
Here’s what you can expect from the newly rebranded Jotform.
A new logo and tagline
Jotform boasts a streamlined, simplified logo that honors the original. The “f” in “Jotform” is now lowercase for easier readability, and the logo features a new and refreshing color scheme.
The logo’s pencil has been updated with multiple colors to represent the multiple products and features the business has created. The colors represent form fields, table cells, graph bars, and even the lines on a document.
Similarly, Jotform’s new tagline honors the company’s vision: “Powerful forms get it done.” This tagline demonstrates that, even as the company has grown and evolved, it has always remained true to the powerful forms at the core of its business.
A revised website
The Jotform website has some aesthetic updates, but it remains easy to use and navigate. The homepage reflects the new tagline, color scheme, and logo, and the My Forms dashboard has been rebranded with a cleaner, clearer look.
The form builder navigation has also undergone a color change. The revised colors are high contrast, and the page was designed to keep your attention on what really matters — the form.
The same pricing
Jotform may have been rebranded, but its pricing plans have remained the same. Jotform offers five plan tiers, and those tiers make it a suitable option for nonprofits as well as the largest corporations.
The Starter tier is available for free, and it includes many essential features. It supports up to five forms and 100 monthly submissions. This plan also generously includes 100 MB of space and 1,000 form views.
The Bronze plan is just $24 per month when billed annually, while the Silver plan is $29 per month and includes up to 100 forms. For $79 per month, the Gold plan includes unlimited forms to support operations with significant form creation and management demands.
The Enterprise plan is for the largest organizations, and it supports multiple users, SSO login integrations, and more.
Jotform may be changing, but its pricing hasn’t budged.
Easy online form builder
Jotform’s form builder is clean, concise, and user-friendly. It’s easy to build a form from scratch with the drag-and-drop interface or edit an existing form template. The builder features a wide variety of form field types, including signature, date picker, address, and fill-in-the-blank fields. In addition, you can make any form your own.
Jotform also offers more than 10,000 professional form templates to help you get started and save time. Choose from registration, feedback, request, membership, application, event registration forms, and more. These forms cover a wide variety of industries and needs.
When using the online form builder, you can create a form in just minutes. You can then share a link to that form, embed it on your website, include it in an email, and more.
As Jotform has evolved, the company has continued to add form integrations for enhanced performance and convenience. Jotform has established integrations with some of the most essential and popular apps:
- Google Sheets
- Adobe Sign
- Google Calendar
These integrations enhance your form’s performance and save you and your respondents time.
An array of features for even more powerful forms
As the demand for powerful, versatile forms has increased, Jotform has developed new features that give you more control and flexibility:
- HIPAA-compliant forms meet the healthcare industry’s need for forms that protect patient data.
- Smart PDF Forms can convert a PDF into a fillable online form.
- Jotform protects your privacy and security with encrypted forms, 256-bit SSL, and more.
- You can collect payments and donations, and set up recurring subscriptions with your choice of more than 30 trusted payment gateway integrations.
Jotform may have started out as a form builder, but the company expanded to encompass Jotform Tables, which allows users to collect, organize, and manage the data that’s generated by its forms. It’s also possible to import CSV or Excel files into Jotform Tables, so you can use your existing data.
These tables require no coding and work as a centralized database. There are more than 300 table templates available to help you get started. As with its other products, Jotform has kept Jotform Tables accessible and affordable, making it a practical choice for all Jotform users.
Jotform: Powerful forms for the future
Jotform’s rebranding reflects the company’s evolution but also its dedication to its root cause: to provide users with quality, powerful forms. Jotform may have changed its logo and branding, but this is evidence of the company’s growth and success.
Rather than pivoting, Jotform continues to focus on the features and developments that will take its forms to the next level. From payment processing to enhanced security, its services and features are evidence of what business owners, nonprofits, entrepreneurs, teachers, bloggers, and more need as technology evolves and those users find new and unique ways to put forms to use.
In 15 years of growth, Jotform has stayed true to its roots but continues to make its forms even more powerful. Whatever your form and data needs, powerful forms get it done.
Image Credit: Photo by Mikhail Nilov; Pexels; Thank you!
Turing Distinguished Leader Series: Vishal Punwani
Hello, everyone! Thank you for the fantastic response to the Turing Distinguished Leader Series. For this episode, we have Vishal Punwani, CEO and co-founder of Sophya, the Harvard-founded startup where companies of all sizes go to establish their virtual HQs. Sophya was part of Harvard iLab’s inaugural Launch Lab X program in 2018-19. Now, Fortune 50 companies and startups alike enter Sophya’s metaverse to work, socialize, form communities, and throw incredible events.
Today’s Topic: Engineering leaders discuss employee engagement in virtual teams and share tips for engineering managers to enhance remote team management.
Welcome to Turing Distinguished Leader Series. I’m Jonathan Siddharth, founder and CEO of Turing. Today I have a very special guest, Vishal Punwani, who shares a similar love for distributed teams and building the office of the future. Hi, Vishal, welcome! Could you tell us a little bit about your journey?
Hey, Jon! Great to be here. So brief introduction: I’ve always been a technology lover since I was three years old. I started my first company when I was ten, and my brother was 11. I’ve always been a longtime gamer, so all of this has a through-line of video gaming underneath, which kind of leads into why we founded Sophya. I went to medical school, did part of my emergency medicine training, put that on hold to focus entirely on Sophya. And that is what is occupying all of my time and attention right now. But I make a little time to play video games, ideally every day, for about 20 minutes.
That’s awesome. You have such an interesting background. And for people listening, could you tell us a little bit about Sophya, what problem it solves, and why you should use it?
Sure, yeah. The funny thing is that there’s a lot of really fantastic examples of great collaboration in gaming. So you think about any of the big MMOs, whether it’s World of Warcraft or Everquest or Elder Scrolls Online, any of these big ones: one thing that is common among all of them is that you have to get into groups and guilds. You have to execute missions together. You have to form leadership layers. You also have to communicate context and information to your teammates. There’s a lot that you have to figure out, for example, the bylaws of your guild. And so, it may sound silly, but there’s a lot of analogous company pieces there.
During the pandemic, we were like: “Oh my gosh. This is our team, and we feel like our culture is slipping. Our bonds with our teammates are getting frayed,” and that was scary to my co-founders and me because we’re such a culture-heavy team.
We believe the best business strategies are people-first. So if you look after your people and have wonderful relationships with your teammates, that will transcend the social aspect and return those business results. And so we were like: “There’s a much better way to do this than Zoom and Slack.” And the reason we felt so strongly about that was that a bunch of my teammates—we met playing World Warcraft, and that was 17 years ago, and we became best friends, even though we lived on three different continents at the time.
So we said: “What if we took a stab at transforming our work environment into something more like an MMO?” And so, we built this hacky MVP that completely transformed our team. And we’ve never felt closer as a distributed team; we’ve never felt more collaborative and more productive. It has changed the fabric of what our team is.
And so, I don’t know if that specifically answered your question, but to get a little specific, Sophya is a world, a community, where you can get a private office inside that world. And you get all your video chat, text chat, DMS, file sharing, screen sharing, and all the different collaborative tools you might need for your team to be productive.
Along with this, you also get all of those middle moments covered. So, you can see where all your teammates are if they’re in your office or maybe somewhere in the world. You can teleport to them and vice-versa, whatever the case may be. So you can have all the moments that you would miss if you didn’t have the physical office. You get to do that with people distributed all over the world.
Sounds great. What have you learned from customers using Sophya, like anything interesting in terms of the way they use the product?
People need the ability to feel connected and engaged and belonging at all times of the day. That’s how you build and give humans the tools they need to be healthy, internally and externally. So if you don’t feel like you can’t build great relationships at work, then, first of all, you’re going to have not a great time.
Wherever it is that you work, you’re always going to be looking for the next thing. From a business perspective, if you don’t focus on making sure that your team can form profound relationships with each other, guess who’s not going to be able to do their greatest work? Guess what organization will not be able to benefit from having aligned people who trust and care about each other?
All of that is part of what we’re building. An environment that is 100x than what the physical office can give you. The physical office can provide you with space, but it cannot give you best practices built into the walls. And, a lot of what’s coming out of publications like HBR and a few others that we like to talk about is ‘best ways to build organizational health into your office walls in the virtual world in Sophya.’ So, we want to make that available to everybody so that their teams keep getting healthier.
Absolutely. Speaking of distributed teams, which is one of the things that Sophya makes possible and easy? What would be your number one piece of advice for founders, product leaders, and engineering leaders who are building and managing distributed teams?
That’s a great question. I’ve boiled this down to three things.
One is relationships between your teammates. That’s something that you have to have figured out, right? If you want them to do their best work, you have to do that right. We do that through Sophya, obviously, but there’s a couple of other ways you can do that.
The second thing is context. You have to get good at providing fantastic context for your team to understand what problems they’re solving, the organization’s overarching goal, and the organizational mission and vision. All of that information has to be front and center.
And then the third thing is accountability tools. I don’t mean accountability tools in a punitive sense or anything like that. What I mean is that people like the clarity of knowing what they’re driving, who they’re working with, what is the context around it, and when the task or activity is supposed to be completed. So that sounds very operational, and it kind of is. We use Asana, which I think is helpful for that because you can sketch out your quarter, your whole year, and then make sure that everybody’s in charge of a different piece of it. So all the communication happens there.
That’s super interesting. So on the relationships front, how do you use Sophya and other tools to ensure you’re building the right relationships? And what is your advice for people to solve for relationships in a fully distributed or a hybrid team?
That is a great question. If you read the news nowadays, one of the biggest things you’ll notice is that company leaders embrace work from home and work from anywhere forever but are worried about the watercooler chats and the spontaneous interactions between teammates. And there’s a research paper that showed that the way you get true innovation is contrary to what one might think. It’s the mixing of very disparate verticals that’s important. Like, you’ve got someone with one skill set, and then someone with a completely other skill set comes along, and then they blend their two worlds and then come out with something.
So, for example, if you’re using calendar links and one form of video chat that doesn’t give you that spontaneous ability where you can see where your teammates are, you risk losing a lot of those serendipitous bump-ins. I call them the middle moments that happen in any working day. And to go back to make sure everybody’s following the through-line here: I was saying that there are two schools of people right now. One is the people thinking about going remote but saying: “Oh, we need to solve this problem to make sure that we’re retaining the creativity and the innovation that we feel we have in the office.” And then the second group is the people who are like: “We are going back to the office because we don’t have tools, and we want that social interaction to make sure that we engineer innovation in that way.”
And so for us, one of the great things is we feel that we have something where both needs can be met. If all you know is Zoom and Slack, then, of course, you’re going to want to go back to the office. But if you know that we’re entering the golden age of remote work and companies are building wonderful tools to solve that exact problem, then you’re going to think twice. That’s why we’re passionate about what we’re building. We love being close to our teammates.
The second part of your question was about how we use Sophya to build relationships. So we use a mix of calendaring inside the application, so for example, if we have team games a couple of times a week, people who are inside the world will get a notification that says: “Hey, games are starting, teleport to them!” and then you teleport to the games and all your teammates are there and they’re running around, and you see emojis flying around, and you can see who’s talking and all that stuff, even if you’re not in a conversation with them, you can see the liveliness of conversations happening outside of your video tiles which is interesting. And so there’s a bunch of different ways that we actively build relationships using Sophya, but there’s a bunch of ways that you passively build relationships in there as well.
So one of those ways is just by seeing the activity around you. One of the drawbacks of using video only is that you can’t show that much personality. Let’s say there’s 20 of us on the screen, and there’s like a Brady Bunch-ish style of chat happening. The remaining 18 people who aren’t having a conversation are just going to be sitting there with their red lights on, and you can’t tell anything about them or attempt to build a relationship with them.
In Sophya, we’ve used an utterly gamified approach, and so everybody gets their avatar. You can customize it to look however you want. So we have like 24 million combinations of what you can look like, which is a lot of fun. And so, just by seeing what people are wearing and how people are presenting themselves, you kind of get to know them more. And so you can constantly be doing these little things that add up in terms of building a foundation of trust and relationship, and that’s just a small example.
Sounds great! Do you have any advice for product engineering leaders building distributed teams in terms of things to do to make sure that people have the right relationships with each other?
Totally, yeah. So we take culture very, very seriously, and we think good relationships are at the foundation of a great culture. I love that quote: “Your culture is what happens when the founder isn’t around.”
What that means is that not only do you have to have excellent standards, but you have to have clearly articulated principles or virtues. And so it starts from the selection and hiring process. We make sure that we’re upfront with all of our candidates and tell them this is who we are and what it will be like to work here. There are particular traits that we seek. Humility is one of the biggest ones. Being people-smart is another one. And the next hunger to succeed. We focus a lot on discipline in our company. And so we made sure that people that we bring in are very disciplined because if they’re very disciplined in their work, they’ll probably be disciplined in their approach to their friendships and relationships. So it starts in the selection.
We also do a series of these personality tests to get a sense of where a person may be best placed on the team. So we do three, which is probably overkill, but we think each of them serves a very different purpose.
And so one helps us to understand it’s like the typical personality. So I’m an ENTJ (MBTI), right, and that allows me to know that I need to soften my edges, much of the time.
We also do something called the Working Genius, which is Patrick Lencioni’s group’s test.
And then, we do another test called Predictive Index to understand how much flexibility people prefer. So there’s an intentional process of bringing people in and building and constructing the team. And then every other week, we have something called the Growth Club where we take a reading, and we break it down into lessons. Every teammate writes how the article made them reflect on problems that they’ve faced in their life. We always aim to have things be more personal because we think that if you break down communication barriers between people in a healthy way, they’re going to do their best work together because they’re developing this baseline of trust.
That’s super interesting. Do you conduct these tests to figure out how to best communicate with this person and put them in a position where they will be successful and happy?
Exactly. We don’t do this in a vacuum. All of these other considerations are thought about and discussed with the candidate. All the results are shared, all the thinking is open. We try not to be prescriptive and say: “Oh, you are super high detail-oriented. Therefore, you can only be our company counsel or like a data scientist.” But they’re like: “I’m an artist.” So we want to put people in their sweet spot. And generally, if you get people to sort of vibe on the same wavelength like that, people will feel understood. And that works well.
And that changed my whole thinking about these things because it’s not really about forcing people into positions. It’s about saying: “How do we make sure that different types of people can succeed together when they don’t know each other?”
Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. So, switching topics a little bit. I know one thing that’s on top of everyone’s mind: fully remote vs. hybrid. How do you think about fully remote vs. hybrid? What is your advice to people thinking through that decision for their companies?
Yeah, I think my company used to believe a lot more in what hybrid could be, but I think our thinking has evolved a little bit. This view might sound contentious, but we think that hybrid is a delay tactic. It’s like: “I haven’t made up my mind yet.” I’m going to take the example to the extreme. You think about Facebook or Google, or Apple. They initially were like: “Oh, we’re going to be returning to the office. That’s what we’re gonna do.” But then their employees were like: “Well, I moved to the other side of the country, and I bought a house with my husband, and I have a kid and a dog. So, no thanks. You know what, I’m gonna work from here because by the way, over the last year and a half, we’ve launched some of the best things that our company has ever done. We had our most profitable quarter since we began as a company. So, no, thanks.”
And so, it’s a tough argument for companies to be making. Companies might even think of doing three days a week in the office or three days remotely.
Well, that doesn’t work for the person who lives on the other side of the country. Meanwhile, all the people in the office are like: “Okay, so which teams go in on what days?” So there still has to be coordination. And then, given that the office will be 30 percent capacity on any given day do you need that much real estate in Palo Alto? What about the huge campus that costs millions of dollars a year?
And while all that’s happening, you have other companies who have engaged fully remote, and what they’re doing is they’re saying: “Hey, come work with us, we’ll pay you a great salary, and you can live life on your terms,” and that’s going to be a competitive edge in hiring.
One of my friends said the other day: “Off-site is the new on-site.” So I think hybrid will not last for very long; instead, it will turn into companies that allow people to work from anywhere forever. And then the hybrid model will morph into just hangout spots. I think Basecamp has something like this, where they have a couple of little base camps in different parts of the US, and you could go in and co-work together for a day, but that’s not the norm by any means. And I think hybrid will not be a norm, either.
It’s super interesting. Why is it that you think we can sort of sense some top-down management push to get people in the office, at least some percentage of the time? Why do you think that is?
Yeah, so, you know, I don’t think it’s all that complicated. If people who are accountable for really excellent teamwork and results don’t have systems, then they’re going to be worried, and they’re going to want to swim back to shore and grab the pier. But that’s all I think it is. If a team doesn’t know that they have options that will speak directly to their concerns, then they’re going to be worried, and they’re going to want to go back to in-person.
The managers and the upper sort of executive and leadership, they’re humans too. They want to spend time with their families. They don’t want to miss their kids’ first steps. They want to be able to walk their dogs. And so, I think any leadership person will derive the same benefits as the employees. It’s just a different set of pressures that are on each group. And they just don’t yet know that it doesn’t have to be Zoom and Slack, no offense, again, to those companies, but I’m just saying.
I’ve genuinely enjoyed this chat, and I want to close with one question for you. Besides Sophya, what are some tools that you found to be supremely helpful in running a fully remote-first company that you would recommend for people, building the offices of the future?
Well, you know, I’m biased because I know you, but I do have to give Turing a nod here. We’ve found it to be super helpful. It’s easy. We can find precisely the skill sets we’re seeking. We can book consultations, and we get a breakdown of the Google-level staff equivalent of this person. So, it just makes it very easy for us and, it’s taken engineering recruitment to a different level.
The other one that I think has been super helpful is Asana. And I say this because we’ve been trying to move the company entirely off of Slack because I think Slack does a lot of unhealthy things for people in some emotional state. Everything seems urgent, and things get lost and all that stuff. And I know that was probably the intent behind creating it, but for us, that’s not quite working, so we think we can manage communication through Sophya and Asana.
And then we do a lot of our recruiting and searching through Turing. Our engineering team has their whole suite of tools. But, from a perspective of a team-wide set of tools? That’s mostly Sophya and Asana.
That sounds great. Thank you for joining me on Turing Distinguished Leader Series, Vishal.
For more of Jonathan’s conversations with other Distinguished Engineering Leaders, go here.
Image Credit: Provided by the author; from www.freepik.com
How We Launched a New Website in 30 Days – ReadWrite
Websites are a lot of work, but incredibly important to showcase who you are as a company. They are the face of the franchise and one of the first things your customers see. So whether you’re a new company or a brand looking to refresh, the big question is – how can you build a great website?
Thankfully, I have gone through this a few times and have some simple tips to get your website project completed and running smoothly.
Create a Website Launch Plan
Saying that you need to create a launch plan may feel pretty obvious — but you would be surprised how few businesses actually write everything down and commit to a plan.
When I joined Scorpion in July, we were right in the middle of a website redesign project. The website was a completely new experience with hundreds of new pages and templates to create and implement.
It was a large project that was far along and with some foundational pieces in place, but it still had some work to do to get it live. Your website may not include hundreds of pages, but the processes and planning are the same regardless.
I worked with our in-house website team and content team to set up a launch plan and benchmarks to hit. An example of some of the benchmarks we laid out are:
- Setup minimum viable product (MVP) that we need to get live in the next 30 days
- Finish a sitemap
- Create multiple designs for SEO page templates
- Create content for new sitemap pages
- Code new pages once content is completed
- Make assignments
- Document plan for the website once launched
The launch plan is critical, but it is also essential to have a team invested in the project to help push the project along and gain momentum to get it live. A clear plan and strategy also helped pull together the new content team I was leading as well as the website development team that had brought the project so far.
Understand Your Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Going through an exercise to decide the minimum you need to get something launched can be a big part of speeding up the process. The beauty about digital marketing is that it can and should be iterated on, and you can make edits after the site is live.
Our teams came up with a plan for the MVP of the website and how we would get there. We chose a few templates to launch with and a style template for the content to speed up the process.
We all agreed on what pages need to be created and set up a plan to get there, knowing that we would iterate on high-volume pages in the future and improve content as needed after launch.
With a big project like a website launch and so many different teams that could potentially be involved, it’s essential that everyone has clear assignments.
With the Scorpion launch, we had two specific teams leading the charge. The website team and the content team. The brand and theme had previously been developed earlier, so we just needed to do coding and content creation.
On the content side, I made assignments to our content leads for pages of content to be created. We did these in batches starting with the corporate pages and then moving into the verticals. Having batches helped to make sure we took the project one page at a time vs. seeing the whole mountain at once.
We also had a clear insight into how each other was doing. That helped the team to find ways to assist each other once they were done with their piece of the project.
Document Project Management
Project management is critical for large projects like a website launch. Along with deadlines, we had one main document to track every page once it was written and post the link to the website version once it was completed.
Having project management visibility across the teams working on the project helps to see where there may be a lag. It can also be a great way to make sure everyone knows their task and how they are contributing to the projects.
Google sheets can be a great tool to use for simple project management, but you can also go into specialized tools like Monday, Asana, or Jira if that is what your company is already on.
Our process for the website included:
- Writing the content for each website page
- Editing the content
- Creating the webpage
- Adding final content into a webpage
- Checking the webpage to look for any issues
Work in Tandem When Possible
With such a big project, it’s important to find ways that each team can be working alongside each other without waiting for tasks to be completed.
To do this, we created content in Google Docs and shared the link in our project management document that I mentioned above. The web team would see the new content doc, create a web page with the content, and then post the URL for the new web page.
This meant that both the content team and web team were continually working side by side vs. waiting for something to be done.
Example template below.
Have a Deadline
The only reason we have deadlines in corporate America is to give us a goal AND, most importantly, to give us that adrenaline rush that is usually reserved for world-class athletes.
I love to have a deadline to help with a work back schedule. If you have a concrete day to get something done then you can work back and create a timeline for the project to build on.
For example, you may know that content will take a couple of weeks with a website and design will take a few weeks after content is submitted. Knowing timelines will help you know when content needs to be submitted to design in order to hit that deadline.
Work can be fun too. Big projects can be draining. Creating games along the way and trying to make it fun for the team can be helpful in pulling each other along.
Part of having fun is meeting together and seeing progress as well. We had frequent check-ins as a group to try and have fun, laugh about the insane project we signed up for, and just make it as enjoyable as possible.
Celebrate when your project is done. That could be as simple as a paid company lunch or an activity with the team.
I like to be a bit different with celebrating and find something that can be a tangible benefit to improve the team — but do whatever is best for the culture and team you are in.
Image Credit: Anthony Shkraba; Pexels; Thank you!