Yesterday, as an experiment in team-building, design agency We Are VI designed and built a web app in the space of 12 hours. 

The finished product is Scriptopus, a round-robin writing app. I’ve been taking to We Are VI’s Head of Strategy Matthew Carrozo about the challenges and the lessons learned from the project….

Why did you decide to build a web app in 12 hours?

We wanted to see what would happen if we had our entire company dedicated to just one job for a whole day. What could a team of 22 do with a tightly-planned schedule over 12 hours?

We had the unique opportunity to build a really exciting idea brought to us by Stephanie Saulter in this context and jumped at it, knowing it would not only be fun, but also be a chance to include everyone in the company on the same task.

We also really wanted to do something that would help us to bring down our product cycles. Like many other agencies our size, websites usually take about 3-6 months from start to finish, which is frustrating when great ideas are emerging every single day online.

Tell me about Scriptopus – what kind of app is it? What will it be used for?

Scriptopus is an addictive web application for round-robin writing – where you collaborate to create stories by giving ten sequential slots to random users to fill out, giving them only the previous segment and story title to read as context.  

We limit everyone’s segment writing to 10 minutes, to ensure the stories get finished, and then offer everyone the opportunity to start their own story for others to complete.

We’re big fans of people on Twitter who don’t just push out affiliate links, endless RTs & quotes from people who died 100 years ago. People who like to tell stories over their feeds, like @themanwhofell and @amateuradam.  

We thought taking this idea of rapid-fire storytelling to the digital space and making it a collaborative experience is something that we haven’t really seen done all that well before. And with the current desire for serendipity that we see on sites like Chatroulette, we see Scriptopus as a perfect fit for its time.

Which client is the app for?

Our client is Stephanie Saulter, a woman with a great idea and a day job who came to us to help make it a reality. Borne out of the writing groups she attends in her spare time, our first encounter lasted three hours and was more writing workshop that business meeting!

We’ve already got some tentative plans for the second phase of Scriptopus in which we help to provide a few sources of revenue to make it a viable business. But first – building a userbase!

Is this more of a team building exercise, or will you work like this again in the future?

Well, before we did it, we thought it might be something we do once a year as a great Spring boost to morale. Even in a relatively small agency like ours, it can be so easy to lose track of what everyone else is doing if you’re not involved in the same projects. But judging from the success of the day, the interaction between us all, and the hilarious delirium that kicked in after 6 o’clock , I think it may well be something we do more often than that.

It would be great to do it every day, but it’s not often we get projects that can be realistically completed in a single day of work, even with the entire company behind it.

Are clients demanding shorter timescales for projects? If so, is this something you can accommodate?

We all know the world seems to be moving faster and faster with each day. As we get accustomed to realtime media and Moore’s law continues to put faster and smaller supercomputers in our pockets, clients naturally get impatient with projects that can take a quarter or half a year.  

And certainly, much of that is necessary to do the proper research and due diligence before production and the appropriate testing and optimisation that follows launch, but we are certainly learning to be more agile to meet these greater expectations – we have to, as does everyone else.

How have you planned the day? Have you done everything from start to finish in twelve hours?

Well, we obviously had to do some planning in advance of the day in order to make it work.  There was a lot of internal discussion and briefing with individual teams of the client brief and the creation of an extensive schedule that took absolutely everything into account.  

Every milestone imaginable was taken note of and we had a briefing the day before to make sure everyone was on the same page. With the exception of some mood boards and a tagline or two to allow Stephanie to have some input before we got working on the day, all of the design, branding, information architecture, copy and development was done on the day.

What were the major challenges in completing the project?

The biggest challenge, of course, was completing the project on time. There were a few un-planned tasks and more time was spent discussing wireframes and final designs than we had allowed for, which impacted the schedule and created a bit of a domino effect.  

All in all, we were quite shocked that with so little time to discuss and plan in the usual detail, and all the room that was consequently left open for all sorts of errors to happen, that it went so smoothly as it did!

Are you happy with the final outcome?

Well, those of you who were paying attention to our Twitter feed last night will notice the series of Tweets that we broadcast from our 9pm deadline last night…

We actually started gaining followers and suddenly people were asking us where the project was after a day of broadcasting. It must be partly down to that somewhat British spirit of “Wahey! You’ve failed, but we’re here for ya!” We were soon able to put out a dev link before the site went live two hours at 20 minutes late at 11:20pm.

Many of us managed to write one part of a story last night before crashing and we’re all a bit slow this morning, but we’re really chuffed with the result and will be spending today and Monday making sure we didn’t overlook anything!  And writing a few stories too.  We hope many more people will do the same!