Were it so simple!
It began in early October 2017. Some staff and Learners decided that a small web consulting business would be a valuable addition to phase 5, the final phase of the training program at the Guild. That phase was aimed at making its occupants, during their final 2 months of the Guild’s 10-month program, ready to compete for real jobs in the software-engineering market.
They decided to call it “Phase 5”, registered an Internet domain “phase5.io”, and produced the above-cited website. I knew little about this effort. I had entered phase 4 about 2 weeks earlier, so I had about 6 more weeks of study before entering phase 5. But I was aware that the Phase 5 crew were deliberating how they would find customers and how they would enter into contracts with the ones they landed.
Since Phase 5 began, the Guild has continued to evolve. Phases 4 and 5 were consolodated into a single phase 4 (also called “Area 45”). A few weeks later, that phase was renamed the Apprenticeship Phase. More relevantly, the Guild announced its intent to develop a consulting business affiliated with, rather than inside, the Guild. This all leaves it unclear how the Phase 5 business will fit into the Guild’s business model and curriculum—or whether it will at all.
But there’s a project!
Yes, as Phase 5 was organizing itself, I approached some of its Learners and described a website that I wanted somebody to create for me. After some discussion, they agreed it would be a good project for Phase 5 and immediately started planning the site. I reviewed their initial design and gave them some suggestions, ideas, bullet points, and photos to work with. They started developing the site. The decisions on contracting formalities had not been made yet, but this pilot project started up anyway.
The perceptive reader may be wondering why I would do such a thing. After all, I am a Learner, too, and I, too, am studying web development. So, if I wanted a website, why wouldn’t I just build it? Good question. I wanted to help Phase 5 launch its business, and I expected that its Learners could create a better website than I yet knew how to create. That’s why.
The even more perceptive reader may add another objection: The desired site was to belong to an existing category that is well-served by off-the-shelf templates: the “single-property real-estate website”. I could pay a few dollars for a template and configure it to suit, instead of having a custom site built from the ground up or doing that myself. Maybe, but, if so, Phase 5 could itself use one of those templates. After all, contract web developers use whatever productivity tools exist. If the customer wants a slight variation on an existing template, the developer can use it. But also maybe not. I had a hunch that single-property sites typically try to sell property by making it seem far more luxurious than it is and appealing to the buyer’s materialistic greed. I doubted that this approach would work. Prospects might be lured, but they would visit the property and get confused by the apparent lack of fit between the advertised dream and the observable reality. Some real estate may be just plain property, but this real estate is absolutely not. It is, instead, active, independent, relatively affordable senior living in a true, self-governing community in an urban setting near a great university. That’s rare, and some buyers actually want it. I wanted a site that would target them by downplaying the a-man’s-home-is-his-castle meme and upplaying the we’re-all-in-this-together meme.
Not surprisingly, the production process at Phase 5 had not yet been designed, and by definition its personnel were destined to be leaving within a few weeks of the launch of the business, as their terms at the Guild came to an end, they got jobs as developers and left even earlier, or they got absorbed in applying and interviewing for jobs to launch their careers.
Notwithstanding the vicissitudes, the Phase 5 crew produced a framework and a partly functioning site for my project. It was a solid basis for continued work. But the crew itself peeled off one-by-one for the above-mentioned reasons, and the pace of work slowed to zero. I then began to build on—and revise—their work. My revisions were akin to those I would make if I myself had created a first draft. My first drafts are usually barely recognizable in my final versions. I had given the Phase 5 crew only the barest idea of the site that I wanted, because that’s all I had. Actually working on it is what forced me to add detail to that idea.
Where you come in
As my 33rd week at Learners Guild came to an end (on 22 December), I was continuing to fine-tune the project, and there was no end in sight to what improvements might be made, but this is the real world. I expect to use the project within a month in a marketing effort, so the further changes will be limited, and I expect to prioritize changes that are easy, quick, and likely to do substantial good.
In that regard, you can help. Imagine yourself a senior citizen wanting to relocate yourself. Or, if that’s a stretch, ask a senior citizen that you know who can more easily imagine that desire (or who even has it). Let’s say you found the site and started to peruse it. What confuses you? What’s irrelevant? What is there too little information about? What is there too much information about? What’s missing entirely?
Also, what works well? I want to know that, too, so that I can protect the good things from being discarded as a byproduct of other improvements.
Feel free to comment below this blog entry. Or, if you prefer, use the site’s contact button to create an email message where you can write your comments. Or create an issue at the site’s repository. Or, if you can, make the change yourself and propose it as a pull request.
It will be a pleasure to have your collaboration!