Small team + looming deadline = priorities

Deadlines
Prioritization
Productivity

24 September, 2018

Parker Bossier, Lead UI engineer at Zazzle, tells us about how he has overcome the issues of designing an app with a tight deadline and the lessons he learned from that experience.

Problem

I found myself being the only engineer on a team of 5 tasked with building a mobile chat app from scratch. We had a tight deadline, meaning a good chunk of the app's design would need to happen concurrently with development. This concurrency brought interesting problems. With three designers all fleshing out different parts of the experience at the same time, I had trouble keeping up with the latest mockups. On top of this, any given screen's design was subject to change as we dogfooded the app and iterated accordingly.

Actions taken

Due to the tight deadline, engineering efficiency was key. At the same time, however, dogfooding our app and learning along the way was also very important. To satisfy these seemingly incompatible goals, I had to constantly judge what parts of the app I thought had the most sticking power -- those that were the least likely to significantly change -- and weigh them against those that were most important for dogfooding. This wasn't the easiest thing to do, but having frequent, open, and candid communication with the rest of the team certainly helped.

Lessons learned

Working in a scrappy, fast paced environment was an incredibly rewarding experience. In order to work that fast, though, I had to work smarter as well, constantly deciding what the next steps in the optimal path were. But at the end of the day, making those decisions took time and effort. Try as you might, there will be times when you simply have to build things that you know will get replaced in the near future, or even tomorrow. But as long as you learn from it, it's worth it.


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