Making an award-winning Christmas application a reality
“Enrique, we may have a project for you” – my colleague said on the phone. The project was meant to be an interactive application, where people could create their own carol by mixing up instrument tracks. And the application should be up and running before Christmas – that was, in little more than a week.
Moreover, the project pursued a good cause: the pharma company that was running the campaign wanted to use this application to sponsor clowns in children hospitals.
I never knew the exact answer of the first contractor who rejected the job, but it probably was: “It isn’t possible to do something like this, especially with this tight timeframe.” However, my answer was different. “Tell me all you know about the requirements of this application, and then let me think about it” – I said.
After the call, I started drafting the plan for the project. The list of requirements was extensive and demanding. The flexibility was nonexistent. Timing would be tight – but it would be possible to do it.
Yes, I have a soft spot for good causes. I love challenges. And it all ended up being incredibly rewarding.
How we completed this technically advanced project – and won an award
My talented colleagues at Swahili did a great job with the client management side of the project, as well as with the interface design and illustration work. My part in the project was then to code the whole front-end and back-end, and to design the databases.
As the campaign would run mostly on desktop computers, and on a very controlled environment, we could guarantee that Flash would be a feasible option, especially since timing was so tight. I was able to re-use part of the ActionScript 3.0 Object Oriented modules that I had created in the past, to speed up common tasks as data load, graphic sizing, database connecting and so on.
The structure of the back-end was pretty much imposed by the available hosting that the client was using: a shared LAMP environment. PHP and MySQL databases would do the trick.
The final architecture was pretty sophisticated: by sending the database a list of time points where instruments started and stopped sounding, we would be able to play back the melodies composed by our users.
The social sharing aspect of the project was essential for the campaign, as its objective was raising awareness for a good cause. Since the system was able to store user-created carols, it also included a way to share your own carol with your friends, inviting them to create their own. People started using it like crazy.
There are so many reasons why this project makes me feel so satisfied with it:
- We were able to complete such an advanced development on time. Our project management work was essential to achieve this.
- The architecture that I designed ended up working exactly as we needed. There were changes in requirements in the middle of the development, and even with such tight deadline, we were able to implement them on time.
- The project itself pursued a good cause. We were helping to create a better world.
- It wasn’t even about the so many advanced features that ran under the hood. It was about having an enjoyable application by itself, fun to use.
It seems we weren’t the only ones who loved that project: it ended up receiving a Gold ASPID Award. Those awards are like Ibero-American Oscars for the best marketing campaigns in the pharma sector.
We could see the project developed by our small team featured next to campaigns created by huge multinational companies. And it felt incredibly satisfying.
At the end, you don’t need to be big to make a big difference.