John's Hopkins Graduation Commencement

The John's Hopkins University Graduation Commencement website was a test in seeing just how granular time tracking can get when faced with incredibly small budgeted hours.

I was brought on to assist an agency in desperate need of development resources. I was the sole developer on this project, and cranked out the entire website in 40 billable hours. What a tough, if not near impossible, timeline!

Apparently, the majority of the agreed-upon hours in this project went into other things, and planning for development was a bit of an afterthought. A few of the requirements were still not fully hashed out, such as how certain sections of the website were expected to function. There was a real risk of going significantly over-budget which is something the agency did not want to do, obviously! I told the project manager that I would do my best but to keep expectations realistic.

Preparing a Battle Plan and Tracking Every Minute

For the roughly 1 and a half week span that this entire project took, I tracked my time down to 15-minute increments. I prepped ahead of time by planning a course of attack after the initial project hand-off meeting. (Side note to developers: always keep a notebook by your side) I wrote out a rough plan on how I would handle the general layout, planned out how each module would work and what sort of data it would output, as well as listing any questions to be prepared for our daily stand-ups. When faced with a potentially difficult project, preparation and good organization is key.

Within our time tracking system, I left detailed notes for each block of time: the time spent actually coding and the time spent doing research were tracked separately. The time spent on daily stand-ups was tracked separately; time spent on meetings with a designer to finalize designs; time spent on meetings with discuss requirements that had not yet been gathered; time spent on bathroom breaks and trips to the water fountain. From the very minute that I got up from my desk to the very second that my hands started typing on the keyboard, everything that could be tracked was tracked.

In the end, the PM was *extremely* pleased and was able to perform her magic rearranging billable time versus non-billable time.

About the Site

This site is built on the WordPress platform and makes use of Advanced Custom Field's Flexible Content modules to allow the client, John's Hopkins University, to build out their own pages as they like. Additional neat features included writing a splash page (the yellow countdown clock overlay) which shows up only if you are a new visitor (or have not been cookied). The countdown clock utilized Countdown.JS, as well as an SVG animation to write out "2017". Complex PHP logic was required to make sure that the flexible content modules appeared correctly inside post excerpts, and dutiful care was taken to ensure the best UX for a client accessing the WordPress backend. This included making sure shortcodes were easily accessible using the Shortcake UI plugin, as well as providing a proper documentation usage guide to send over to the client.