Allure Beauty Blogger was a highly-interactive blogging contest system driven by audience reviews and voting with contestant and audience prizes. Its complexity resided within 1) the automated management of changing program “display” states across defined periods of time, 2) the need for Allure to easily feed the system with new content and manage the contestants, and 3) the need to interface to numerous 3rd party systems and databases.
Typically, when we are requested to bid on a project, the client will provide us with a Request for Proposal (RFP) which lists the features and functions and goals of the website. In this case, we were only given the high-level business requirements for the program and design mockups. Detail requirements were implied by Allure’s design, but we had to think beyond those implications to determine how each function would actually work for the end-user as well as the administrator.
This exercise is critical to the success of a project as it sets expectations for both the client and the developer; we all need to be on the same page so there are no surprises when the work is completed. Due to our exhaustive conceptualization and our client’s feedback, we reached a sufficient level of clarity which allowed us to deliver the expected project on time and within budget.
Third Mind’s Team
Our internal team was comprised of a Client Contact (who was also provide project management and quality assurance testing), Designer, Front-end Developer, and 2 Programmers. The programmers split contained functions, and co-produced those that over-lapped. The Client Contact and one of the Programmers co-developed the various supporting documentation – including specs, user manuals, application diagrams, and administrative cheat sheets.
The client’s team was managed by the Key Contact who served as liaison between Allure’s editor, marketing department, program designer, IT department and various technical 3rd party service representatives. The Key Contact ensured expectations across key stakeholders were consistent, provided review support and feedback, assessed last minute changes for validity / risk, and handed off management to the marketing department for program launch.
Planning and Development
Given the limited development timeframe (3 months), we worked backward to determine milestones for initial configuration, design integration, functional specifications, development, 3rd party integration, testing and deployment.
We ran design integration on a parallel track with functionality specifications. Custom theme & template development followed, with custom functions next and 3rd party integration after that.
Program Prep through Post Launch
The last few weeks prior to completion were spent on internal testing, client review and revisions.
Post launch, we remained available for tech support as needed. At program’s completion, we provided final system documentation so Allure could manage the program in the future.
The Quality Assurance (QA) test processes were extensive as all program “view” states required review. Initial internal testing was first run by Third Mind to root out and fix any bugs. Once the application stability was assured, Allure staff reviewed and requested final revisions prior to going live. This cycle took roughly 3 weeks as last minute changes were assessed. Changes with limited risk were introduced up to a week before development froze prior to implementation. During this review period, the client staff was trained to enter final approved content so they could take over the administration of the project.
The morning the program launched, we gathered with the Allure team and watched the clock countdown to begin the first blogging challenge. As the program ran, we monitored, observed and finessed a few minor points as the program played out as anticipated. Our team was swept up in the excitement as we voted for our favorites. (Third Mind’s contestant didn’t win, but we still enjoyed the process!)
Our relationship with Condé Nast Publications began in 1998 when we assisted Bon Appétit with the development of their online Bingo Card functionality. Over the years, our relationship expanded to preferred vendor status as various titles sought our development support for marketing sites and targeted advertiser / social / email campaigns.
Really great collaborative team. There was a lot of give and take with respect to the functionality conceptualization. Our client understand risk assessment and change management, and they respected the importance of testing and freezing the site for any further change prior to implementation.
We were pleased that Allure was extremely happy to see their vision displayed in a consistent and predictable manner throughout the life of the program.
Our engineers loved solving the complex puzzle of the program's various states. Conceptually, we had to uncover how the different states impacted the overall site functionality as well as the context of content on every page. Then we had to develop a solution to manage those variables based on date, time, and status of contests and contestant popularity.
Testing was a real challenge due to the various program states. We literally did several dry runs - both internally and for the client - to demonstrate the entire length of the program in order to confirm every variable that was driven by the program state. We compressed a 6 week long program to run within hours for this purpose. This was easily managed via the special admin functions we created for Allure.
A system so user-friendly, Allure was able to run the program in subsequent years using our documentation as their sole support.