Rising to the Challenge of Designing Websites in a Global Pandemic
It’s no understatement to say that everyone has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Lform is no exception to that. As a NJ based web design and development company, we’ve had to make a lot of adjustments to rise to the challenges presented to both our business and our clients. We’ve always held ourselves to high standards when it comes to serving our clients, and just because there is a “new normal” to adjust to doesn’t mean we can’t keep running things like we otherwise would.
Lform has done a lot in the past few weeks to make sure that our team is safe, our projects continue smoothly, and our clients get the best service possible. Here are some of the ways that we’ve adjusted.
Working Remotely During a Quarantine
Our first priority is and always will be the health and safety of our employees. Before our home state of New Jersey went into lockdown mode, we’d already made the decision that all of our employees would work from home starting March 17th. As a highly collaborative team that utilizes an open office layout, this was a big decision for us. We are used to being able to turn around and ask each other questions, brainstorm ideas, or crack the occasional joke directly.
Luckily, our team did have experience working remotely before. Events such as snow storms are pretty common occurrences, and often employees could get their work done from home instead of braving dangerous roads. As well, many of us have past experience working for companies or doing freelance work from our homes. It also helped that many of the tools we use are based online, allowing us to gather notes, share work, and get deliverables to clients in similar ways as before.
Even before the pandemic came to our doorstep, Lform had always regularly met as a team with a large status meeting every Monday morning as well as smaller, daily meetings to make commitments, ask each other questions, or update the status of projects. On top of this we added an end of day meeting as a way to stay in touch on our work and—most importantly—maintain a human connection to the team.
We even made sure to have a Happy Hour one night to blow off some steam, have a few drinks, and talk about our favorite quarantine Netflix binges!
Adapting Software Solutions When Working-From-Home
Even with all the built-in advantages our team has for a situation like we find ourselves in, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Each member of our team needed to set up their work-from-home spaces, get workstations properly set up, and adjust to our new (very short) commutes.
Our Senior Developer, Brandon Fenning, set up a VPN system to allow our employees to access our Ubuntu Linux server. It was no small feat on his part, having to set up a way to generate all the proper security certificates for everyone’s access while making sure that our servers were secure. He also made sure that all employees got up and running as early as possible, writing the documentation needed and troubleshooting issues on the fly.
On top of all this we made sure that everyone had the proper equipment to get their jobs done. External drives, computers, and extra monitors were provided to anyone who needed them and any extra requirements, such as cables & accessories, were ordered quickly and delivered to employee’s homes.
To make sure that our communication and project organization didn’t suffer, we expanded use of our team’s software tools.
We’ve always been heavy users of Slack—a business communication, notification, and chat software—and our team’s use of it increased exponentially. Slack has been a huge asset for asking questions, sharing files quickly, and discussing issues.
To track statuses and make sure projects progress smoothly we further expanded the use of our project management software, Asana. This has allowed us to not only make sure that projects are run like business-as-usual, but helps our clients by allowing them to see how projects are progressing and keep track of information, feedback, and content they need to get to us.
A particular challenge to any web design and development company is making sure all of our files and documentation are organized. For all this (and more!) we utilize G-Suite. Google Drive has been invaluable to make sure clients can access files and prototypes, keeping feedback and content organized, and backing up files.
Getting It Done for Our Clients
Even with all the adjustments our team has had to deal with internally, we knew it was important to keep in mind that our clients were dealing with similar issues as we were. Understanding that we’re all in this together, we continue to reach out to our clients to keep projects moving, see how they’re doing on both a personal and professional level, and learn ways we can help them—whether it’s figuring out how to reach their audience as everyone keeps their social difference, enhancements to communicate to their clients how they’re handling the situation, or to offer advice on the best ways to grapple with working remotely.
One big challenge is being able to meet with our clients to discuss projects, present work, and gather feedback. Lform has always been a company that values face-to-face meetings, so we began to leverage Google Meet even more. This has allowed us to maintain some face-to-face interaction all while delivering results at the same speed as before and at the quality our clients have come to expect.
For about a year, we’ve been pivoting away from the traditional tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign in favor of the prototyping tool Adobe XD With the reality of working remotely and meeting virtually with our clients, XD has been a real benefit to get across our intentions when we are wireframing, prototyping, and doing UI work to clients. On top of that, XD’s ability to allow clients to make comments directly into XD’s shared links has made gathering feedback much more streamlined.
Our development team in particular has had to overcome a lot of challenges to keep the websites we’re developing on time, on budget, and bug free. Most projects that Lform works on requires more than one developer to be working on the same codebase at the same time. To make sure this can happen seamlessly, we’ve extended our use of GitHub to host our code repositories. GitHub enables each team member to be working on the latest version of a site or app from anywhere while ensuring that no one is working on old versions of a codebase.
When it comes to trouble-shooting issues, Zoom gives our team a powerful set of tools to assist each other squashing bugs and brainstorming solutions to difficult problems. While code editors such as Visual Studio Code have tools such as Live Share dedicated to pair and mob programming—a technique in which multiple developers work at a single workstation to solve complex problems—we’ve found that Zoom’s ability to both act like a standard digital meeting space as well as the ability to take control of someone else’s desktop allows a more all-around solution to tackling complex issues. We are able to seamlessly highlight design issues using the built-in annotation tools for whiteboarding as well as write code in each other’s editors using remote desktop control all while maintaining face-to-face communication.
Monitoring and making sure that the websites we support are not only up and running but running smoothly, we’ve utilized Sentry for code error monitoring and UpTime Robot to ensure that the server running. These services allow anyone on the team to keep an eye on all of the websites that we’ve involved with from anywhere and alerts us to issues as they pop up in real time, enabling us to react quickly to problems that affect our clients and their users.
Business as Usual During Unusual Times
The current COVID-19 pandemic affecting our country has made running a business difficult for everyone, but it’s a challenge that we have definitely risen to. Even with the economic, physical, and mental stress we find ourselves dealing with, the team at Lform Design has done the utmost to keep churning out the highest quality work for our clients while ensuring that both they and our employees are as safe as possible while doing it. We’re committed to making sure that while we can’t be in direct contact with our clients, we’re still delivering the same level of service and quality we always have.
Everyone at Lform would also like to thank all of the essential workers, food and package delivery people, and healthcare professionals for their steadfast dedication to keeping things going and caring for those affected by COVID-19. While we all may be suffering a great deal already, we’re confident in our fellow New Jerseyans and Americans that we’ll come out of this situation stronger, smarter, and will keep each other safe.
In that same spirit, if you or your employees need help adapting to remote working environments or need help communicating your message to your clients feel free to contact us.