Building Website Projects with a Fast-Paced Startup Mentality

by Jake Rocheleau

on September 17, 2012

in Business/Freelance

If you’ve heard the term “startup” before then you are likely familiar with the idea of rapid work progression. Internet/tech startups often focus on building one single project and quickly scaling out new features over time. This mindset can be pushed onto projects for the web related to design & development.

Featured Image Shot - Sunrise over San Francisco, CA

In this article I’d like to share some ideas behind working with a startup mentality. You can easily accomplish an incredible amount of work each day if you know where to focus your energy. It’s difficult to shift your attention span after being ingrained with your own schedule for so long. But follow these trends and you may find yourself completing more project work than ever.

How To Migrate Tasks

The strongest advice towards working with this incredibly quick mindset is to never fear change. It is nature’s way of correcting things which may be out of balance. And along with these changes you need to understand why newer methods may work better.

Migrate your tasks around throughout the day into different times. You may find it easier to design in the morning, compared with coding or writing in the afternoon. Whatever schedule you can fit into that will grant the most effortless transition into completing all your tasks. There’s a lot of trial-and-error when first getting started. But these are valuable lessons to be learned early in the process.

Driving cars on a snowy morning in Sweden

There may also be times when you have a task planned but then something else more important comes up. You should always assess your daily routine and think if there’s a better situation you could follow. Sometimes it actually is better to put off a task until tomorrow so you can complete something more important today.

Achieving Goals ‘In the Moment’

Although a steady long-term plan is important, over time you’ll notice this isn’t something you can focus on continuously. The only way a 1-year plan comes to fruition is through hard work on individual tasks each day.

I believe you should look over your long-term plan for reevaluation every so often. But don’t make this part of your daily routine unless the project is relatively brief(1-2 weeks long). After completing individual tasks you’ll feel a lot more relieved to be focused solely on that achievement.

Working space in Boston Techspace Citysquares

Also the problem with focusing ahead is that you tend to live in the future too much. You can’t do anything right now to affect the future except work on the task at hand. So ultimately it’s better to stay within the daily “routine” while you’re working. However, be sure to set aside time for reflection and update your long-term goals accordingly.

Understanding Needs vs. Wants

This back-and-forth comes up frequently when working on my own personal projects. There are plenty of ideas you’ll have which feel amazing in the moment, but you know aren’t super important overall. Allowing yourself to be distracted by these ideas is how you fall off the tracks.

Let’s look at a sample comparison between building your website’s contact form or redesigning your social media icons. Adding a whole new contact form will directly affect how visitors can interact with the website. This allows a new medium of communication to receive feedback, or to answer support questions. New icon designs are merely aesthetic and, while a nice thought, shouldn’t be considered a priority item.

This is a rather simplistic comparison but you’ll run into this issue countless times throughout the course of a project life cycle. It’s good practice to evaluate your ideas from the user’s perspective. Ask yourself “how will this benefit the user experience?”.

Art sketches with a messy desktop

When building any products for the web the ultimate review board should be your userbase. How the average user responds to your website should be a tell-tale sign towards the interface & layout scheme. Focus on what the user needs before what you need or want.

Working on Open Source

I’m a huge advocate for the open source movement which has grown primarily via the Internet. Thanks to websites like Github we now have more open source code available than any other time in the history of software development! It makes projects a whole lot more manageable and you should be utilizing this incredible resource.

It will be tough to get yourself started even looking into other projects. Plus I know many developers aren’t always trusting of other code and they would rather write it themselves. But I feel we are all human and capable of making mistakes. And in truth much of the open code has been scrutinized by hundreds or thousands of developers, so bugs are cleared up quickly.

Retina.js open source JavaScript library for retina display devices

The best part about working with open source is that many libraries behave as plug-ins to your document. So you can just include a CSS or JS file, make some slight alterations and that’s all the work you need. Immediately the Retina.js project comes to mind which replaces all images in your website with @2x display on retina devices.

For building a startup or even a simple website there is nothing wrong with open source projects. Spend some time in Google researching any issues or complaints with different scripts. There’s no need to use a whole group of untested frameworks. But do keep your mind open as more impressive code samples are published every day.

Final Thoughts

The startup mentality is certainly not for everybody. It takes a lot of dedication and often requires more time upfront. But I feel the investment is worthwhile if you can gain so much control over your work schedule.

I do hope these tips can help some web designers/developers who are looking for a more straightforward approach to the workday. You want to space out larger tasks and keep yourself interested in the work, yet not fall too far behind in the process. Balance is key if you want to succeed – as with most things in life. If you have similar ideas or questions on the startup mentality you can share with us in the post discussion area below.

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About Jake Rocheleau

Jake is a digital researcher and writer on many popular design magazines. He frequently writes on topics including web design, user experience, mobile apps, and project management. You can find him all throughout Google and tweeting @jakerocheleau. Connect with Jake on google+