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June 24, 2015

3 lessons from the WordPress do_action charity Hackathon

Last Saturday, Obox attended the second annual WordPress do_action charity hackathon day sponsored by WooThemes. The format required 8 teams of around 6 people each to build a website for a different charity in only 8 hours.

Step aside citizen! This is a job for Layers! 😉

Layers is obviously a great fit for this type of project, where both time and quality is a key factor. That sentiment was echoed by the teams, as 4 of 8 of them chose Layers with which to build their sites.

It was so insightful, as it always is, to watch groups of users go hands-on with Layers for the first time.

Lesson 1: Old habits die hard

A key insight from the day was how some teams still felt they needed to use the traditional, but ultra slow development methodology of wireframe > Photoshop > markup > integration etc… Because, basically, that’s what they’re used to. However, that isn’t the best way of creating a Layers site. Doing things that way makes it so much more difficult. The cool thing about the best Layers sites is that they’re born in Layers – by diving in with a new page and getting your content and images straight in, refining as you go, and bouncing back-and-forth to Photoshop or Sketch as needed.

In this way, a MVW (minimum viable website) can be ready in minutes and as the day goes on, through iterations and versions, it only gets better and better. This workflow is something we need to publicise more and we’ll definitely be doing documentation and videos for that soon!

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Lesson 2: Text, but better

Another insight was users wanting a rich text editor for Layers out of the box. So it’s a good thing we have one (almost) ready to go! (You can pull branch ‘rte’ on the GitHub repo to have a look at our progress)

Lesson 3: No roadblocks

We also saw that users often need a piece of functionality that a Layers extension can provide, but don’t know which one to use and find it tedious to browse them all and trial the demo. This holds up the super-fast Layers workflow. An indexed, categorised, “cheatsheet” type view of extensions would be perfect to quickly scan and choose an extension to get the particular job done. This is something we will be working on.

The need for something like this was very evident as we helped a team right at the very end of the day get a good-looking image gallery done when they were stuck and didn’t know what to use. It was exactly 5pm andHugh Lashbrooke had already stood up and begun introducing the team leaders to present their sites. Thankfully, we already knew of a fantastic extension, Mojo Gallery by @Nathanonn, which builds gorgeous galleries in seconds. We purchased, uploaded, activated it and completed the website before the first team speaker even stood up. Which was a satisfying (if slightly cheeky) win!

It was a brilliant day. Thanks to all that organised and participated and created some beautiful sites for some very deserving charities.

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Some Tweets from the day

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