Boomweek – July 2012

Boomweek is a twice-yearly event comprising a client-free week where the Boomworks team work purely on interesting concepts and ideas that we are passionate about. We’ve just wrapped up our July edition which resulted in some awesome outcomes.

The rules of Boomweek are simple: anybody can pitch an idea, all the ideas get put to a vote, and the top-rated projects win a berth. We then apportion staff to projects based on what they voted for and what core skills are required to give the idea the best chance of success.

One frenzied week of agile, iterative design and development ensues.

There are a number of logistical challenges this week raises for us as a business; primarily convincing our clients that we are unavailable for project work – particularly tricky in the midst of long-running projects – and the opportunity cost of having around 25 Boomworkers gainfully employed for a week on non-billable work.

We address the first challenge by placing Boomweek into our schedule a few months ahead of time and giving our clients plenty of advance warning. We inevitably have a number of staff dealing with high-priority or critical issues if they arise during the week, but we do our best to plan ahead and avoid any stress.

For the other, we have seen first-hand that that the value we get from Boomweek is more than worth the investment of time. The benefits are realised not just internally through the resulting projects, but also by our clients and the work we undertake for them subsequently:

  • Innovation – innovation comes through many means, but the combination of different people from different teams working on one project with a remit to explore creative ideas is an ideal platform.
  • Team building – collaboration is at the heart of creating solutions that deliver an excellent user experience; it is no longer enough for a company of UX designers to create the world’s greatest set of personas, customer journeys and wireframes and then hand them over to the client as a finished solution. A customer’s experience is derived from their interactions with the final, online solution once it has been built and launched. During Boomweek we get to push collaboration to its extremes: designers, UXers, PMs and developers all dive in and work together, at the same time, within a fixed time constraint to deliver a workable solution.
  • Up-skilling – people are encouraged to get out of their conform zone and get involved in processes that would normally be the remit of another department, or to try out a new tool, language or technique.
  • It’s fun – at the end of the week everyone is tired, but we’re revitalised about the process of design and creation, and ready to apply some new ideas to our everyday work.

This most recent Boomweek gave rise to the following projects:

  • An iPhone app that tracks product prices and shows you the best deals
  • An iPod Touch app for school children to encourage and support book reading
  • A hybrid desktop site / mobile experience for organising social gatherings
  • Some cool WebGL experiments in the new Boomworks lab

In addition, we had a team working on some Arduino-based projects which resulted in the Boomworks light-up-lego-logo which illuminates whenever Boomworks is mentioned on Twitter – and the magic music changer, which controls our office iTunes playback through an old analogue turntable.

Stay tuned for word of some launches in the App Store, and perhaps an upcoming blog post about our Arduino adventures.

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