Three Years of Web Love (and Counting)
Today I finished my third year at Landmark. While time's flown by absurdly fast, it's been an intense journey and one that's clearly getting better over time.
When I joined the Group on April 5th, 2009, there was no "Web Team". In a behemoth conglomerate with over 31,000 employees at the time, there was no dedicated unit that focuses on building superior digital experiences with obsessive views on values like simplicity, cleanliness, user-friendliness, speed, polish, sophistication, standards compliance and so on.
Three years later, I'm beamingly proud to say that's all changed -- big time.
From a lonely figure of one, we're now a band of 17 passionate web professionals and practitioners of everything I mentioned above. From ideation to launch, we don't just care about processes like Information Architecture, Design, Development, Content Management, Copywriting, Quality Control, Product Marketing, Project Management, Product Management, Product Strategy, E-commerce...we love this stuff. It's our bread and butter. We've launched 7 major websites in 36 months and, if data is king, our analytics are showing a significant amount of improvement in the consumption of our sites.
What's happened now is that we've gotten better at doing what we do. We've detected patterns from project to project and created templates to expedite things wherever possible. We've started laying processes down along the way and iterating them with lessons learned from where we burnt our fingers in the past. We've seen where we're struggling, thrown experts at problems, and witnessed how they've turned potential disasters into winning scenarios. Yes we've made mistakes, like most teams do at some stage, but we've acknowledged them, openly discussed issues and risks amongst ourselves, our stakeholders, and know what to look out for the next time around.
We now have a network of great partners who we work with. They span three continents and a whole bunch of time zones. We use a bevy of simple and powerful web-based services that allow us to collaborate and communicate both internally, internationally, economically and reliably as if we were sitting in a park, around a picnic table and having a go at it. We have a dizzying number of Basecamp projects (we love Basecamp, and 37signals, no seriously), which we prune every now and then to ensure they're active and haven't fizzled out. On a lighter note, our team's even starting to look like a Benetton ad, with team members hailing from India, England, America, the Philippines and one bright spark from Romania, with swagger and a sense of humor to match.
In terms of office space, we've literally grown like a weed through other departments, clamoring for a free desk here and there until our numbers have helped justify our own turf. I clearly remember day one, or make that year one, when I was working solo on my first 5 projects. My cabin was lovingly nicknamed "solitary confinement" until the rest of the team started coming together from year two onwards. We were based in our Corporate Office for our first 31 months, where we borrowed space from the Projects & Architecture teams. We grew one by one until we ran out of room, so we moved to Oasis Centre for the last 5 months and occupied unutilized area from our friends at Fun City. But from next month onwards, we move to our first dedicated Web Team office in Dubai Investment Park. Our new headquarters are simple, clean, open, beautiful and reflect those web ideals we care so much about. There's tons of natural light and high ceilings, both of which make such a difference. We promise to share photos soon.
So like I said, we're getting better.
Now strangely so, after everything we've done so far, we still have no shortage of work cut out for us. Here's where we can't forget the epic size of the Middle East's largest retailer. All of our many businesses desire, and deserve, outstanding web experiences. Expectations are high and patience is low. So we need to grow both quickly and carefully. We need to keep working at building better and more innovative products, while supporting our stakeholders and exceeding customer expectations.
None of this is easy, but with the kind of team and environment that we're building, it's become a whole lot of fun. I feel privileged to work with my incredible team every day, confident that we will deliver on all our promises and eventually make a deep dent in our corner of the web universe.