My first product building hackathon last weekend, did not go so hot, in fact, it was downright disappointing! Here’s some lessons I learned over the weekend that I hope you will take to your next hackathon. No need for us to make the same mistakes twice.
1) Keep Things Fast and Simple
Why design a website from scratch? There’s a template for everything and it probably has better design and front end code than you could do in a weekend. Preselect which template you want from ThemeForest before the start of the hackathon to save even more time. Don’t let your designer convince you that he can draw something out just as quickly, because he most likely can’t.
Use stock photos where ever possible in order to keep time intensive Photoshop and inDesign use to a minimum. It’s also much easier to look for photos on a stock photo site than through Google images, I suggest Bigstockphoto.com because they have a free 2 week trial.
Lastly, if possible, ditch anything that takes too long. Over the weekend, we were having a ton of trouble implimenting Facebook login. As soon as it took more than three hours to implement, we should have ditched it and just went with the much simpler email sign up.
2) Make sure people can stay
Half my team could not stay for the entire weekend. Turns out that if you aren’t in the same room together, reliability and speed become an issue. Double check that all your team members are staying the weekend and if they are not recruit accordingly to fill the gaps.
3) Find a front end dev right away
Whether you decide to build a site from scratch or use a template, you should make sure that you have a front end developer who can make it all work. Most likely, the product that you will build has a simple back end, so it is more important that you have a good front end developer than a back end one.
4) Have a failsafe presentation
At the end of the weekend, due to our choice of going with a from scratch design and lack of a front end dev, I ended up with just mocks to present. When I realized this, 10 minutes before the presentation, all I could do was put the mocks in my browser and scroll through them one at a time. This was one of the worst presentations of my life. Next hackathon, I will be sure to have a decent looking an hour before the presentation time just in case I do not have a live product to demo.
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