Ask any agency about the website update that's slipped most from its original deadline and it'll be its own. Studios are notorious for letting their own sites languish. And in the case of New York-based Oak, there was never a 'proper' site in the first place.
"We wanted to make one, but it's just never been a priority," says founder Skylar Challand, adding that the company had been getting by with a tiny splash page. "Although it had won us some praise, it was clear a real website needed to happen - we make these things for a living after all, and we wanted a place to share our ideas and work with the world."
But with a small team, time was a problem, and Oak therefore realised it had to do something dramatic. Knowing Oak could easily spend an entire month on a site, Challand wondered if a week would be enough. "Our goal was to do whatever we could in one week and launch something on the Friday at 5pm," continues Challand. "So we got together on Monday morning and dived right in. Everything from the planning, concept, design, photography, writing and development was to happen in one week."
The team placed a live countdown on its old website, also projected on to a studio wall, in order to stay motivated, make the team accountable and avoid feature-creep. Challand says the team has a tendency to be perfectionist when there are no deadlines, and so the countdown forced everyone out of their comfort zones. "This took a few days to sink in, but as tweets and words of encouragement started to pour in, it finally hit that there was no backing out," says Challand. "At first, we weren't really sure people would notice or care too much, but as we approached 5pm on Friday and started to see a stream of tweets counting down to our launch, it was a bit nerve-racking."
In the end, the team missed its deadline, but only by 37 minutes, and that was due to some last-minute bugs and transferring from oakmade.com to new domain oak.is, where the site is now live. Challand adds that the decision to launch quickly and iterate was also key: "In order to hit our deadline, not everything made the cut. We have a bunch of fun ideas that we will be releasing in small updates over the next few days. But without the countdown, we would have held off from launching, so it's kind of refreshing to just get it out there."
He adds that working under such time constraints forced efficiency and teamwork, and that the project was fun, although an admission that the team ended up dressing in fake red beards at one point perhaps suggests sanity wasn't always part of the equation. And while Challand says he "doesn't think we have a need to do another public countdown any time soon", he reckons the process was worthwhile: "We'll definitely take everything we learned and apply this renewed energy to whatever comes next."