Helping make a website for a charity that helps people with a rare muscle wasting disease: myasthenia gravis

As part of organised by Stewart Curry I was on a team that was tasked with producing in 24 hours a brand new website for one of the chosen charities, the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Ireland. My job was the orchestrate the copy (the text, the words, the writing - too many ways of saying it!) for the site.

Karen (@karenclancymga) briefed us on what Myasthenia Gravis is and what the Association does. We had a lot of questions for her and fired them at her as they occurred to us. She was well able for us! Bear in mind, too, that most people on the team had only just met for the first time and never worked together before.

The team was as follows:

Niall Cusack

We had lots to say ourselves on the MGA's current communications and found ourselves discussing branding and naming and PR etc. Karen got a lot from this, she told us, and found it refreshing her sense of what could be done in terms of positioning MGA etc.: it helped her see the MGA from a different perspective, and we gave her lots of "off the top the head" ideas, including giving the ragdoll mascot associated with MGA a name: Mya. (Maybe even Mya G would make it even more effective, it occurs to me now.)

We got down to work then on planning and structure and arranging content and layout and navigation etc. Karen supplied a massive amount of written material which I sifted through and arranged under logical headings. These were matched up with the website navigation items, and at that stage I removed myself somewhat from the group in order to read through and start editing some of the copy. (When I have to read and edit or write I really need to be away from the action; peace and calm are more conducive to clear thought and verbal fluency for me than is group work and dialogue.) Meanwhile the rest of the team worked in various sub-groups to start building the site (on Wordpress) and managing the process. We got together regularly through the night to make sure we were on target and on message.

It was not easy to work through the night but with lots of help and encouragement from each other, from a sense of the importance of the cause, from Stewart and Darragh, and from the food sponsors (Kanum, Jo’Burger, Bel & Bellucci, iQ Content who bought breakfast, Innocent Smoothies, Tayto) we managed. We very nearly pulled it off too, but due to the sheer volume of material that MGA involves we didn't quite get the entire site ready for public viewing by the 24th hour. We're doing the final tidying up over the next few days to make sure Karen & the MGA & MG patients have a website that does what they need it to. We finished up the process by giving Karen a quick tutorial in using Wordpress for content management, and finally revealing the site to her. I'm glad to say that how much she loved it was very clear from her facial expression: pure delight.

It was a great experience for us too, I think: artificial in that it was so intensified in terms of time, team, space, concentration and energy; yet revealing in that it showed about as dramatically as you could get the volume and value of the work that web teams handle all the time; and ultimately exhilarating and fascinating in the way a team shapes together around an impending deadline and does what it has to do in spite of the odds and the forces of physiology.

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