The Comic Relief Technology Blog

How ‘Going Live’ became my mental blocker

For the past four months, the Platform Squad at Comic Relief has been working on a content migration from the old Drupal 7 code base to our beautiful new Drupal 8 platform. Anyone who’s been near this blog in the past year will have heard tons about the new platform (available here on Github) – but what today’s post is about is the final stage of the migration, ‘Going Live’.

Whilst our aspiration is to deliver value as quickly as possible and always work in the open, the reality is that a large bulk of what we’ve been working on has all been behind closed doors. We already had a website live and functional which our work was set to replace, so at whatever time we made the Drupal 8 version live, it would have to be better than what was currently there. We were able to test out our new architecture on users and wheedle out issues which had been pitfalls in UX on our site previously, but we weren’t putting out our improvements as quickly as we should have. Starting from scratch is easy in comparison – when having anything is better than nothing – we were making a change which we knew would provide more long-term value, but had to ensure we wouldn’t lose anything of value when we switched.

On 3 August, our new hosting partner Platform.sh was ready and waiting to push beta.comicrelief.com up to comicrelief.com, but we’d come across a last-minute blocker… me.

As much as I love to preach that traditional sign-off is dead, ‘Going Live’ seemed like something that was SO big and grand that it couldn’t possibly happen at 11am on a Thursday because I said it was OK. My colleague Naomi called me out on it – “What were you doing calling it GO LIVE? Of course everyone will panic when you make it sound such a big deal!” and they did.

Perhaps overused, the idiom ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ held true for us. We were in a position where we knew we had a technically better solution than the current one. We knew that any new content which we were putting live was no risk to brand reputation. Most importantly, we knew that if we waited for the entire world to ‘sign off’, we’d be working behind closed doors for months to come.

So after my initial panic and calling off the scheduled 11am slot with Platform.sh (sorry guys), we agreed it was ready. The new window between 3 and 4pm was set aside for the transition and by 15:26 it was done.

No fireworks went off. No server-crashing rush of new users flooded to the site. No one really gave a hoot. If anything the entire experience was wholly underwhelming because apparently most the world REALLY don’t care which version of Drupal powers your website.

So, what have I learnt / remembered through this experience? 

  1. Thinking of ‘Going Live’ as a big deal will only ever delay the inevitable – unless your end goal is to bin all your teams work and stick with what you’ve got.
  2. “If you build it, they will come” is only true if you build it, shout about it and chuck a bit of marketing spend behind a big “ta-da”.
  3. Don’t use stakeholders as scapegoats when you’re scared to do something.
  4. Never forget that ‘Going Live’ is not the same as going to print – you aren’t stuck with the same content or code forever so don’t let minor imperfections stop you.
  5. There is no such thing as perfect.

Finally, I wanted to give a shout out to everyone who has worked on the migration project – the development team for the new infrastructure and a huge thanks to the designers and content team who had such a mammoth task.

You can check out their fine work now at comicrelief.com