New Adventures Conf: Find Somewhere to Eat/Drink
Chris and Kyle, NACONF is on the horizon and we want to know what JH is preparing for it?
K: Nottingham is a pretty epic place so we thought about creating an interactive map app so people new to the city can find interesting places around Nottingham a lot easier. Not to mention those who have been here before, there’s always something you’ve not seen in Nottingham.
C: New Adventures do a great job of creating a PDF of their favourite places but it was something that we thought about doing that was personal to us here at JH. We wanted to make a mobile focused experience using Google maps featuring all the places we advocate. Also, and most importantly, make them easy to find. We’ve also featured the additional information that New Adventures includes in their PDF guide.
Why should people who attend New Adventures use this app?
K: This isn’t just any old directory of information, it’s actually places where both New Adventures promote and JH love to go to. So if you go to one of the locations on the app, you’re more likely to bump into someone else attending the conference. Helping again to promote the social aspects we want people to gain from it.
We are also making the app date specific so the main event(s) that are on that day will be feature. So on the 23rd, Second Wednesday and Erskine Bowling will be the main focus and so on.
So an aim is to bring people together with it too?
C: If you go to a conference on your own and there on some 650 people there, it’s nice to know at least some of these people will be going to the same restaurant or pub as you. We’re firstly showing exactly where New Adventures conference is and where all the after and pre-parties are – Second Wednesday and Erskine Bowling etc. So on a basic level; it’s easier to find those venues in the first place. But, for example, “JH likes this Indian restaurant” – we’ll write a little review for it on the app, perhaps with our favourite meals etc.
On top of all this you’ll be able to hook into services like foursquare and twitter – so not only is it helping people find their ways, it’s connecting them as well.
K: One of the things that is so great about this app, is because it’s web based you won’t need to download it. And it’ll be super fast, like around 2 seconds fast or so that’s the plan. I tell you what, if it doesn’t come find me and I’ll buy you a drink!
Why is it so quick?
K: Because were optimising the s**t out of it. From frameworks to images we’re reducing everything to make it as streamline as possible. For example the app is written in vanilla JS the only thing you’ll need to download is some Google Scripts. I wish I could write those myself too but it’ll be okay for now. The less you have to download the faster your experience it’s that simple
Why did you choose to create a web app rather than something on paper for example?
C: We’re actually doing both, we have to submit an ad to the New Adventures newspaper – as we’re sponsors. But when it came down to discussing what we could have in our sponsorship goodie bag for the attendees, we wanted to choose something which best communicated us. Who JH are, what defines us and why we’re sponsors to New Adventures.
We were talking about all these different ideas of pride, craft and care and what really connects us to the people who attend New Adventures. But, to put it simply, we are a web agency. What we do is digital – it would be daft to make something physical when what we deal in is digital. It seemed natural to compliment what we do with what we can give the attendees.
K: JH is all about the beer and food too so you know, unless we can put a beer in the goody bag…and it wouldn’t be chilled…
This is a little bit different to your normal builds at JH, how did you find the process from the initial ideas to the finished working product?
K: Normally it would be an ECommerce site or a website of some kind whereas in this case it has literally just been a web app.
C: We treated ourselves as our own client so we created our own constraints and did experiences where we thought “What would the user use this for?” and “If this was our first time in Nottingham what would I expect to do with this app.” From there we were able to establish that it needs to do X,Y and Z and needs to do so easily. Then we wire framed basic ideas – obviously a lot of the branding and design was dictated by that of JH’s, but through looking at what the users would use it for, we constructed affective wireframes. Everything is vector based so it’s retina friendly.
We also built from the mobile upwards and this will be the primary function of the app, however, we made it desktop friendly so those users still get a good experience. By doing this, we were able to keep it light and concise for the mobile too.
K: Yeah it’ll have a desktop base experience but with a mobile focus. Normally we primarily do desktop based websites, so in this instance we’ve flip reversed it. Obviously we use mobile as the term of anything that anyone could have with them when they’re on the move – so a tablet for example.
What kind of restraints have you found if any, from building mobile upwards?
C: None in the sense that we’ve already dealt with mobile first as that’s what we did with our own site – see link. So there are natural constraints to designing this way but, for want of a better word, I find them liberating because actually by working for the extreme user – so those who might use a range of devices but also those who work with low connectivity, we were able to fully streamline everything we’ve done in the build.
We also need to think about limited screen space of mobile users. Because of this, our first thoughts were: “Right, we need to make this as concise as possible.” People haven’t got keyboards or mice on the go so the touch functions need to be as easy as possible for people to press. If you consider all these things, you create a site that is so much more focussed which naturally scales upwards to desktop.
By considering all these viewports, you create a far more streamlined desktop site in the end.
Do you think you’ll be able to implement what you’ve learnt into further working practices?
C: From a design perspective we followed a really rigid process which we want to establish as our personal working practices in future – one where we’ve literally gone from mobile upwards and considered vector in the process. We’ve built from wireframe and not spent a lot of time in Photoshop. We’ve also seriously considered the path and the story boarding of the process.
From here, aspects that needed to be vector went straight into illustrator and we very loosely used Photoshop as a guideline to where the design is going to be further decided in the browser. So we still have the flexibility to move aspects around and test things within the browser.
Overall, it feels more of a natural process with considerations given for the extreme user.
K: For me personally, it’s been the type of project where we both work on both areas. With the approach that we’ve taken, we’ve spent 90 per cent of our time with pencil and paper and really put our minds to work first. Then tools, such as Photoshop, just focus on delivering that extra 10 per cent.
For us because working with mobile first – it’s the focus on what’s important, the experience of the user. In essence, it’s confirmed to us the importance of beginning with the basics of pencil and paper rather than spending ages messing around with a tool. We love designing this way, not only for the ease of creating ideas but for being able to basically communicate with each other in the team.
C: We also [on this project] gave a much more active role to people who weren’t part of the project for feedback. Instantly then it was clear if something was missing or this bit works better here. If anything needed changing, we could do so easily on paper.
K: Yeah, if you think as well, you don’t spend a lot of time on sketches, so if they get pulled to pieces by someone else, you haven’t really lost anything. It’s literally all about an idea so you feel better about criticism and you focus on the pure factors of the design and how this affects the user experience. We’ll also be testing the app ourselves, a lot.
So we’ll be seeing you walking round Nottingham with your noses pressed against your phones then!
What’s the future for the app? What will happen to it after NACONF?
K: I’ve been thinking about the idea of making this a nice and easy framework which can be implemented at other conferences. So you can download it and go through a step-by-step process of how to set it up and boom! With that we’d apply any feedback with get from NACONF about it, so hopefully this is just step one of JH pushing what we love the most and sharing it with anyone else who wants it.
C: Yeah exactly, I don’t think the app will go down because we’d like it to still be there as a legacy but what we might do is just be repackaged. I mean, we don’t expect it to be used but if it’s still up there then at least people can still see as little projects. It almost works like a time capsule as well – you can always refer to who said what about what at what time etc.
K: The core functionality of the map side of it is portable. So say if Nottingham City Council wanted to use it, it would be there. It could change to JH Loves… rather than JH does NA.
The JH map app will be launched on the 23rd of January for those of you arriving in Nottingham.