Open Studios September 2012

As part of the highly anticipated Brighton Digital Festival, the 24th - 28th of September 2012 saw 20 of Brighton’s thriving digital agencies open their doors to the public as part of Wired Sussex’s Digital Open Studios week. The idea of this week was to offer people the chance to visit these agencies in their working environment, so you can see what they do, where they do it and how they do it!

Last year, we held two highly successful, sold out sessions in collaboration with our neighbours at NixonMcInnes. So this year, we decided to go solo and hold our own session, where the public could come and meet the team and find out more about what we do over a spot of lunch. We offered two interactive presentations entitled ‘Rethinking Interfaces’ and ‘Getting Clever with Linked Data,’ to give people an idea of the thinking that goes on behind the scenes at Cogapp. It was also a great opportunity for us to showcase some recent projects that we are particularly proud of, including a virtual exhibition space for the ICA, award-winning apps for Tate Modern and Dorling Kindersley and a ground-breaking new website for The Science Museum which will launch later this year.

We were over the moon with the response we received to our session, which sold out twice, and left us hunting for extra chairs to cater for the demand! On the day, we were worried that some dreadful Brighton weather would prevent people from attending, but we were delighted when over 50 guests arrived and filled our fourth floor studio. The lovely people at Moorish provided our guests with some rather tasty Moroccan morsels, and after a mouthful or two of hummus, our guests settled down to hear our presentations.

Our design team, Eleanor, Sita and honouree design member Joe, kicked things off with a talk on the theme of ‘Rethinking Interfaces.’ They discussed a method of working that helps surface a better, more minimal way of interfacing with designs. Using great examples of how Amazon and Google looked in the early 90s, Joe explained how interfaces have evolved to become sleeker and more minimal. Google in particular, has recently moved to a distinctly minimal interface and we discussed the reasoning behind their ‘I’m feeling lucky button,’ which nobody in our audience had ever clicked. Interestingly, this feature costs Google $110 million a year as 1% of all searches use this button and bypass advertising. Perhaps Google is trying to give something back to their users?

OpenStudios2012UI from Cogapp on Vimeo.

The team then presented some of our recent projects that have used this collaborative approach to great success, those being The ICA SOUNDWORKS website and The Unilever Series at Tate Modern iPad app. Sita spoke about how she set about designing an interface for the Tate app that wouldn’t detract from Tate’s beautiful content whilst mirroring the distinctive iconography of the Turbine Hall.

One of the app’s key characteristics is the distinctive, time wheel gesture that allows the user to go forward, and back in time through thirteen years of artwork. As we didn’t want to clutter the interface with instructions and guidance, Sita explained the importance of user testing this navigational device thoroughly to ensure that users could use it intuitively.

If you’d like to learn more about our work with the ICA and Tate you can read more below:

ICA SOUNDWORKS online exhibition by Joe Baskerville

Rethinking Gestures by Gary Hoff 

Next up, Ben and Tristan, gave us a whirlwind tour of the concepts behind linked data and the semantic web. Thankfully, they began with an introduction to the basics, which was highly appreciated by the less technically minded of us. It was really interesting to hear just how quickly the semantic web has grown since 2007 as shown in the graphs below.

To give us some real-world context, Tristan showed some examples of websites already making clever use of linked data including The BBC’s MusicBrainz, Wildlife Finder and World Cup 2010 microsites. Coincidently, one of our guests had worked on the BBC’s MusicBrainz website and he was able to tell us about his experience of working with linked data. It was interesting to hear that he had faced similar challenges to our tech team.

Here at Cogapp, we’ve also been busy making use of linked data through our work building beautiful apps for Dorling Kindersley and developing an exciting new website for the Science Museum. Ben gave us a sneaky peek of this work-in-progress website which works to make meaningful connections between their existing online content. Watch this space for the launch of this website early next year.

If you’d like to learn more about linked data and the semantic web, Tristan and Ben recommend checking out our Semantic Web and Linked Data bookmarks on Delicious and the Semantic Web Wiki.

A big thank you to everyone who braved the rain to visit us on Wednesday. Overall, it was a great day, and we got to meet some really interesting people. We do hope you found the session interesting and got some useful insight into the world of Cogapp and how we operate. If you have any questions or comments about the session, we’d love to hear from you and you can get in touch via the comments box below.