Responses by Larissa Huang, front-end developer; and Mike Kingsborough, design director, Engine Digital.
Background: “We care about small business, and we believe that a healthy economy and a strong community needs to support its local entrepreneurs, especially today,” says Mike Kingsborough. “So to do our part to help, we created NicelySmall, a curated list of design-forward small businesses in our hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.”
Favorite details: “We’re most proud of the interaction and motion design details,” says Kingsborough, “not only in their fidelity, but in the fact that their role and behavior were informed by a concerted effort across our design and development teams from day one. It truly shows how collaboration and ongoing communication is essential to create a beautiful yet functional experience.”
Challenges: “Time,” says Kingsborough. “We planned to launch just prior to the holidays, so that users could take full advantage of the content. This left us only a few weeks for strategy, design and development. As you can imagine, we had a lot of aspirations, and the depth we could travel to was dictated by time. Ultimately, our minimum viable product considers evolution at a later date with minimal design and development debt.
“Time constraints affected the inclusion of some content, features and visual expression,” Kingsborough continues. “It narrowed and reduced design and development exploration, so rapid collaboration and an all-hands-on-deck ideation approach was crucial. We were able to identify big ideas and reduce them from there with scalability and refactoring in mind.”
Divergent paths: “We could have sent out a survey to people for different gift categories they wanted to see,” says Larissa Huang. “It might be interesting to see some lesser known categories. It might have also been nice to include some pairings between businesses, just to get the potential shopper to consider visiting two or more of these shops for a combo gift—say, a pullover and a pair of sneakers.”
Navigation structure: “The thinking behind it is to encourage exploration while remaining supportive with pointed visual cues and anchors,” says Kingsborough. “We’ve implemented contextual cursor behaviors and visualizations to help provide additional context.”
Special technical features: “The main appeal of the site is the contextual cursor, as well as the smooth interactive effects and revealing text when users scroll down the single-page site,” says Huang. “As a digital team, we’re always balancing the visual appeal of a website with the use value to our users. I think we struck a good balance here, considering that it has a distinct visual appeal while still showcasing the content first and foremost.”