Responses by Paul Spencer, front-end developer, Humaan
Background: The Golden Pipeline Heritage Trail is a historical drive trail through the heart of Western Australia. Its custodian, National Trust WA, wanted to inspire more interest in the trail amongst visitors. This website is an interactive engagement tool, encouraging users to explore the landmark locations and history of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.
Highlights: The interactive map. The narrative backbone for journeys through the site, it keeps users grounded as they explore the Golden Pipeline story. Plus, it’s literally a map of the trail, which makes the actual drive and history more accessible to those who can’t physically visit each stop, and serves as a useful planning tool for those who can.
Challenges: Managing our timelines. This was a development-heavy project with a lot of moving parts, both across the user interface and under the hood. As we developed the UI, we discovered many things we had to solve on the fly too. But we knew that this project would be a little different, and adapted our internal processes to work around the challenges.
Favorite details: The end result. We arrived at the build phase with a big question mark over how we’d achieve a lot of the features, but after a while, we hit a point where the app just felt right. It’s logical; it’s smooth; the transitions are snappy; the layouts are comfortable, and the site caters to users looking for specific information or just wanting to explore.
Technical features: Instead of managing pages, we managed panels—a set of hierarchical containers for displaying different types of content. Viewed in a desktop browser, the panels on the left go three levels deep and control the main body of content, site navigation and supporting historical detail. Meanwhile, the panels on the right are only one level deep, but display tabbed content when interacting with the map. Supporting this is our own custom-built, Ajax-based infrastructure that harnesses the client’s vast collection of media and articles, and presents them.
Anything new: I came on board after development had already started. My job involved close collaboration with our backend developer to build the UI while the infrastructure was still in progress. Working concurrently meant we could adapt to any new needs we discovered in the process, offering more flexibility in meeting client expectations. I learned that backend development doesn’t always need to start after the front end’s done; in this case, doing it the other way around had a massive payoff.