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Project Notes

Democracy Street

Houses of Parliament and Arts Council England collaborated on a digital arts project that required a mapping application.

The challenge

To celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta, Parliament and Arts Council England wanted a new artwork based on UK street names. Their commissioned artist approached us to create a platform that would allow anyone to investigate the history of their local area. The data collected would then be used to inspire the final piece.

Technical challenges

Articles about the project were featured in The Guardian and Wired before launch, so we knew we would have to be prepared for lots of traffic. We were confident we could handle this, as we have extensive experience hosting sites for large organisations. We also built a custom hosting environment to support the need for real time communication.

The idea was to allow users to learn more about the historical figures who inspired the names of their streets. The Houses of Parliament provided us with different databases, and we used data from a community map project, OpenStreetMap. Our technical team created code that would combine these multiple sources, and create a usable platform to generate results.

Why a web app?

We were given the final decision on the most suitable approach for this project, with the only requirement being that maximum engagement was needed. We decided to use a mobile web app as it could be built quickly, and used on any device, so could reach as many users as possible. We could also easily push updates without waiting for App Store approval.

The client said:

When the Houses of Parliament first approached me with the initial idea for Democracy Street we had no idea how this would be possible. Si digital took our initial brief and crafted something truly unique which invites genuine interaction on a national scale.

Jon Adams / Parliament Commissioned Artist -

A focus on the user experience

As this was a completely new project, we were able to define the user journey from the beginning. The user flows were developed and detailed testing was carried out at each stage in our User Experience Lab. This meant we could be sure that the final versions would offer a seamless and engaging journey as visitors navigated around the app and desktop site.

Why a separate desktop and mobile version?

As this project called for users to get out and about, taking photos of street names and tracking their locations, a mobile app was a definite. However, the brief asked for maximum engagement, so a desktop site was created to allow those that may be desk-based or without a smartphone to also get involved tracking the progress of those around them.

Maximising engagement

We introduced a gaming element to encourage ongoing engagement with the app, as the final artwork relied on users discovering as many streets as possible. Visitors could earn nine different badges by using all the features on the app, then claim a final Mozilla award, accredited by the Arts Council of England.

Project Summary

Democracy Street was a unique project for prestigious, high profile clients. We have a meticulous approach to testing and a wealth of experience creating bespoke solutions that handle high traffic volumes. This meant we could build a secure, reliable, engaging platform that offered both an interactive user experience and upheld the reputations of the organisations represented.

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