coding, graphics, mobile, ui, Uncategorized, web design, web development

Winning Hackcess to Justice (NC)

It was a pleasure to meet Raleigh attorney Caroline DiMaio this weekend and to advance her vision of an app to help inform migrant workers of their legal rights.

Our creation placed first out of five entries at the Raleigh edition of Hackcess to Justice, a hackathon presented by the ABA Journal and the N.C. Bar Association.  The competition was held at Campbell Law School and sponsored by Citrix ShareFile, Lawyers Mutual, and Poyner Spruill, LLP.

(It’s kind of a small world: I learned of this hackathon from Matthew Wilcut, a legal-aid attorney (and developer!) I met at a Startup Weekend competition in Greensboro a few years ago.)

Press Coverage

“App to aid migrant workers wins 3rd Hackcess to Justice hackathon” (ABA Journal)

“Code of law: ‘Hackathon’ gives birth to ideas for bridging the justice gap” (N.C. Lawyers’ Weekly) (Subscription Required)

Official Contest Site

Learn more about the competition, including the esteemed panel of judges, the judging criteria, and other entries at the official site:

Hackess to Justice (NC) on Devpost

(As a developer with a long history in and around the legal profession, I was impressed by each of the other entries – I could see any of them in production!)

Interactive Prototype

This was developed using rapid prototyping techniques and the Bootstrap JavaScript/CSS framework.  It will take you through one “happy path” of a user learning about workplace-safety rights and engaging contact with legal aid:

graphics, process, ui, Uncategorized, web design

On Mockups & Prototypes

It is generally a good idea to show your client what an app or site will look like before you actually build the thing.

And one typically does that through the use of mockups or prototypes.

Mockups vs. Prototypes

I think of mockups as the simplest possible sketches, while prototypes fill in many of the details (colors, logos, fonts, etc.).

Both represent a balancing act — They need to be polished enough to convey your ideas to clients, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time making them.

There are tons of ways to make them — pencil & paper, Balsamiq, etc.

How I Do It

I have a habit of skimming over the mockup stage and just making prototypes — For anything more polished than a line-drawn sketch, it’s usually faster for me to code the HTML/CSS, render it in a browser, and then save a screen shot than to monkey with PhotoShop, etc. Plus, a lot of that code can be reused as the project goes forward.

But this skipping-the-early-mockup-stage approach usually assumes that I have a good idea of a way forward — what if I want to present several different ideas for a project?

Rapid Prototyping

My Stanford – Coursera MOOC course on Human-Computer Interaction has me thinking more about rapid prototyping. In this course, our professor Scott Klemmer makes a strong, research-backed case that it is better to develop multiple ideas in parallel. There are many reasons for this — the designer/developer doesn’t get “married” to any one design (“separating ego from artifact”), and having multiple ideas allows for better group dynamics as these projects go forward. (The real mind-blowing stuff from Professor Klemmer is that the mockups don’t matter nearly as much as the FEEDBACK that you get from your users.)

Get Your Free Browser Line Drawing Here!

So in order to produce more ideas more quickly, I’m back to sketching…. I need some structure for this, so I produced my own little line-drawn template of a browser window:

Browser Template for Mockups

browserTemplate

(Note that the file is in .zip format b/c WP doesn’t like .SVG for security reasons.)

(And, yes. Yes, I am a fan of Firefox. Why do you ask?)

Now I can print out a handful of these and sketch designs very quickly.

The next stage of my experiment will be to edit this SVG template into an actual prototype (I hesitate to do this, because I still think it would be quicker to do via HTML/CSS.)

 

coding, mobile, process, ui

RGreenway: Raleigh’s Greenway App

Picture this – you’ve wasted spent another weekend coding with precious few hours of daylight left to claim any outdoor recreation before the weekly grind. You’ve got cabin fever & need to get out for a nice walk/hike in the Great Outdoors. You need to find a public park, locate a parking spot, get a trail map, and check the weather forecast.

If you’re in Raleigh, there is indeed an app for that.

It’s called RGreenway, and its developer, Eric Majewicz, was kind enough to demo it for TriDroid last week.

Eric Majewicz demos the RGreenway app.
Eric Majewicz demos the RGreenway app (for Android).

Eric went over a lot of the challenges in building this app, from working with various APIs (e.g., MapQuest and iSpeech) to wrangling the geographic data for the trail maps (provided by the City of Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of an open data initiative).

RGreenway Screen Cap (Android)
RGreenway Screen Cap (Android)

His presentation was especially interesting, though, for its description of “soft” considerations beyond heads-down coding, such as building a team with a diverse skill set and gathering requirements from key stakeholders (a/k/a “users”). Taking this kind of care produced high-quality UI and UX — the ultimate measure of an app people will actually use and enjoy.