In the early years of STORY we wanted to "magnify the enigma" of imagination. Hence the full-flash sites that allowed us to control the entire experience. Quite frankly, our goal was to create a unique experience, not mobility. (eg: There are some movies I just want to watch in a theater, not on my iPhone.)
But this year, as we've narrowed our focus as an event (whole other story), we knew it was critical to build a hub of content and conversation.
In August 2012, I sketched the conceptual architecture in my Behance notebook. The goal was to create a portal for large photographic and cinematic content (so as little infrastructural real estate as possible). This gave us the narrow vertical navigation bar and the full-browser format.
To pull this off, I went to two talented individuals who I knew would execute the project with excellence and work closely with me to handle the millions of tweaks that would undoubtedly be required... and actually enjoy the process.
One of them was designer Nathan Davis, who works with the color black and photographic content really well. His taste in typefaces is impeccable, and he is already a huge believer in STORY. He keeps buying tickes to attend no matter how many times I offer him free passes.
The other was Aaron Van Ruler, who is one of the best developers I know. He could whip up a site that lives your day for you if you wanted. Plus, he's incredibly humble, which is rare among great developers. =) I am constantly looking for excuses to work with Aaron. #dreamyearalum
Nathan started with our huge collection of photos and began creating grids for the gallery. We wanted to highlight our community in a big way which is the only reason STORY exists. And let me say - these people are ridiculously good looking.
It was still before the 2012 event, so we had time to commission some photographers and filmmakers to produce the content before we went live - our target ETA was January 2nd. We brought-on Anthony Barlich and Jordan Quinn to shoot photos and Matt Knisely and Heather Arment to shoot video profiles.
Blaine Hogan and Bjorn Amundsen created the killer trailer with copywriting props to my friend Robb Overholt and Anne Jackson. Score by Tony Anderson.
We went through hundreds of tweaks and site adjustments, God bless Nathan. Nothing was NOT scrutinized - from the shade of black in the background and the width between photos to the exact hue of the photo filters. Our local coordinator Stephanie Bettig was helping us score venues by this time as well.
Nathan handed over the design files to Aaron, who was supposed to have a Christmas break, but surrendered to the the timeline of the project (special thanks to his wife Sadee). Nathan and I enjoyed hearty feasts with our families. =)
Nathan went to work on two final things - the homepage and the map. Meanwhile, I was scurrying to secure as many of our presenters as possible (which is extremely difficult). We're still finalizing nine amazing ones that have not been announced. Apparently, booking people a year in advance is early. =)
We created a customized map to show the proximity of our multiple venues along with the interesting places that underlie our "places." Our first version was mostly black, which didn't match the cinematic "pop" of the other pages...
So Nathan made it look more conventional. The brown and blue colors did the trick. Aaron worked up an incredible code that allows you to "zoom in" on each location upon click (with a photo). Fun as Friday.
By this time, I was starting to see the images come alive. For example, in Profiles, you can click "Watch" to see each person talk about their creative work and philosophy. Did you check those out yet? Our plan is to add tons more.
We launched the site this morning and I'm grateful for the reception it's gotten. It looks like a simple site. But the average time spent on it is well over 14 minutes.