Place

Place was created during the VersusVirus Hackathon and stands for “Platform for Coworking Experience”, it allows to run workshops online, using tools including a digital whiteboard, sticky notes, voting options and more.

When the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in Switzerland, numerous companies sent their employees to work at home, students must stay home too. Many people got along with the new situation, but there was no place left to run creative procedures with colleagues. Workshops, Brainstormings and similar settings were hard to run in video conferences.

I got to be part of a hackathon team and help develop an mvp web tool during a 48-hour hackathon. We all worked in a completely digital work environment and from different locations in Switzerland. Within two intense days our team of designers, developers and creative heads constructed an open source web tool which allows running online workshops and/or creative processes without much effort.

My Role

  • Motion design
  • User Interface Design
  • User Experience Design

What was achieved

  • We have developed a working prototype from scratch.
  • Behind the code is a complete design system that was developed in 48 hours. To ensure optimal collaboration with the developers, we used Figma and Trello to create a productive backlog in a short time.
  • For the backend setup, our developers used Node, mongoDB and Socket.io. The frontend is Nuxt Single-Page-Application. PLACE is hosted on GitHub Pages and deployed with GitHub Actions. Our product is MIT licensed and public and was submitted to the VersusVirus Hackathon.

Research and Competitor analysis

We have found that there is a big infrastructure problem in sectors that relied heavily on physical presence, such as schools or some workplaces. The transition to digital presence brings some difficulties, especially in teamwork where there is an intense exchange and creative process.

The most popular products on the market that we’ve found are mostly classic face-to-face conversations over a webcam, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams. These products are strong when it comes to speaking or presenting, but what’s missing is the ability for collaborative working like brainstorming and creative exchange.

In addition to face-to-face solutions, there are products like Miro, which addresses the problem with a paper-like whiteboard on the web that multiple people can work on together – this solution is already very close to our core idea, which we figured out later in our brainstorming process.

Ideation

We liked the idea of a whiteboard on the web where everyone could work and show their ideas at the same time.

But what bothered us about the current solutions on the market was that they were either bloated, required a subscription, or required an account to log in and therefore a lot of effort to get started in the first place – and we wanted to improve that.

That’s why we came up with a very streamlined process. This allows, for example, each student in a class to create and use a creative space without much effort.

Kanban Board Workflow

We used Trello to create a backlog and hand over the finished design components to the developers. Figma allowed us to work collaboratively and iteratively analyse each components as we designed it. After approval by the entire design team, the component was handed over to the developers at the Kanban board.

Each component was specified in Trello and linked to the associated Figma prototype and design screens, where developers could then read off the correct definitions for web development.

Challenges

Time pressure

Problem

We had to develop a product within a deadline of 48 hours. Some of the team members didn’t know each other. We differ not only in skills, but also in what we usually work for. The range reaches from software development, design, clinical project management to journalism. Nonetheless, decision making, communication and the further development of our product went pretty smooth. The vibe was enormously appreciative and friendly.

Creative exchange

Problem

The funny thing was that we were trying to solve a problem that we encountered while we were trying to solve it. Many creative jobs require the exchange of ideas, but classic communication, such as e-mail or video conference, was not good enough. And that's exactly what we experienced ourselves during our video calls.