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OpenExplorer
A web platform to aggregate and map disaster management training events.

1. Project Brief

OpenExplorer is a digital field journal for adventurers and citizen explorers to plan, document, and share their expeditions online.

2. What I Did

Working from the client's specifications and requirements, I designed the layout, visual look and feel, and interactions of the web platform, and developed the front-end of the platform.

3. Key Deliverables

A responsive web application designed to tell engaging stories and build a community of citizen explorers.

4. Results

The platform gained over 3500 users within the first 3 months of launching, and was featured in Fast Company and Wired. In April 2018 OpenExplorer was acquired by National Geographic.

We live in a golden age for exploration. Remotely operated vehicles and the internet have made it possible for more people than ever to venture out and discover the unknown. OpenExplorer is a web app for these citizen explorers to record field notes and share their journeys. The platform aims to inspire people to learn about the world and to foster a community of like-minded adventurers.

Through OpenExplorer, explorers can crowdfund expeditions and receive sponsorship, and users can discover and follow exciting expeditions worldwide.

Expeditions on OpenExplorer feature an interactive map, a geo-tagged timeline of journal entries, and the ability for users to follow and comment on expeditions.

The project began with the OpenROV team's vision of a collaborative community of underwater robot enthusiasts.

I started by creating some rough mockups to capture the functional requirements OpenROV had in mind.

One of the initial concepts I created for the platform
Another concept for the platform

Here's the original moodboard I used:

We needed a page where users could share stories and plot the different locations they had visited on a map. They also had to be able to divide their journeys into 3 distinct phases: Preparation, Mission Underway, and Debriefing.

I went through several designs before settling on a timeline which changes colour over the course of an expedition. I also designed different types of post depending on whether the user uploaded photos, videos, or text.

The finalised expedition detail view (screenshot from the original live project)
The user profile view (screenshot from the original live project)

One challenge we faced was how to strike a balance between the interactive map and the journal entries - both were very important for telling the story of an expedition. I designed an interaction that would pan the map to specific markers as the user scrolled through the timeline.

I also developed the front-end of the application, building it to be adaptive to different device sizes.

OpenExplorer had a very fast uptake after launching in 2014. Thousands of field notes have been submitted since then, and users have logged expedition as varied as exploring remote rivers in Angola, studying blue whales in Sri Lanka, and examining glaciers in the arctic.

Lessons

As design and development were handed off to another team and more features were added to the platform, the integrity of the design suffered. Had I created a style guide before handing over the project, the user experience would have been better throughout the continued life of the platform.

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