Great Ideas For A Better Columbia

We teamed up with Will Bryan Design and EngenuitySC to build a platform where people from the Midlands can share their ideas for moving our community forward.

Goals

  • Build a platform that makes it easy to source ideas for improving the community from the people who live there. 
  • Build an excellent and cohesive experience across devices.
  • Encourage people to share and engage with ideas on the platform.

Results

  • In the first month after launching, the platform had:
    • 342 ideas
    • 104 comments
    • 359 users
  • What's Next Midlands won a $30,000 grant to implement the first two ideas
Client

EngenuitySC

Industry

Nonprofit

Services

Strategy

UI + UX Design

Web Application Development

Ad and Promotional Design

Cost

$48,000

Based on our current hourly rate

1 / The Story

Our hometown, Columbia, is fortunate in that it has an active community of people who believe in it and are actively trying to improve it. In November 2014 one of those people, Greg Hilton, approached us with a vision for a better Columbia. We agreed that Columbia had a ton of unrealized potential, and there were a lot of people in the community with ideas to make it better. But those ideas never end up going anywhere because there was no one rallying people behind them.

He pitched us on a grassroots movement that would leverage technology to empower the people in Columbia who cared the most to make real change. At its core would be a platform where we could source ideas from the community and then bring the right people together to make them actually happen.

The idea itself wasn’t a new one. There were a lot of other communities that built similar platforms. The difference was that EngenuitySC would be in the driver’s seat and they would partner with other community organizations to make sure that there were real people, and real money, working behind the scenes to take the best ideas and make sure that they got implemented.

Making it happen

We were sold. Excited to create something new for our hometown we got a team together, got to work and launched a proof of concept about a month later at the Ignite Conference that December. Over the next year we won a grant from the Central Carolina Community Foundation, built partnerships with local organizations, and tested the platform.

The program officially launched this January and we immediately began to see results. The community submitted hundreds of ideas in the first couple of weeks and we started to see some incredible buy-in outside the platform. We’re thrilled to be a part of this project and to have had this chance to give back to the Columbia community in such a unique and meaningful way.

What's Next Midlands

Our friend Will Bryan made some amazing illustrations that we used throughout the platform and have become a major part of the What's Next Midlands brand as a whole.

"They executed the final product on an insanely tight deadline and delivered exactly what we wanted."

Meghan Hughes

Executive Director at EngenuitySC

2 / The Process

Discovery

What’s Next Midlands was a bit different than the types of projects we usually take on in that we would be building a community. We knew that to do that the platform would to drive engagement. So we spent a lot of time studying successful online communities (Reddit, Product Hunt, etc.) and figuring out what made them work. In doing that we learned that it really comes down to, engagement is a result of making it as easy as possible for people to contribute and jump right into the conversation. That said, we let simplicity more than anything guide us through the design process.

What's Next Midlands

What's Next Midlands

Design

At it's core, this application was very simple. There are a ton of platforms built around user-submitted, user-ranked content and this one followed the same principles. We wanted to create an exciting and encouraging feeling inside the app, so we only include likes and focused the design around driving engagement and keeping the good vibes flowing. We took the awesome brand and illustrations developed by Will Bryan and designed the UI to do just that.

Keep it simple

One of our main focuses with the design of the site was just to keep it as simple as possible. At it’s core What’s Next is just a list of ideas, and we wanted to make it as easy as possible to digest those ideas and see which ones are most popular. Too many of the other platforms we found felt like they were trying too hard. So we focused on bringing a clean aesthetic to the platform and making sure that it was incredibly easy to use.

What's Next Midlands

Transparency by design

One of our core values at Krit is transparency, and we quickly saw an opportunity to use this to build trust with the community. Too many projects like ours get started and then fail without anyone being able to see what’s happening. So we decided to make the site’s analytics available for anyone to see at any time. We designed a beautiful analytics page that makes it a piece of cake for anyone to check in and see how the project is going. And we discovered that it had the added benefit of encouraging people’s competitive spirit.

A design people would love

We wanted to make sure the site felt modern and exciting enough to lend a sense of momentum to the movement. That’s a pretty tall order, and nothing we made felt quite right until we saw the illustrations Will made for the brand. We felt they perfectly embodied the feeling we were going for so we featured them throughout the site and adopted their aesthetic for the brand as a whole.

What's Next Midlands

Competition is a great driver of engagement. If you want people to do something, show them that other people are doing it better and give them something to work for. Everyone likes bragging rights.

"Besides being ridiculously fun to work with, these guys are professional, energetic and a gem for our local community."

Meghan Hughes

Executive Director at EngenuitySC

Development

Social is a major key

At it’s core What’s Next is social. Users are submitting, discussing and voting on ideas that affect their local community. When first coming to the platform, people want to be engaging with the ideas there, and that's exactly what we want them to do. Because of this, the barrier to entry needs to be minimal to nonexistent. For that reason, we built the login and authentication for What’s Next Midlands on top of Facebook. All users have to do to contribute is have a Facebook account and click a button, then they can immediately jump in and start contributing.

On top of being an easy way to get people using the platform, Facebook makes it easy to promote ideas by sharing them. Connecting with Facebook also gave us an easy way to keep users engaged by sending them Facebook notifications whenever somebody comments on or likes one of their ideas. It’s a win-win for everyone.


What's Next Midlands