by: Gene Dillon
April 13, 2017
Call for Information
Sometimes a customer presents us with a unique set of challenges. Our goal is to guide the customer toward a solution that works best for an average person using the TouchSource system, while also ensuring that the content is easy to update and maintain. When it comes to custom programming and design, we also want to present solutions that are efficient and as affordable as possible to our customers.
1. Showcase philanthropic missions around the world
2. Do so in a graphical format: on a map of the world
3. Increase church engagement in philanthropy
Rez.Church presented us with a ton of content, a lot of questions, and a concept for the main menu navigation that, on first glance, sounded a bit complicated for their needs. The majority of our projects are directories that deliver information in the form of lists, images and other Touchsource features such as Wayfinding to building locations and offices, Area Amenities, Traffic, Transit Information, News and Weather – all of which are accessed by a visitor with the touch of a button. Our new customer wanted the main menu delivered by a world map with multiple points to touch for information. And they wanted to be able to update that map themselves.
Our efforts to nail down the requirements were not going very well through email communication, and that’s always a great time to have a group meeting over the phone, utilizing a screen-share. This offers a perfect opportunity for direct discussion about a customer’s specifications and allows us to demonstrate similar solutions that we already have in production. In this case, the customer was local, and was able to drop by for a visit.
Liz (our Content Manager) and I met with the customer in our conference room. We had use of a large monitor for demos and a whiteboard wall for sketching things out. We began with an extensive flowchart and a murky vision of how to present all of this information to the public. Our customer had a lot of pre-existing web content that may need to be redundantly entered for display on this unit. We went through each section one at a time.
Our biggest challenge was the map-navigation concept for visitors to learn more about the missions in place around the world. We displayed some existing projects and showed a clear path (with no additional charges) to accomplishing what they needed by presenting these missions in a list. Our customer very much wanted to handle the presentation graphically, and to launch a web page from each map point, also allowing the user to fill out online forms. Our initial thought was that we could do this, but that for every future instance when they wanted to place a new point on the map, they would require our help. So, this would not only cost them extra now, but they would have ongoing charges in the future.
After some questions and discussion, we came up with a concept. Someone on their team with access to a graphics application such as Photoshop could open up this world map image and determine the x and y coordinates of the map location they needed. We would have a listing for every location with those coordinates included as part of the data that they would enter, and there would be sub-listings for all of the missions at each location. If there were multiple missions in one location, we would display a pulldown menu of every mission in that area; and the x and y coordinates would not need to be entered again.
For the content, the idea of directing users to a URL to read extensive details, and to sign up or request more information, brought up a number of issues. First of all, the system would be displayed in a public space with large groups of people moving by. If one person stands at the unit reading several pages of information, a lot of other people will move on, never having a chance to try it out, and that may lead to under-use. Ideally, a touchscreen system in a public space works best when it provides a short stop with fast access to condensed information. Secondly, expecting/allowing users to enter private information on a 55-inch display in a public area is not always a great idea.
We recommended that they create a condensed PDF of information for each mission, which they would upload through our Online Updating Dashboard. Each PDF would have a QR code embedded, so that the user could scan it and walk away with the information they need, and enter private information via their personal mobile device.
Other sections of the project were discussed and pared down: where they needed to show URLs, we provided buttons for those. We left the door open to working with them on photo galleries, which would display when they gathered the content they needed, either in multi-page PDF format, or via YouTube videos.
The next day we sent out an affordable quote for the custom work. It was quickly approved, after which we set to work on the design. After three or four adjustments to the look-and-feel, our Front-End Developer, Nicole, completed the programming within a couple of weeks. We were able to show a complete program preview online to the entire team over at Rez.Church, and after a few more minor changes, we were ready to deliver their new surface-mounted unit.
Careful planning, discussion, and consultation can really go a long way toward the creation of the best possible solution. In about an hour of collaboration with our customer, we developed a clear vision for the finished product and a simple, logical means of updating it. This was a fun challenge and a wonderful project that we really enjoyed being a part of, and the customer is as happy with the final product as we are. It was a pleasure to be part of making their vision a reality!
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