Kelly did an alumni interview with us back in May when he first landed his design gig at SnapMobile. But recently designed an app called StreetView now available on the App Store and GooglePlay so we wanted to quickly follow up to hear what it’s all about!
Describe StreetView in your own words. Where did the inspiration to create it come from?
StreetView is a community-driven app where users take photos of street art with their phones. As soon as the photos are uploaded, they get plotted onto a shared map so other users can locate and enjoy them.
I backpack around different cities, and I’ve discovered my favorite way to explore a new place is to just walk around. I think street art adds a lot of culture and vibrance to a city, and it has the added bonus of being completely free to look at. However, I’ve never come across a good way to know exactly where all the good street art is in a given city, so StreetView is my attempt to address that.
What were those different cities you visited?
Barcelona has a ton of great street art. I found myself stumbling across really nice art all the time down random streets and alleys, stuff I would have never been aware of if I decided to only explore the main streets. Another time, I was exploring Melbourne with a friend and we were looking for a particular alley famous for its graffiti. We didn’t see it on any conventional map so we asked people on the street if they knew where it was. We found it eventually, and it was really neat!
How long was the process of creating StreetView from start to launch? What were the major milestones in creating it?
I’ve been dabbling in software development for some time, but actually building StreetView took about five months. It was a long series of small victories. Things like getting Google Maps integration working, setting up a plugin to open a phone’s camera application, etc. I’m by no means a competent programmer, but I consider myself a hacker good at breaking goals down into manageable chunks.
How has your time at SnapMobile made you capable of doing more as a designer and developer?
We really focus on building MVPs (minimum viable products) and then iterating based on user feedback. This informed a lot of the decisions I made when I designed and developed StreetView. I know I’m not able to make a perfect app from the start, and StreetView definitely has a ton of room for improvement. With that in mind, I wanted to make a functional app that’s both useful and aesthetically pleasing for a young, travel-loving demographic. Getting to work on so many different projects at SnapMobile, I was able to make certain assumptions in my designs based off what worked and didn’t work for past clients.
The development team here has Tech Talks every other week where they talk about new things they’re learning and do some code reviews. Most of it goes over my head, but I absorb as much as possible. I occasionally picked the brains of our engineers when I felt stuck or wanted some advice on best practices. Overall though, I made a real effort to not get coworkers too involved in StreetView’s development, mostly because I treated it as a learning experience for me. I probably could have gotten it done a lot faster with help, but I think the best way to learn dev is to struggle and grind through to completion.
You mention seeing room for improvement. What do you have in mind for StreetView v2.0?
There are some technical headaches that need some love, mainly setting up token generation for authentication so users don’t have to log in all the time. As far as improving the user experience, I’ve gotten some good feedback from beta users. Right now, users can only view and “like” uploads, but in the next version, I’d like to add a commenting feature. This adds a more social aspect and also allows users to point out if an art piece no longer exists.
Something else I’m thinking about is having artist profiles. If I can verify actual street artists as users, I think it would be awesome if they have special accounts where they can upload photos of their own work and I feature their profiles somewhere in the app. Street art tends to be pretty thankless, with artists getting arrested and their work getting covered up, so hopefully featuring their work and giving some credit can help that.
Are there any specific artists you plan on featuring or want to feature?
I actually don’t know any street artists in person. If anyone reading this is a local artist or happens to know one, please get in touch with me!
There are some popular Chicago artists like JC Rivera and Mosher who do fantastic work. However, they already have notoriety. The artists I want to feature in StreetView are lesser-known ones who might use this platform to get their work recognized and make a name for themselves. These are artists I’m not even aware of yet, but are out there making great stuff that people need to see.
What do you want people to do after reading this?
Download StreetView and let me know what you think of it! But the overall action is to get up, walk around, and enjoy some cities. The great thing about apps like Pokémon Go is that they trick people into breaking their monotonous schedules and expose themselves to new places. If StreetView exposes someone to a piece of art they otherwise would have missed, I’ll be happy.
“It was a long series of small victories … I’m by no means a competent programmer, but I consider myself a hacker good at breaking goals down into manageable chunks.”
What’s your advice for designers thinking about starting passion projects?
Tell your friends and family about it. This offers two benefits: First, you get to hear people’s reactions to your idea and maybe even get some suggestions you hadn’t thought of yourself. Second, it puts your pride on the line to actually do it. No one wants to be asked “Hey, whatever happened to that thing you wanted to start?” and then have to make up excuses. If you’re someone who makes excuses, you probably have a difficult career as a designer ahead.