Digital Hampshire – The highlights

Our latest Digital Hampshire meetup, held on the 15th of October at the Winchester Guildhall, was once again a huge success, demonstrating just how thriving Hampshire’s digital scene really is. The event saw an excellent turn out, with discussions being had about everything from UX, web design and SEO, to the latest in virtual and augmented reality.

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Along with a wealth of knowledge-sharing between event attendees, we heard excellent talks from Malcolm Coles of the Telegraph, Carl Cahill and Bard Hovde of digital agency CDD, and Ann Hauser, chief architect of the Winchester Incubator. Here, we’ve taken a moment to look back at a few of the top takeaways from the evening’s talks.

Digital Media Director Malcolm Coles focused on the changing way that we consume content, how news agencies have adapted to this change, and the effect that developments in mobile technology have had on our news consumption.

One of the key takeaways was the way that news content – once intended solely for desktops – has altered to favour mobile users as well. In addition, different times can play a part in which devices audiences interact with content through. On Saturday, for example, a news agency’s mobile site visitors can far surpass the number of people on desktops, whist on weekdays, desktops peak within working hours, but mobile phone use has a resurgence into the evening.

Malcolm also focussed on the importance of social media in delivering referrals, and how this could take away from other sites’ influence. Demonstrating this is the fact that Facebook actually surpassed Google-owned sites in terms of referrals in June 2015 within Parse.ly’s network.

google-vs-facebook-referralsThe efforts of online publishers to deliver stories in novel ways was also highlighted as a key change driven by digital. An example of this is how news agencies use machine-driven data to structure interesting stories, for example setting machines to register each team’s shots or territory in a sports game and publishing the data collected in a visual way online.

As for the future, Malcolm said that platform hosting is something to look out for, as well as the return of human curation in the news process. Sites are now hiring human teams to manage, check and determine their top news stories – evidenced by Twitter’s new ‘Moments’ service. Along with this, the switch to purely digital, purely mobile communications is set to continue its rise into the future, as a new generation rejects emails in favour of new applications.

tmf-tweetIn-app searching is also set to rise in prevalence, whereby apps give relevant information to you in the context of other information which your phone holds. An example of this would be if you had an appointment in your calendar, and your phone notified you that there was traffic, or that you had something to do before leaving.

Overall though, said Malcolm, waving a pair of virtual reality glasses and brandishing a ground-breaking 3d mobile device, we don’t know what’s coming next in digital content. You can never be sure what people will be able to invent, or what will be next to catch on with the public.

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Our next talk, held by creatives Carl Cahill and Bard Hovde, featured a case study on a project which their agency CDD carried out along with global air traffic leader NATS and Spanish multinational Ferrovial, who specialise in transport and infrastructure.

The project emerged on the back of an innovative, world’s-first collaboration between NATS and Ferrovial, leading to developments in air traffic control safety, management and consolidation. The challenge given to Carl, Bard and CDD was, in their words, to “demonstrate the success of the project and provide a case study to drive future projects”. How they approached this brief was fascinating.

cdd-process-graphicThe initial task, and one which couldn’t be understated, Carl said, was to compile and understand all of the literature around the project and compress it into manageable chunks. This took around 50 percent of the entire project time. Bard went as far as to say that once you fully understand the content, “putting it together is the easy bit”.

The presentation then dived into specific ways to improve user-experience in design and development, but never strayed from the core importance of maintaining a focus on the end-goal:

digihants-tweetBard introduced the two techniques of painting and compositing in content rendering, saying that painting is always preferable due to quicker load speeds. When you use painting, pixels must be rendered from scratch, whilst using compositing means that existing images can simply be combined, leading to much improved load speeds and essentially a better user experience. The Norwegian-born “front-end Astronaut” also recommended natural scroll over so-called ‘scroll-jacking’ techniques, explaining it as a much easier way for users to engage with content.

A key takeaway from this talk was that new digital technologies simply must be made use of in order to engage users – Carl and Bard highlighted how text alone struggles to engage people in a crowded digital environment. The two also recommended that developers be included in all important conversations, so that every stage – from original inception to the end stages of design – progresses with the client’s original aims in mind.

Architect Anne Hauser rounded off the evening by talking about an innovative project called the Winchester Incubator which she’s leading, in order to give life to creativity and innovation in the Hampshire region.

The incubator will function as a place for students and young entrepreneurs to work, live and socialise. What’s more, it will see Winchester – as well as Hampshire more generally – armed with a new digital hub, whilst providing an affordable, stimulating place to live and work. We first created Digital Hampshire in-part to bring people together in our region, and were fascinated to hear how the Winchester Incubator will also support this cause.

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winchester-incubator-wideWe were thrilled once again to see for ourselves the vibrant digital scene in Hampshire, as well as the degree of collaboration and knowledge-sharing people are willing to get stuck into. We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our speakers, and to all of you who spent your Thursday night with us. All that’s left to say is that we hope you enjoyed the event, and look forward to seeing you at the next Digital Hampshire in February!

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