Mobile Powerhouse Museum websites User experience

Building Sydney Design 2011 as a cross-platform site

It has been over a month since my last post here and everyone has been flat out working on a slew of projects, most of which have just gone public. The lead up to August is always one of the busiest times of the year at the Powerhouse with both Sydney Design and Ultimo Science Festival taking place each August, and this year these have been joined by a major contemporary art exhibition launch and the Powerhouse’s revitalisation works.

The next couple of posts will look at some of the new things that have gone live.

Nick Earnshaw in the Web Unit has been handling Sydney Design and Revitalisation and both of those sites, running on WordPress, are now live.

Sydney Design was built by Mob Labs using a concept and design by Toko. Mob Labs have built both a web and mobile web version of the Sydney Design site and the iPhone App version is due to go to the AppStore any moment now.

We’re excited about this year’s Sydney Design site because it has been built to be even more decentralised than previous years. The Powerhouse IT team reconfigured an install of our helpdesk/job-tracking system, JIRA, to allow external Sydney Design partners to enter their events remotely and the Powerhouse Contemporary team, who organise Sydney Design, to assess them. Chris Bell in the IT team then exported these into a custom WordPress install where the final event editing took place whilst Mob Labs configured custom themes for the site itself. We’re also indebted to MOMA’s work in creating a very useful JSON API plugin for WordPress which made the resulting site build by Mob Labs considerably easier.

You’ll also notice that the site integrates Facebook using a subset of the Opengraph features to make it clear which parts of Sydney Design your friends like and making rough recommendations. We were inspired by the Sydney Festival site to do this and we’ll be keeping an eye on it to see how effective it is for the more niche audiences of Sydney Design.

The Contemporary team at the Museum have also been busy making sure there’s vox pops and other content going out on Facebook and Twitter as well as embedding them into the relevant events (eg. 1 | 2) on the site itself.

Mob Labs did a great job on the mobile site which has some nifty swipe interface action and geo-location in mobile browsers – give it a go on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry and see. And once the native App goes live we’ll be able to see how many iOS users choose the App over the Mobile Web version of the site.

Maybe this year will be the last time we feel we need both a mobile website and an App.

2 replies on “Building Sydney Design 2011 as a cross-platform site”

Thnx for sharing Seb. Just wondering. How long did the concept development and build take and how did you incorporate user-testing??


Concept development took several weeks and overlapped with the visual and campaign design work for the overall festival. We had a lot of user data from last year’s App and also from the previous 5 years of Sydney Design websites as well as lots of data from other similar event Apps and sites.

Because it is essentially for a 2 week festival the focus has been on delivering a robust catalogue with some bells and whistles and then evaluating afterwards for the next year.

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