Today's Ranger Snapshot comes from Pennsylvania Brett Withjack. He has an amazing responsive site, but he's also building a native app version, which is also stunning. We decided to chat with him about the app and learn more about why he decided to go native.
1. We're really impressed by the accordion fold of the app. What were the challenges in creating that design and implementing it?
Basically, what I wanted to do is create an even more mobile-friendly version of my online portfolio. The challenge of course being that my site is very simple and minimalistic, in return giving more focus on my featured work. So making something exciting was where I wanted my attention to go first. Given the molded standard of user-experience with today's most popular apps, I decided to create a sidebar navigation on the left. It has become almost second nature to look there to explore more options.
Also, keeping up with the plethora of social media sites, I decided to implement sharing links on the right as well. I felt I was missing something though. If ever I wanted to post updates on what I've been up to, I wanted a simple way for everyone to check up with what's new, instead of having to look through the app. So with that, I dedicated the bottom to a list of updates. Another challenge with that is the fact that I needed another icon to let the user know they should look there for more. I came up with several different transitions and ideas before finally hitting the mark with the folding feature, and going away with needing an icon at the bottom. It was very fun but tricky rendering it out. I had to flatten the design, cut it up, and "distort" the pieces. In terms of color and type, I wanted to be consistent so I used what's on my website: an off-white texture with black, letter-pressed, type. And finally, the header on the app is orange for no other reason except it's my favorite color.
2. The typography is top-notch and the detailing across the app wonderful. What were some of the design decisions that you think really work? Is there anything you'd like to change?
Typography is my absolute favorite. I couldn't have a great looking app with the use of just one font and a couple lines here and there. And, in my most truthful opinion, I can't stand the thought of using helvetica for everything. Yeah it had its time, but it won't have its time in my work. It's lacking features, characteristics, and it's just everywhere.
Instead, I went with a couple fonts that are new and unique. I originally had a lot of slab serif usage, but changed last minute. Coming up with the background was one of my favorite parts as well. You see the front of the app, the off-white texture, and how it plays with the dark fonts and bright header. But only when you look for more, you see the app's second layer. A dark-textured zebra striped bed made perfect for words, links, and icons. I felt it was perfect for the backend of something unique and eye catching. In fact, not even a month later, did I notice YouTube's iOS update featured something practically identical. They definitely didn't get it from a kid in Pennsylvania, but I knew it was becoming more and more prevalent, so implementing it into my app was a must.
3. You have a really impressive and responsive portfolio site. What spurred your decision to also create a native app to complement that? And what were some of the challenges you faced in designing for a iOS app versus the web?
At the time, I had worked full time for an ad agency here in PA doing many various tasks. Seeing bright new work come through constantly, and being surrounded by fellow designers, I was beginning to bleed creativity. I wanted to do so much more in my free time then Netflix, so I started working on my portfolio.
Once my site was close enough to go live, I wanted to christen it with a great looking iOS app version of the site. I still think there's plenty of work to be done, seeing that there's only a fraction of my work actually posted, so I figured this is where I want to start. A clean, responsive slate. In terms of experience, and challenges, I'm always looking to push myself further in the realm of design. Going from web design to mobile design was a very simple transition, but figuring out how to mock in my designs was challenging on its own. I must have taken a hundred photos of my phone before downloading a free stock image of an iPhone to put my designs into. It was frustrating and hilarious, but a good learning experience.
4. We also see you're quite the guitarist. How does your music play a role in how you approach design?
Growing up, who doesn't want to be a rock star? I got my first real six string down at the five-and-dime ... Just kidding, they don't have those anymore. But really, it's my favorite hobby. I try to keep it from becoming any type of career because I never what to overplay anything I know or have created. I try to record and use some of my time towards music, but things have just been too busy. I sold my drums, and narrowed down my guitar collection to an electric and an acoustic. With that, I record all my music and keep it simple. Relating this to my design efforts, it's easy to overdo something, adding too many instruments and making it incredibly expensive and complex, when all you really need is a great set of strings, and a sound everyone can really get into. Keep it simple, that's all you need to do.
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