getting to know the 'where'
The level to which you explore the site for your experience will depend on how you intend to use the site.
- Will you be placing interactive elements into the site?
- If so, will they be tied to particular characteristics, stories or histories of the site?
- If so, do you need to locate them so they can utilise local resources (power, network etc)?
- If not, what aspects of the site will be ingrained in the experience?
back to foundation
The location in which your experience is to be deployed can greatly influence the resources, people & content involved in the design.
When looking for/at a site you should consider:
- its physical properties - layout, buildings, structures, pathways, roads, etc.
- its cultural properties - what 'kind' of site is it, what is it used for
- activities & events that take place in the site
- social properties - who inhabits the site, and how do they know about it
- infrastructure within the site - electrical, water, network etc
Finding a Site
If you don't have a particular site in mind, consider what you would want for your experience. Your 'focus' will go some way to helping you decide (and tips for these are below).
But in general, things to consider are:
- How large an area do you want to work with, what will suit your experience?
- walking distance? driving distance? street, block, suburb, city?
- what style of site would suit your ideas, content, audience?
- industrial, urban, forested, recreational, residential?
- what properties does your site need to have?
- public transport, retail stores, vibrancy, quiet, pedestrian access, open space?
Focus : Site
You have a particular site in mind.
If you already know where you will be deploying your experience, jump to the next bit for what to do next.
Focus : People
You have your target audience.
If you are creating your experience for a particular audience, find out where they are most likely to visit or common places that you may find them.
Focus : Tech
You would like to use [insert tech here] in your design.
If you intend to use a particular technology/device in your design, the infrastructure requirements of that tech will influence the site that you need to deploy in. Does your technology/device need constant power, good network connection, mobile phone coverage, accurate GPS signal, etc?
I've found a site, what next?
Visit it, visit often!
See how the landscape (people, activities) changes over the span of a day/week (even a month if you have the time). The nature of a site can change dramatically from day to night, weekday to weekend.
If you are unfamiliar with the site, note down your initial observations:
- what catches your eye?
- what frustrates you?
- how do you figure out how to navigate the site?
If you are familiar with the site, take a step back and view it with the eyes of a newcomer (or better yet, take someone with you who has never been there before). This is important when designing for audience who may not be familiar with the site. Note down the 'insider' knowledge that you have about the site - hidden access, shortcuts, etc.
Each time you visit, note down anything new in the space, things you hadn't noticed before.
Watch this space!
When you visit, watch the people that are there:
- how do they move about the space? This can give you ideas on where you might place interactive elements for impact/exposure. Quite often people move about the space that aren't dictated by built pathways (shortcuts & detours).
- what are they there for? Think about why they are there, watch what they do - to shop, to work, for entertainment, education, passing through?
- how do people get to, arrive & exit the area?
Embrace your inner hoarder & collect:
- maps of the area - street directory, layout, businesses, services, pathways, landmarks
- photos & notes of spaces you find interesting or could be useful in your experience, noting on your map where they are
- information on regular or upcoming events that could be tied into your experience
- contacts in the area that could help to facilitate your experience
- local street press, if any