Poke, London explores the endless possibilities (and massive effort) in creating the UK brand's site.
Inspired by Orange's tagline that "good things should never end"—which is the foundation of the mobile brand's latest promotion—the site features mischievous-looking animals/ghosts/beings buzzing about along with a host of modules for people to play with and leave a mark forever. And with a constantly evolving landscape as its main ingredient, Poke, London obviously had its work cut out from the start. "It was massive, and [technically], it was managing all that stuff so that it doesn't crash, including the way the modules were loaded in and out," Poke creative director Nick Roope explains. Marius Watz and guided him about how we wanted this rainbow to grow. We brought in an illustrator, Rex, who did the little black animations. We assembled all these different people, and we had all these different elements, and there was a massive management process to bring them all together. We had to load the [elements] in and out of memory as to when they were needed because if you've been scrolling down for 20 minutes and it's a whole 20 minutes worth of different things in memory, then it would at some point crash."
By installing user interaction outlets at virtually every twist and turn, the Poke design team covered a big loading process with little loading processes which contain fun challenges. "The user would have to interact with the modules to get them to load in the first place," says Roope. "But each module has its own creative mood that presents a challenge because you have to keep people engaged while loading so the fact that they feel like they're activating these things is a [feature] and they are reacting—but the [content] isn't fully integrated necessarily straight away. Then, obviously, in order to continue scrolling on the wall, people have to close those things down so that's one way we're managing it. Then, as you're scrolling down the pages, [the system] is obviously remembering where some things are, so it's randomly dropping things in and then unlearning them as you've passed."
Poke was also pulling double duty with the audio/sound design, first enlisting the services of BAFTA award-winning composer Nick Ryan to create the chirps, hyper-electro beats, revving motors and host of other noises. Next, the group had to insert and mix the sounds while considering the spatial aspects of the site. "We [needed] to know what's both directly on the screen and what's in proximity to it so we can start to play with the sound quality—usually it was 3D sound that's [ideal] for gaming—to create some of the audio effects so that you start hearing a sound before you see something. But then, obviously, the quality of the sound changes. It's creating the impression that it's an audio landscape as well as visual."
A landscape-styled creation is what Roope and company intended during the nearly three-month process to develop Orange's site, which the creative director understandably says is "...the most expensive one-page website I think I've ever worked on." Blending puzzle games, creature interaction, and other odds-and-sods time-killers with the slightest of branding (besides a few playful links scattered about), Roope emphasizes that the site concept is in line with Orange's mantra. "The whole idea of it is to communicate the notion of 'unlimited, ultimately.' That's why the client has financed it, because it's ultimately talking about the adventure of some of their products. We've very consciously tried to build that notion in to everything that we've done, but also in a very much more poetic way."
The CD counts among his personal favorite activities on the endless adventure to be the ice cream maker (pictured). "You're invited to create an ice cream, so you rapidly generate ice cream out of different [flavors] and toppings. You can control it to a certain extent, but it's random like a slot machine. Sometimes, you get random things like cheese, but every time you create something, you can decide whether to submit it or not. When you submit, you're asked to give your creation a name. It's very mildly creative, and it's user-generated content of the most senseless input. We're asking very little of people, but we're getting a very defined stimulus that attracts a lot of people."
With the plenty to be stimulated by and the potential for users to enjoy a long stay on the site, Poke found itself challenged by creating too much or too little. "The issue that [concerned] us most was just about repetition," Roope says. "We absolutely delivered on the idea of the unlimited because no page will ever look the same. As far as content is concerned, you're at some point coming past the same things you've seen before. Some of the elements, where you're adding your own things, they're different because they're obviously generated by people as they're interacting with them. In that situation, you're always going to come across fresh content."
"But the thing that we struggled with the most was just that what would be enough. How many things do you need to give most people to make them feel like it's gone on forever without having to go on forever? It's obviously going on forever in terms of generating actual fresh, different ideas each time, but otherwise, it would be unrealistic. That was the biggest struggle, collectively. But there's no point in creating more than what's necessary, and there was also a financial limitation in there as well. It's finding the balance between the elements."