My Side Project

I’ve always loved watching movies, my best memories include people that I love and sharing movies experiences with them. In 2015, I wanted to use my skills as a designer and old skills as a developer to create one simple idea: get all the movies that I love in the digital world forever. I’ve dedicated 4 years to design, develop and iterate over this project. Here is part of the experience.

Step 1: Get to know what’s out there

Firstly, I made an initial research to know more about similar websites like IMDB or Filmaffinity. I anotated things I liked, things I think they were doing wrong, and things that I was missing to make a place personal and enjoyable on a daily basis.

I come out with an idea: it had to be called ‘elcine.de‘ so that I could get urls like ‘elcine.de/carmel‘ as well as ‘elcine.de/terror‘. ‘El Cine De…’ (The Movies of…) was the name of the initial version of this project.

Step 2: Observation

For a while a spoke with different types of movie lovers (and haters) and observed how they talked about watching movies, when they usually did it, with whom, etc.

I collected every note on Google Keep and created a map of experiences. Based on this I defined a set of mental models that will trigger the initial sketching.

Step 3: Prototyping

I started creating prototypes at different levels using paper, Fireworks (sight) and even HTML. With paper, I just wanted to think on how to transform the research into something special, to explore ideas, to frame the problem and understand the scope of design.

With Fireworks I wanted to play around the possible visual style and with HTML trying out the cost of making those ideas for real.

And finally, I created some real prototypes in HTML and CSS (SASS), I used Flexblox to create a responsive layout.

Step 4: Making it real

I didn’t have all the time in the world and no one else but me to make this project real so I tried to make it with the technology that I knew: Drupal. Soon I realised that it was not the best option.

After some investigation I found a script on sale that I could modify and adapt to add the features that I wanted:

  • Navigating by directores and writers
  • An special layout for titles
  • Custom HTML to improve the SEO (microformats, urls, metadata,…)
  • Publishing a blog (my friends helped me with this)
  • A new whole design that I could not finished

Step 5: Moving forward

In 2019, I’ve had to make a difficult decision: keeping the old code that I’ve been mantaining the last 3 years or update the script to the latest version with all the things that I included and more.

I decided to go for the second since I don’t have more time to maintain it, and because of this, I planned an strategy to avoid a big impact on the SEO:

  • Making a redirection map
  • Testing the https version that it was working properly
  • Updating sitemaps

Things that I learned

There are few technical things that I’ve been forced to learng this real:

  • MySQL, PHP (Laravel, WordPress) and Javascript basics
  • Git version control
  • DNS and storage management
  • Google Analytics, Search Console and Google Tag Manager
  • Visual Design and information architecture
  • User Research
  • SEO

But the big lessons of this projects can be summarised as follows:

  1. Stick to your brand. In the middle of the project I decided to switch from ‘elcine.de‘ to ‘cinefilica.es‘, that was a mistake. I still have friends that remember me as ‘elcine.de‘.
  2. Version control from day zero. I included Git too late in the project, setting up the local environment and managing the history of versions would have been so much easier with a proper Git repository.
  3. Cannot be designer and developer and do the best work. I got frustrated as a designer for not being able to achieve as a developer what I wanted. I think I have never been able to explore the maximum of this project in any of both sides.
  4. SEO is a matter of listening what Google recommends. No more secrets than that. Original content, good code and patience.
  5. Without users, you are just another website for nothing. I was never happy enough with the signed-in user features so I decided not allowing them to sign up. That’s not funny enough as a UX designer, I was missing their actions, their demands, their feedback.
  6. Despite the failures, I cannot stop loving it. Cinefilica is my place to know more about movies, to collect them, to discover something new. Despite all the mistakes I made as a designer, I’m in love of this project and I’ll always take care of it.

By Carmel Hassan Montero

Product Designer and Computer Engineering graduated from the University of Granada. I'm based in Málaga (Spain), working remotely designing at Honest. I'm also a proud founder of Yes We Tech, and support tech events that care about promoting diversity and equality among its members.