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:
- Git version control
- DNS and storage management
- Google Analytics, Search Console and Google Tag Manager
- Visual Design and information architecture
- User Research
But the big lessons of this projects can be summarised as follows:
- 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‘.
- 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.
- Cannot be
designerand 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.
- SEO is a matter of
listeningwhat Google recommends. No more secrets than that. Original content, good code and patience.
- 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.
- Despite the failures, I cannot stop loving it.
Cinefilicais 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.