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Wild Canada App... Mobile of the Day, 13th March 2015

What did you want to accomplish with the site?

We wanted to make a beautiful, editorial, digital coffee-table book about Canada's wildlife and natural history.

Leveraging the stunning visual assets (photos and video) captured during the making of the 4-part television series, we re-packaged them into an interactive book app showcasing the iPad's flexibility as a story-telling platform.

The content and structure of the app was planned from the inception of the documentary, resulting in a seamless digital extension of the broadcast series’ themes, with video assets that were captured exclusively for the digital project.

This unique digital companion needed to be compelling enough to act as a standalone property; the goal was to augment the television experience rather than to rely on it.

The native iOS app is comprised of a four-part storyline that can be explored both as a linear narrative and out of sequence. Its chapters combine text, images, videos, and interactive elements such as infographics in a variety of templates.

From a design perspective, we wanted to make the app as dynamic as possible while also ensuring that the templates felt cohesive together. Our designers worked closely with the development team through several iterations; together, they created an experience that is smooth, performant, and aesthetically pleasing.


What technical challenges did you encounter and how did you solve them?

We wanted the app to move as smoothly as possible: for the transition between one page and the next to be fluid, and for interactive elements to expand in a seamless way.

We achieved that effect through a combination of preloading — each chapter takes slightly longer to load than it has to, but once it’s visible, its pages all appear smoothly — and in-view optimization.

We also had the challenge of making sequences of flat images scroll smoothly as 360-degree panoramas. Our initial implementation applied the images to a cylindrical shape in OpenGL.

Unfortunately, the scroll behaviour was jittery and did not conform to iOS standards, and several people who tested the app commented on it. We dealt with this by stitching together a series of imageviews inside a scrollview, which allows users to explore the panoramas in a familiar way.

What did winning the FWA award mean to you?

The team is very pleased to be recognized amongst such outstanding work.

While the app had to feel as broad as possible design-wise to appeal to all Canadians, it’s humbling that beyond that, as a design piece it was well received.


Tools used

Design:
Photoshop
Pencil on paper

Development:
Xcode
CoreText
AVPlayer
QuartzCore
Parse (for dynamic content)


Three hot facts


The app’s split-screen video functionality was added late in the development process; the original version of the app had static images on the main page, and the video played when the expand button was pressed. We were able to improve the appearance of the app significantly by creating a new template that made use of our custom video player in a novel way.

The App Store selected the app as an Editor's Choice app in 2014.

Wild Canada was named one of The App Store’s Best Apps of 2014.

Credits: CBC; Secret Location; River Road Films



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