That time in Geneva...

It's been 2 years since I started at 31Three.. Yesterday, Jesse and I were chatting about some of the projects we've been involved with during our time together. The clients I've worked with have been amazing.

One of the larger projects I worked on was with PreventionWeb, a department of the United Nations. While the UN is often involved in providing relief and support after natural disasters, their PreventionWeb department looks at the problem of disasters from a different angle. Their job is to learn from the past and figure out how to reduce and/or completely avoid the impact a disaster in the future.

One of the tools that they use in their mission is called the HFA Monitor. It is used to assist countries to monitor and review their progress and challenges in the implementation of disaster risk reduction and recovery actions undertaken on a regional, national and city level.

My first task was to redesign and rebuild this tool from the ground up. No small responsibility.

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Photo by Danielle Warkentin

The existing HFA Monitor was quite old, and didn't address many of its users needs. It didn't work well on a mobile phone (crucial in developing nations) and it was overwhelmingly complex. Filing a report is a fairly extensive exercise to complete with various steps and assessments on an annual basis. We needed to provide the user with a clear understanding of how much they had completed and how much was left to do. It also needed to be more accessible. We built it responsively and approached the project from a mobile first perspective with the goal of increasing participation from more regions', nations' and cities' representatives.

I spent the first week in Photoshop to hone in on the design language we would use moving forward. Once approved I continued from there in code, working with Zurb's Foundation framework to build its various steps and assessments. Color was used strategically to indicate level of completeness. Various charts were introduced at key points along the way to provide even more visual insight into a user's progress.

PreventionWeb and 31Three worked collaboratively to figure out what information should be displayed at each step of the self-assessment process. Instead of displaying an overwhelming amount of information, we shaped the tool into a progressive reveal experience, a solution that was grown out of our mobile first approach.

Viewing the new HFA Monitor on the iPhone

An unexpected and thrilling part of this project was when I was invited to go to the UN in Geneva to discuss what we had built and also brainstorm about our next project together.

My wife and I were flown to Switzerland for a week. She checked out the sights while I represented 31Three, working from the UN's offices and meeting with their awesome staff. At one point I was invited into a UN senior staff meeting to introduce the new HFA Monitor. It was incredible and slightly bizarre. And by bizarre I mean; "What the heck am I doing here?!?", "Something must be wrong with space and time!!","This can't be right." Greg Storey's recent post sums up how I was feeling that day in Geneva.

Shortly after the meeting began, I was asked to introduce myself and we proceeded to talk about the work. In the end, the senior staff were excited about our efforts and how the new HFA Monitor would be far more effective a far reaching than its previous version. All this while diplomats from Iran held meetings about their nuclear program just down the hallway. Did I mention it was bizarre?

It was a tremendous experience and a real honor collaborating with the UN's PreventionWeb team. Being part of a project that has the potential to protect people around the globe will be remembered as a highlight of my career.