Grove Street Media: New Media Production

Today we say farewell to the #DLL13 series at OICPS; Digital Lunchtime Lectures 2013, I bid you adieu.  In our final expert-led romp into the land of digital we were visited by Tom Scholes of Grove Street Media, a new media production company which  specialises in eLearning products.

From the start, the talk was informal; the opening line being ‘Well, I have a beard’ – excellent. As I have written before (in my entry about Osprey), I enjoy informal and personable presentations, they’re easy to listen to and often enjoyable. This was no exception.

Grove Street Media originated 10 years ago. This year it is about to earn its millionth pound and it is not difficult to see why. Their remit is to design for and communicate through screens, a task they appear to meet well if what we were shown today was anything to go by (take a look at e-Bug, a prime example). When talking us through how the company works with its clients he stressed the importance of simply talking to people, showing them what you can do and how you can help them. Communication is key in any business, not least when they’re paying you a considerable amount of money.

The changes in technology also effect the way that they work with clients, a lot of their work has been on CD-ROMs for publishers like OUP but as technology advances new problems arise when it comes to meeting the clients needs. He used the example of the icons they use in a lot of their work: on a computer you can hover over an icon and it will tell you what it does, this makes users more comfortable with clicking on something that looks unfamiliar but with the rise of the tablet the ability to show button functions by hovering is diminishing.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, Grove Street Media caters for most if not all platforms, as Tom said ‘if it has a screen we can develop for it’ (paraphrased but the meaning is the same). Their focus is on interactivity, their products are rarely flat designs and can be for anything from the web to kiosks in stores like Ikea. When asked, he describes them as a UI/UX company, user interface/user experience; they want to make user experience barrier-less.

Not only do they want the best for the user but they want the best for the client as well; if a client wants to make an app which would work just as well as a website, be much simpler to make/commission and cost a fraction of the price the urge to make money does not override the urge to create the best product they can. I find it incredibly warming that some companies are willing to do this despite the current financial climate – kudos, Grove Street Media.

After explaining the anatomy of a digital media offering (great content, attractive graphics, good layout) and the components involved in making them, we were given a live demo! Tom set to work creating a simple web-based chasing game. After some suggestions from the audience and a little bit of an argument with the coding we were met with a spaghetti western in which Kim Kardashian and a giraffe had a race. Kim won. The demonstration illustrated that something which looks complicated may not be that complicated at all.

The talk ended with a few lessons:

  1. Plagiarism happens. You have two things content and brand. Content can be copied, especially from the web and there’s nothing you can do about it, it is the brand that matters. 
  2. Copying isn’t always bad, there is nothing wrong with looking at the competition and using their ‘best bits’ to influence the betterment of your own design.
  3. Innovation or Usability? It is possible to do both! But when it isn’t always go for usability.
  4. Testing costs a similar amount to development in both money and time – always budget for testing.
  5. When requesting a quote precision is key, precision will enable you to get the best deal and save you from the wrath of the developer should they find out you forgot to tell them something. What takes a few moments to say can take weeks and large amounts of money to create.

So that was the last of the Digital Lunchtime Lectures, and perhaps the one I enjoyed most. I will miss my Wednesday leaps into the well of digital but this will not be the end of my digital blogging adventure – never fear. Keep an eye out on my twitter for a link to my official blogging treatment for the OICPS website!

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