Prototyping

A refresher

Lets just take a moment to throw it back to a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, younger and less wise version of myself who had just finished her ideating process. The plan was:

  • Establish a platform where we (Madeleine Johnston and myself) can share our experiences at the markets in the Wollongong and Sydney areas
  • Highlight the good and the bad at various markets to help local market-goers make informed decisions about their shopping which may otherwise have been a very overwhelming experience

We were to do this by regularly updating a very a e s t h e t i c Instagram account and by writing weekly blog posts.

Sounds great, hey? Well it sort of was, but we got off to a rocky start and are still trying to find our feet. But that’s okay because that fits in with the #fefo philosophy… right?

The first encounter with reality

We weren’t expecting an immediate roadblock before we even began posting content online. On our first outing to Bulli Markets we were shockingly underwhelmed. In our time spent ideating we had built up in our heads this idealised fiction out of meme objects of what it would be like to actually create this project. We had forgotten that it was our job to take the mundanity of the real world and transform it through digital processes. Consequently, we were knocked slightly off balance by the lacklustre aspects of the markets and found ourselves desperately searching for diamonds amongst the rough.

Our mistake was not realising earlier that in the postmodern era of technological production, even the blandest of things can be turned into treasure. It took time to change our photography process to centre around this concept. But an examination of all the photos we’ve taken over the last few weeks, including those not found online, reveals a distinct change in methodology. We went from seeking pre-existing things which were already good and special and relying on them to make us look interesting online, to taking photos of everything and anything with a less careful and more unrestrained attitude and transforming them later in post-production. Thisnew attitude of trying to find the magic in everything also meant we had many more photos which looked better and more creative to choose from when selecting what to post on our page.

“Design through making”

The truth about our project, indeed the truth about all DAs, is that it is not a perfect object which exists in isolation on the internet. In fact, this status of perfection is unachievable if mistakes are not first made through a process of iteration critical to which is the impact of feedback loops.

These feedback loops inform creators as to the successes and failures of their designs in a way that is typically unfiltered and honest, if sometimes brutal. In the case of our DA, the feedback loops we experienced fall into three categories:

  • Process
    • Continuing on from the more conceptual encounter with reality as discussed above, our physical process evolved to become very effective and efficient. On our first market experience, we neglected to record stall names and details about the products. This then prevented us from accurately informing our audience about the market we attended, resulting in our first few posts not quite fulfilling the brief of making the markets less overwhelming. In our following trips to the markets, we ensured this mistake was not repeated, resulting in better quality posts due to an increase in the inclusion of important details.
    • We also experimented with the editing process. We found that using applications such as Photoshop and Pixelmator were too complex for our purpose. Instead, we settled on the use of VSCO Cam as it was fast and simple to use whilst still generating high-quality edits.
  • Audience
    • In the ideating phase of our project, we defined our audience as such:

DA Audience Starter Pack

  • What we failed to foresee was that theoretically defining an audience and finding that audience in real life are two very different things. We learnt this by attempting the good ol’ ‘follow for follow’ technique of gaining subs combined with expecting our audience to magically find us. Predictably, this method failed and we gained minimal momentum.
  • Next up we tried a modified version of this technique. Though still technically ‘follow for follow’ we removed the ‘magic’ aspect and replaced it with ‘science’… sort of. For this experiment, we followed a range of accounts that we felt fit within our established starter pack, such as @glebemarkets and @frankiemagazine, and then we also followed a random sample of their followers. The idea was that by us following these people who would likely be interested in our content, their awareness of us would be raised and they would follow back. This idea, even though it lends itself more towards creating a strong community of people with a common interest rather than just a following, still failed to provide us with any momentum.

followers.PNG

    • One good thing that came out of our second experiment was the realisation of the idea that we shouldn’t just be looking for people to follow us and like our images. We were reminded that we actually want to help real people who fit into our starter pack, rather than just boost our egos. This means that the prime goal should not be to just increase those follower and likes counts, but to actually prompt interest and engagement from people who genuinely care. To achieve this, we need to show that we care first—we would do this by asking questions in the captions on our photos, by liking other account’s photos or even by taking our involvement one step further and commenting on other account’s photos. This is a process we’ve started but haven’t had long enough to properly establish feedback loops with yet.
      • There is one exception to this…
  • In an attempt to reach the segment of our audience I was under the impression existed in the BCM114 cohort (due to interest expressed during the Project Pitch) I posted the above tweet. It received no engagement and I have thus concluded that this is an avenue which should not be further explored due to that silent yet resounding feedback.
  • The importance of this idea of finding a true audience/community was illustrated when one of my friends who could be considered an Instagram ‘influencer’ gave @finderskeepers_mc a shoutout on her story. Even though she had over 1600 people following her, we only got two followers in response. This clearly illustrates that if we target the wrong audience then we will not achieve success in finding a community.

shoutout.PNG

  • Content
    • In the ideating phase, we established the idea of creating Instagram content around the meme objects typically seen on Instagram accounts which fit into our starter pack and also those associated with the markets. In terms of aesthetic, this seems to be doing well as we have received many in-person compliments. However, the lack of engagement and attention given to our account seems to suggest that our content lacks something—this being a very recent realisation hasn’t given us the opportunity to explore solutions to this problem. The recent weekly topic of improving by ‘breaking’ our designs prompted us to think of disrupting our current visual theme to fix our problem by potentially introducing ‘aesthetic’ memes related to the markets, info posts, and videos. Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

compare.png
A comparison of our remediation on the classic Instagram ice cream photo with others who also use the same format with great success.

 

Unexpected disruption

One of the more embarrassing failures of our project has been the blog aspect of FindersKeepers. Not because it hasn’t received any engagement, but because it never really got the opportunity to do so. For weeks, we didn’t realise that the reason our blog wasn’t doing well was because the domain had been deactivated. It was inaccessible, and we had no idea all because we didn’t check the FindersKeepers Gmail where we would have found that we needed to confirm our contact details for our site to stay running.

sadness

As a result, there has been minimal time for feedback loops to establish here. There are currently two blog posts up but it is difficult to promote them as the time when we post the related content on Instagram has expired. We had hoped that this platform would serve to be like a miniaturised version of other similar media sites such as ‘Concrete Playground’ and ‘Urban Spoon’—we even imitated their writing style in an effort to achieve this—but at the moment we are very far from that vision being a reality.

Final words

In all, progress is slow, but we’re still learning. We have many more plans for the future, hopefully one will lead to a breakthrough. Any feedback is welcome.

Find us:

5 thoughts on “Prototyping

  1. Hey Christina, awesome job I love what you’re doing and think you’re heading in the right direction. I really like how your blog has a similar aesthetic to your DA.
    Have you thought about going cross-platform? I know you’ve got a website but maybe utilizing facebook, to try and grow your audience and expand reach as I know if you turn your ig to a business page they set one up for you. I love your use of memes throughout your piece and the analytics provided really shows that you know where you are lacking and helping you improve. It cool to see that “influencers” have reached out to you and I think that you should investigate that further or even try and get a hold of that free magazine (I can’t remember what it’s called but I will chase it up) as I’m sure you would they would love to help you out in a mutually beneficial way.

    Anyway keep it up, its awesome to see content like this!

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  2. Hey Christina!
    I totally understand what you mean by finding the reality of your project quite lacklustre. In my personal experience, I assumed the aesthetic I would adopt would surround niche bulk food stores, markets (ironically) and colourful assortments of produce. The reality is that sustainability doesn’t always look like this, so I had to often focus on the troubles and errors I made along the way to make my DA authentic. Your DA is looking lovely, with a clear aesthetic and consistent posts.

    One thing I would mention about the aesthetic, however, is that the filter used often makes the markets have a ‘cute’ vibe, as opposed to something more edgy or alternative. As markets are all about digging through trash to find treasure, maybe you could use this more ‘messy’ and not perfect idea in your aesthetic. Keep it up with the blog, because I am sure it will take off, but the Instagram is a great way for people to gain a quick insight into each market.

    Keep it up girlfriend xx

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  3. Hey Christina, I’ve been following your DA’s journey on Instagram (where my DA lives too – @historyunplugged) and have really enjoyed seeing the quality of your content progress and advance over the past few weeks. My DA concept is so different yet I think our initial design goals were very similar – create something super aesthetic and engaging. Definitely easier said than done right? I love how you described the ideating process (‘an idealised fiction of the project’) and I hope you definitely don’t feel like you’re the only one who’s been thrown off by the prototyping stage. In terms of your content, it’s so great that you were able to learn so quickly from your mistakes and correct them for the future (FEFO hey!). I definitely noticed the improvement in your posts, and I also went through a similar experience with my posts due to editing and colour correction issues. Your experience with your audience was also quite similar to mine and really insightful. I was struggling to label my ideal audience, and still feel as if my followers are so randomly distributed that I can’t categorize them as one. However, I like that you’re engaging with people who potentially have similar interests and aesthetics by following them. Can I suggest commenting on posts from pages that are similar to yours? Whether it is other market pages, lifestyle bloggers, etc., if you comment on their posts frequently, their followers will be more likely to check out your content. I found this was a good way to gain more exposure for my DA so it could be worth a shot. All in all, I’m excited to see how your DA continues to progress and I hope you can cement your success in the next few weeks!

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  4. Hey there! It’s been really interesting reading this post and seeing all the changes that have come about since last time! I liked the bit about having to finding treasures in the mundane as it’s so true. Everything we see on social media these days, especially instagram seems so authentically perfect, it’s difficult to see something in the real world before all the editing and still find its hidden value.

    Your choice of using simpler editing programs aligns well with FIST and seems to be working well for you, so good choice! Also, I actually thought your method of finding followers interested in your content by following a select few from similar account was quite clever and not ego-boosting at all. Maybe just combine this method with your new ideas of further engagement for optimal effect.

    Even though your account is very much based around making informed choices and educating people accordingly, there is still a very strong lifestyle aspect to it. Perhaps when considering new aesthetics, add a more human aspect to some images. Have a hand holding the flowers, or someone admiring the crystals, as you did with the ice-cream. This allows the pictures to become more idealistic, working off the whole ‘if you see someone with it, you want it more’. Just a thought though.

    Looking forward to your next post!

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  5. Hey there 🙂 First of all, I think this blog post perfectly captures what the prototyping phase was like to undertake. After the initial creation of the page, it becomes difficult to duplicate the vision you have via the content you produce. In terms of your aesthetic, it is definitely pleasing to look at. I think that although this is clearly a defining factor of your account, the ‘breaking’ stage of prototyping would have made it interesting to see you display some imperfection in your posts. For example, perfection can often become boring to look at. I know that personally, I avoid platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest as they create unrealistic expectations that become repetitive to view. I think the ‘alternative’ audience you are attempting to reach would find value in a more raw and even vintage looking aesthetic.

    Despite my suggestions, I can definitely understand the troubles you are facing in terms of approaching aesthetics. As my DA is based on photographing my guinea pig, it can easily become repetitive and is often hard to make look aesthetic (even through editing, which distorts and inanimates my images). It is easy to get caught up in the idea that everything has to be seamless and themetic though, when the large majority of your audience is probably much more interested in what you actually have to say about the experience of each market, rather than idealise it through filters.

    Overall I think your DA progress has clearly come far by this point. It is good to see that you have assessed the successfulness of each aspect of your page and have moderated it accordingly to better suit your audience.

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