Mar 14, 2012

The State of Hot's Tech

Dan Harrelson's picture
Dan Harrelson
Executive Director, Technology

Hot’s Technology team built up some substantial momentum last year, and isn’t slowing down in 2012. At Hot, we aren’t simply designing industry-leading experiences, we’re building them.
 
First, and perhaps most importantly, we’ve made significant hires in both our San Francisco and New York offices. Jason Punzalan came on as our Director of Technology in New York and Anthony Bovasso, Bill Fisher, Kerry Nehil, Tory Polich, and Scott Tran joined our group as well. As I reflect on everything, I’m happiest with the fact that our group, which now includes more than a dozen engineers, is happy and busy building interesting software.
 
Hot’s increased technology capabilities allow us to deliver outstanding work for our clients. Two key projects include iPad apps for PopTech and Art.com. Though both are built for the same platform, the projects’ differences speak to our team’s versatility and the variety of technical projects Hot pursues.

The challenge with PopTech was to incorporate and make tangible massive amounts of data collected by PopTech’s partners, PwC, the UN Global Pulse, Jana, and The New York Times R&D Lab. Our tech team worked closely with the Hot’s designers, as well as PopTech and its partners, to develop a series of flexible, interactive visualizations that told the story of how the world will change socially and economically in years to come.

Art.com’s app, called artCircles, could be described as “experiential e-commerce.” Its primary objective is to spark conversation: artCircles leverages Art.com’s vast catalogue of images, prints, and original artwork to get users talking about the art that inspires them. Though important, the actual purchasing of art is a secondary element of the app. In building artCircles, the team incorporated elements of social integration, mobile commerce, and unique information architecture.

Our experience with touchscreens and mobile interfaces also led to significant work with HTML5 and responsive design, which we believe will become the code of choice for many mobile applications going forward. As such, HTML5 and responsive design will remain an important element of our work throughout 2012.
 
Recently, we’ve built several HTML5 apps with Zinio, including Zinio’s magazine reader for the HP TouchPad, which runs webOS and relies heavily on HTML5. We also launched Touchy, an opensource jQuery plug-in developed by Hot’s Bill Fisher. Released in September 2011 at the San Francisco JavaScript Meetup, Touchy helps an application manage touch events in any browser that implements ontouchstart, ontouchmove, and ontouchend events—notably WebKit-based browsers such as Mobile Safari and the Android Browser—thereby allowing applications to better parse out the user’s intention.
 
As our tech team has grown and contributed to more projects, the culture here at Hot has begun to change as well. We’ve been hosting more tech events, like the 2011 Balanced Teams Conference and our very first Hackathon. We’ll be hosting even more tech events this year. Technology is no longer an add-on offering for us; it has become an integral piece in the services we provide our clients, and part of our identity.

Ultimately, we believe that Hot’s tech capacities allow us to deliver better products for our customers. By building what we design, we can offer a truer execution of our clients’ visions. It’s also allowing us to work in new ways, and with new kinds of clients. One example of this shift is our work with Code for America on their Civic Commons project. Rather than designing and building Civic Commons ourselves, Hot took more of a coach/mentor role, through which we helped with product prioritization and development, while Code for America’s fellows handled engineering. Working in this fashion allowed the teams to solve problems and work quickly without sacrificing quality. It also helped Code for America work within its budget.
 
This year will be an even bigger year for the Tech department, and for Hot as a whole. With a solid foundation in place, we have several interesting projects underway for touchscreen and mobile apps.

And we’re still growing. We’re looking for experienced, creative engineers. If that’s you, and you like the sound of what we’re doing, please drop us a line.

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