Need a Critique? Try Our Team's Side-Project
18 Jul 2014
It can be tough being a designer; after spending hours on a piece of work, you’re keen to get feedback, only to have your creative director respond with numerous negative comments after the client’s seemingly endless list of amends. What to do?
Critique That Shit offers the perfect antidote. A fun little side-project which Equator developer, Grant MacLennan and designers Ryan McLeod and David Park recently worked on, the website provides a humorous take on a creative director’s ‘critique’ of various web design examples put before them.
“I wanted to make something fun for people, like us, who work in the industry”, explains Grant. “We considered doing something based around ‘Clients Say the Funniest Things’ but then realised that this might be a bit too controversial! It was Ryan and David who came up with the concept of the creative director’s critique”.
“David and I were playing around with Google translate and it was really funny how sarcastic the output was”, adds Ryan. “This kind of morphed into us reflecting on the kind of feedback we receive on our work; often we’re asked for a lot of changes and amends that appear irrational and ridiculous which doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence. We thought, what if we could create something that would always give you super positive feedback and really cheer you up? We developed the idea further, then adapted the creative director angle to allow people to submit a site, then using a little smoke and mirrors, make it seem like the system was actually critiquing its url”.
The trio could have chosen to provide written ‘feedback’ for those sites visitors submitted to be ‘critiqued’, but decided to make the responses verbal instead, as Grant explains:
“We felt it added a new dynamic as there aren’t a huge number of websites out there that will provide content in the audio verbal form. I’d been playing around with audio in websites for a wee while, specifically going from audio to text, with serveries such as Twillo and from text to speech”.
“The verbal response is how it all began”, points out Ryan. “The nature of having specific phrases we’d written down, converted from text to speech, was what made the process so funny in the first place; it’s what we developed our idea around.”
“We built it on a server stack called Node.js”, says Grant, in response to a question about the technology behind the site. “It’s a pretty new server side language which allows developers to code server side logic really quickly. When a visitor to the submits a url, the server goes to the address and takes a screenshot, then a predefined “art director quote” and sticks that into the Google translate API. This comes back as an MP3 which we send back down to the browser alongside the screenshot.”
The look and feel of the site was kept as straightforward as possible, so they could turn it around as quickly as possible, as Ryan reveals:
“The whole ethos was to ‘smash it out’ from concept to launch in a week, so it was important not to nit-pick every detail of the design. We just wanted to get a fun little idea out into the world and see if it got some traction”
So how did they decide upon their chosen phrases?
“These we were crafted by our own fair minds. I like to think they were the result of our own white hot wit, with a healthy dose of sarcasm added for good measure”, replies Ryan with a laugh. “It’s safe to say that we were also influenced by some of the feedback we’ve had in the past and a few things online like Clients From Hell.”
Launched a few weeks ago, there’s been a big response from web designers and developers alike - “the site actually went down after few big names tweeted about it” Grant points out – it’s also earned honourable mentions in Ad Week and Design Taxi, as well as an award from One Page Love.
By Colin Chapman, Business Development