Uncommon People

Uncommon People is a project which aims to map the family tree of Sheffield music.

Launched in 2009 the site was a groundbreaking piece of research, design, UI and programming. Unfortunately the 3D interface was made using Adobe Flash, the then all-powerful web graphics and animation package.

As Flash’s requirements became more greedy and its popularity dwindled, the site became less land less useable. Apple refused to support it on their newly launched iPhones and iPads which eventually led to Adobe finally dropping Flash completely.

The Flash issue coupled with the lack of mobile support meant the site needed rebuilding from scratch using open-source and future-proof technology. We went for standard HTML5, CSS and JavaScript and set about taking the massive amount of data the site had collected and visualising it in a useable way.

The keystone of the site had always been a three-dimensional family tree, or a web-like structure which mapped each artist to all of the bands they had been members of. As Sheffield bands have a habit of sharing musicians or setting up numerous side-projects, the web can get quite tangled. Our JavaScript solution made sure the bands, artists and connections stayed connected but far enough apart to be visible. The user can pan and zoom, or home in on a particular band or artist to concentrate on their own connections.

As well as the family tree interface, the same data is used on two other sections of the site in different ways to provide a visual history of Sheffield music and also a text-based browser for quick research.

The site has grown to the size it is through user contributions, so that functionality was streamlined to make adding and moderating new content less laborious.

The project belongs to the Sensoria Festival (whose website we also built and maintain) and we worked closely with them and their designer Michael Eden to bring Uncommon People’s look right up-to-date at the same time as the intenbal workings.

Best of all, it now works on all phones and tablets!

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