Aug 30, 2007
Digg Arc is the lastest addition to our continuing work for Digg Labs. The piece has seen several weeks of development and experimentation and three phases of development punctuated by two successive public releases. This is a visual diary of its creation, shared by Shawn Allen, Tom Carden, and me, Michal Migurski.
Arc began in Shawn's hands. We started with a few basic experiments in circular layout and basic arc geometry. At first, these took the form of simple interactive wireframes to prove that our math was right. We quickly attached these initial sketches to the Digg Flash Kit, and connected them to a source of real data.
Our early work centered on a kind of visual stress-testing: during periods of heavy Digg user activity, how much data could Arc display while staying legible? We spent several evenings tweaking display parameters and leaving the results running for long periods of time to see how an unfiltered stream of data would behave. Would it be possible to show hundreds of stories and users? Could the user arcs on the outside of the center circle be improved with transparency and hard edges?
When I finished and delivered Arc's first public release, we limited the stories on the edge to a minimum of 10 pixels or so, and kept the focus on the story display in the center. The initial text design for the focal circle was imported from Swarm.
After its first release, Tom began working on a followup adjustment. This has been a pattern with several of our pieces for Digg Labs: early release, followed by community feedback and subsequent updates. Arc could benefit most from explicit indication of user activity, better visual distinctions between topics and containers, some improvements in mouse interaction.
Some of the rendering glitches and experiments during development were gorgeous:
The final piece changed the appearance of the arcs, labeled them explicitly with site users, and introduced better interaction and control of the reactive piece.
Play with the final piece at labs.digg.com/arc.