suburb/slice showcases 2006 census data in a visually consumable format – via charts, images and maps.
suburb/slice was developed for the App My State competition in 2010 – which was a Victorian Government initiative to give innovation in the Victorian state a kickstart. It was the first build for the competition – and my first app in PHP.
As part of the competition, the Victorian Government released, or made available, several datasets – including links to existing data websites.
I came up with the idea while searching through these datasets and spotting a very badly organised Victorian Government Census site. I guess my initial thought was – if I’m finding navigating this site very difficult, the normal user would find it almost impossible…
After coming up with the initial idea – the only research that I conducted before building suburb/slice was to research the entries of a similar run competition in New South Wales. Some of the winners created similar apps to suburb/slice – so I followed the leader for this one. There are many articles advocating that first to market is the best way to capture market share – whereas, others argue that you should never be first to market… So which one is it.
The outcome was simple – this app wasn’t successful in winning any prize in the competition. It did however win – users.
I wrote the app in PHP5 and used the MVC framework – CakePHP. After writing a few apps in RoR – MVC was very familiar to me so that decision was a no brainer. Specifically I chose PHP and CakePHP because- 1. I have never written anything in PHP and 2. I wanted to host the site/s on a normal hosting account – not a special RoR hosting account. (Everyone supports PHP)
In my case, first to market was negative and positive. How? Well, by being second to market, the outcome wasn’t great (read below) but it did have it’s advantage. The developers that created apps for the New South Wales competition normalized a lot of the data – which made developing the site quite easy.
So, users – after a few weeks of the app being live I was made aware by friends that the app was placed on several “Research Portals” on public libraries’ sites. This was enough of a reason for me to keep suburb/slice up – people find it useful! Win!
There were a couple of strategies I considered for suburb/slice. Creating an API that apps/companies could access for a fee is/was one. I think it’s still possible – but since the census is conducted every 5 years – in 2011, we’ll have new data, so I might wait for that census and reconsider. The second strategy was creating widgets the could be placed on third party sites – which would attract a small monthly fee. This was a strategy I wanted to use for a different app (post coming soon).
There were no real lessons learnt here, except for:
1. If you have a strategy, try it out. I didn’t push my monetization strategies very hard.
2. Being first or second doesn’t seem to matter – it’s all about timing…
Definitely. It was an easy app to build – CakePHP is an easy framework to use and PHP was a great tool for the job.
I still have hope for creating a similar app for the 2011 data and really pushing the monetization strategies.
You can check out suburb/slice here.