Dec 15, 2023
Unveiling the Downstream website: An Interview with Jonny from Wondermake
Discover the creation of "Downstream," an innovative on-chain game. In this exclusive interview, Jonny from Wondermake, a pivotal creative studio in the project, shares insights into its development, design process, and the essence of this upcoming game..
Welcome Jonny, Can you introduce the project?
Downstream is an on-chain game currently being developed by Playmint, a game development studio working in the web3 space. We’ve been working with them for the past year or so, but most recently we helped design and develop the games official website.
You're from Wondermake, focusing on the website and positioning, right?
Absolutely. Our involvement started with more strategic work, and branding for the game before moving into UX and UI support. It’s been a great opportunity to add a little playfulness into a digital experience.
“Web3 remains uncharted territory, offering creative freedom without preset norms. It's a playground where innovation isn't hindered by established standards.”
Wondermake seems to add a playful touch. Can you tell us more about your team and the studio's inception?
Wondermake is a creative team of two, myself and partner Josh. Though we’re about to add a third in Sam our long-time friend and collaborator, not to mention an incredibly talented creative technologist. We have a pretty broad background, but something of a specialism in digital, and a focus on making things that bring a little more joy to the world. Recently we’ve been drawn to the web3 space because of the creative opportunities it provides.
Speaking of web3, why do you think web3 projects tend to be more experimental in design and visuals?
Web3 is still kind of uncharted territory. There isn’t too many established standards or expectations, meaning there’s a ton of creative freedom! The decentralised movement also kind of encourages breaking away from convention.
Can you elaborate on the briefing process for Downstream?
The initial brief was really short! They just wanted a site that captured emails without being too boring. We certainly feel like we delivered – you have to work for it a bit, the field is there but it’s not just easy-entry. You gotta work to prove your humanity!
The live site has a distinctive style. Did you establish this or adapt from the game?
The site's visual style comes from the game’s aesthetic which we’ve been developing over time. It’s built on tangibility with a ‘clickable’ feel. It also nicely coincides with how the creative industry is moving away from flat UI.
How did you approach designing the interactive elements on the website?
Figma is our primary tool for creating, but we work really closely with our developers and start talking about interaction, feedback and motion straight away. We share visuals and references across Figma and Slack while we’re designing.
Let's talk about the journey of building this website. What was the biggest challenge?
Well, we discovered how challenging it was to make a grid of hexagonal buttons! Hexagons in general caused us some issues. Other than that, making it all fully responsive was pretty demanding. It wasn’t part of the project scope but we made it work in the end, and it turned out to be super rewarding.
The final stages often consume time. What were the most time-consuming aspects during the final development phase?
We love the final 10%! Implementing those small details that make all the difference – perfecting the ease curves, adding button feedback. They make it come to life and create a more magical user experience.
What detail are you proud of that users might not have discovered yet?
We actually built a secret alternate reality game element into the site, but nobody has managed to discover it yet! It opens up a text field which allows you to type and chat with Morton, the game’s main character.
How did you test the website's usability, given its complexity?
We didn’t do too much user testing, but we did run it by some people who aren’t so immersed in tech. My wife is always great for candid, but brutal feedback. The focus of the site was world-building not traditional conversion, its job is to give you a flavour of the game in an interesting and original way.
“I’d highly recommend turning the sound on before you press all the things. We turned it off by default but it definitely helps enhance the interaction experience.”
Did insights from this initial testing prompt significant changes to the website?
Absolutely! We had to change the whole way we’d approached the memory game. It made sense to us when we designed it, but unanimously failed whenever anyone else used it. We switched it up and it works way better. A nice reminder that our designer's perspective is often different from how users perceive and use things.
For readers eager to explore the site, any specific elements or hidden Easter eggs you'd recommend?
I’d highly recommend turning the sound on before you press all the things. We turned it off by default but it definitely helps enhance the interaction experience.
Looking back, what's the most significant takeaway from this project?
We were surprised at how it was received in the award spaces. But it is a little unconventional and challenges a few web design norms. It’s the risk you take when you try for something unique, but I think it confused some users. We hoped users would explore and investigate a little more than they have.
Lastly; If you could advise your younger self considering your career journey, what would it be?
Pursue all of those passion projects you think up along the way. Don’t confine yourself to your day job; experiment and explore. You’ll learn so much and have a lot of fun doing it!
In the continually evolving web design landscape, Wondermake's project stands as a testament to creative exploration and innovative thinking, pushing the boundaries of digital experiences. Their unconventional approach challenges norms, inspiring us to embrace curiosity and experimentation in our creative pursuits. Want to learn more? Check out the Downstream website here and click here to learn more about Wondermake.