This post was written by UP Global’s Technical Director, David Pierce.
One of the most exciting things about working at UP Global is knowing we serve a global community. We move fast, work hard, and think creatively to support the efforts of our community and showcase the entrepreneurial movement.
If you’ve known about Startup Weekend for a long time, you’ve undoubtedly encountered our global events map. Though it has served us well, I am happy to share that we’ve retired the old map and I’m excited to introduce you to its newer, smarter sibling: The UP Global Cities Map.
First, we should talk about why we would improve on what we had before. The major goals of the map were to:
- Show Startup Weekend’s global reach
- Help entrepreneurs find events in the communities they care about
While it was able to show the reach, it had some challenges with the second goal. Let’s discuss some of those challenges.
We only showed pins for a given community if there was an event in the currently selected month. We didn’t have a good way to help users look for their city or for a city that hadn’t had an event for a while.
Having to scroll through months and then search for a city was clunky and unfriendly. Understanding the state of the map was difficult without understanding what the different pin colors meant. Without going into detail, the original code design for the month selector was also quite brittle and was not future-proofed.
One of the biggest pain points is that we weren’t able to help anybody if a city didn’t have an event coming up soon or hadn’t had one in a while. The usefulness of the map was highly tied to the current activity of the organizing team.
The map worked by querying for events within a given date range from our in-house event management system called SWOOP. Asking for many events across a wide time-range was already slow, but the code that managed the pin rendering was also quite slow. This made the map unpleasant to use.
Ultimately, what we want to provide a map that is useful and that represented our mission and community in a meaningful way.
This project was actually born out of an unrelated effort to make better use of our ecosystem in terms of cities and communities rather than events. This makes sense since we are in the work of community building, and events are more transient than communities. This new effort is a step in the right direction.
While there may not be an event happening every day, your community is always there. Since this map focuses on communities rather than events, we are able to map any community that has ever hosted an event.
You probably know where your community is on the global map. With this new design, you don’t need to know when the event is, or even click around to find it.
First, we start by clustering pins at high zoom levels to reduce clutter and show regional grouping. Next, we offer a city search box that guides the user directly to the city when the desired search result is clicked.
We also greatly simplified the colors and meaning of the elements on the map to make communities the focal point of the experience.
Probably the most exciting change is what we are able to do when a community does not have an upcoming event. For example, let’s imagine I’m interested in the activity in the town near where I went to high school:
In this example, there isn’t an upcoming event in Omaha. However, I can either apply to organize a future event or drop my email into a mailing list to be notified when an event does get organized. This becomes useful for future organizing teams who need help marketing their events.
If a city does have an event, I can either learn more about the event or click straight through to the Eventbrite page to sign up:
This gets especially exciting when multiple events and different verticals are happening close to each other on the calendar since this display will render them all one after the other.
We actually had a few more things we wanted to add to this map, but in the spirit of shipping early and often, we just launched it with the hope of getting community feedback to advise the future direction.
Some ideas to improve the map plugin are:
- Add keyboard navigation to the search results
- Local browser caching to improve performance
- Automatic location detection and map refocusing
Our tech team is hard at work supporting your efforts and making technology work for the community. We hope you like our work so far and we look forward to bringing you more cool things in the future!