The fresh, new startup pitching itself as the future of home management
Full discovery and prototyping process for a Rails-based web application
After meeting the Chimni team at 2015’s Talk About Local conference, we were hired to design and develop the beta prototype of their Rails web app. We were impressed with their plans for an online platform to help house holders manage their home data and intrigued to hear they intended to bring Building Information Modelling (BIM) facilities management principles into the home. Perhaps most exciting for Folk Labs, their Smart suburbs programmes overlap with our own passion for connected, Smart communities.
Discovery and architecture
While the Chimni team had spent a long time researching this interesting domain, they did not yet have a data model so our first step was to begin exploring how we should model a home in a database.
Our eventual design was heavily influenced by Chimni’s longterm vision for their system to adhere to BIM standards.
We built a very bespoke definition of a home, including extremely flexible address capture and a classification of home architectures in a Chimni Homes Typology – a multi-level, illustrated typology that defines the shape and style of the majority of UK homes.
Floor and room configuration
Ruby on Rails
We chose to build Chimni with Ruby on Rails which delivers as both a rapid prototyping platform and a scaleable system for the future.
We used the Trailblazer framework to also allow us take a modular, component-based approach to minimize bugs, improve code maintainability and speed up development of forthcoming features.
3rd-party API integrations
A key value proposition of the Chimni concept is integrating with a range of 3rd party systems to make home management more convenient. For the public beta, we integrated with several to provide a lightweight example: OpenPostcodes for address lookup, What3Words to capture their 3-word location and Gravatar to automate import of user pictures.
The Chimni corporate identity only really comprised a basic logo and a two colour palette so we developed a full set of swatches, typography treatments and created a specification for how to apply the logo in different contexts.
Scalable vector graphics
Chimni’s entire asset pipeline runs on Scalable vector graphics (SVG). We invested heavily in SVG because the UI imagery is flat, line graphics which make vector files the natural choice: SVGs are responsive and scale perfectly, maintaining sharpness at any resolution while also keeping file sizes at a fraction of PNG. Smaller sizes also mean faster download speeds. And, since SVGs are code, they can be targeted with CSS and can be placed under version control.
We worked closely with the Chimni team to develop their Home Typology icons and illustrations as optimised vector files. To increase download efficiency still further, we built our own custom SVG processing pipeline.
This generates sprite sheets from the original Adobe Illustrator source files, allowing us to load multiple resources into the page simultaneously.
To ensure the icons and illustrations for the Typology and other imagery would render most effectively, all app image assets were rendered as SVGs using appropriate methods for the situation:
Standard tag inclusion
Inline SVGs for icons
Collated image sheets with images rendered using xrefs
This ensured clear images at any resolution and smaller file sizes
Services and technologies
We set up a solid toolchain on which we could then build a continuous integration pipeline including automated tests, code quality checking and deployment using
Test drive Chimni
To see what we built, register for a free account with their beta trial
The Chimni web app is now in beta and Folk Labs are supporting onboarding of trial users. Quarter 2 has seen steady growth of early adopters – many from Bedford Park in SW London – an area popular with home historians.
Chimni has also been demonstrated to a number of property developers who are registering strong interest. Tech for the hyperlocal and household sectors offers intriguing new opportunities to develop unusual new digital services. We’re proud of the work we’ve already achieved on Chimni and are looking forward to working on the forthcoming phase.
Want to work with us?
We'd love to hear from you. Let’s have a chat over a drink to see how we can help your organisation.
Folk Labs Limited is a private limited company, registered in England.
52D Great North Road, Highgate, London, N6 4LT, United Kingdom
Company number: 08405964
VAT number: 262781096