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.

Services

  • Discovery and architecture
  • Visual design and corporate identity development
  • Ruby on Rails architecture and development
  • Zurb  Foundation-based front end build
  • Vector graphic creation and SVG processing
  • Browser testing
  • DevOps and site launch

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.

Chimni home profile

Home profile

Displays basic information a home’s location, address and the occupier’s relationship to the property.
Chimni home profile

Document center

A repository of documents (certificates, guarantees, surveys etc) attached to the home can be linked to home improvement Projects.
Chimni home profile

Home projects

Householders who want to store information about Projects they’ve undertaken on their home can add them to Chimni and add pictures, dates, and attach relevant documents.
Chimni home profile

Floor and room configuration

Homes can inherit a generic floor and room plans which can then be customised and added to a home.

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.

We also adopted a modular, component-based approach to frontend style by blending best practice from the BEM and SMACSS frameworks to manage our Zurb Foundation-based app theme.

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.

Visual design

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

Ruby on Rails

HAML

Trailblazer

Vue.js

SASS

Foundation from Zurb

Semaphore CI test

Rollbar

Test drive Chimni

To see what we built, register for a free account with their beta trial

Results

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.

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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