Nymbler

Designing an optimally aerodynamic airplane wing.... Creating efficient pharmaceutical experiments... Finding the perfect baby name... What do they have in common? Icosystem has a Hunch, and Nymbler demonstrates how it works.

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Nymbler is a rich, dynamic and playful application that helps people explore, save and share baby name ideas.

Filament Group has had the good fortune to work with Icosystem — a group of complexity science specialists who develop custom tools to help solve a wide range of problems in industry — on several projects that employ their patented Hunch EngineTM technology.

In Icosystem's words, the Hunch Engine "uses interactive evolutionary algorithms to help users navigate large spaces, combining the ability of computers to sift through massive amounts of data and that unique human ability to see "stuff" (sometimes even when stuff is not there) with their right brains."

In practice, the Hunch Engine lets a user identify one, two or more objects that he or she likes, and the Engine compares those objects' characteristics to find similar objects. Icosystem wanted to develop a tangible public-facing application that both was easy to understand and demonstrated the power of the Hunch Engine. Baby names, with their many distinct characteristics (ethnic origin, historical reference, spelling variations, popularity over time, local and regional trends, sound and rhythm, style....) provided the perfect combination of accessibility and complexity to show the Engine in action.

Without CSS or javascript, the Nymbler interface is still usable

Unstyled and proud. The Nymbler site is fully functional without CSS or Javascript thanks to progressive enhancement techniques.

Filament engaged with Icosystem on functional design and front-end coding for their proof-of-concept. We rapidly developed UI prototypes to figure out the right metaphor for interaction. When we had identified a model, we developed all the client-side HTML, CSS and JavaScript to support movement, dynamic transitions, and layers of information to deliver a dynamic and fun name exploration experience.

One of our primary goals in creating the site was to ensure that it be accessible to the widest audience and on the broadest set of devices — from the oldest, finickiest browsers to the most modern mobile phones and smartphones. We approached all coding using progressive enhancement principles. First, we provided a simple, accessible well-structured HTML version for screen readers or mobile devices. On top of that, we developed a browser capabilities test to determine if a user is on a modern, standards-complaint browser; if the browser passes, we then layer rich animations, interactivity and AJAX through the DOM in a non-obtrusive way, and with a single, unified code base.

Midway through the proof-of-concept process, Icosystem decided to launch Nymbler as a product in its own right. We worked with them to create a product identity and logo, color scheme and refined visual design that captured its playful, game-like experience.

Nymbler was voted one of Time Magazine's 50 Best Websites 2008.

Go to Nymbler.com and try for yourself.