The Art of Tech: Designing a High Quality User Experience for StagePlot Guru for iPad.
Custom and efficient stage plot design and delivery to your technical staff should be near the top of every stage manager’s to-do list. A new app, StagePlot Guru for iPad, was created by a musician for performance spaces and therefore it delivers the one-two punch of an insider’s technical knowledge on a platform that drastically reduces your stage plot design lag time. The StagePlot Guru app, created by former Air Supply drummer, CJ Burton and Active Media Production Group, and was released on December 17, 2014. StagePlot Guru for iPad is now the #1 most downloaded music industry stage plot application and it has been downloaded thousands of times worldwide by stage managers, festival planners, musicians, audio engineers and others, reaching into the top ten most downloaded music apps in various countries. You can download StagePlot Guru for free, or upgrade to Pro to unlock dozens of features for just $4.99.
Last year we interviewed the app’s creator, CJ Burton (All I Want for Christmas is to Release my App.) Below is our fascinating follow up interview with StagePlot Guru for iPad graphic and UX designer, Shane Flox.
32ATPs: Tell us a bit about your background and your role at StagePlot Guru. Is music a part of your background?
Flox: CJ and I met years ago through a bassist friend who I played jazz with in high school. I did an album cover for their current band, and CJ and I became friends. I’ve been doing work for CJ for years now!
For StagePlot Guru, I did the illustration, design, and much of the ‘UX design’ (industry lingo). It basically means looking at instruments and rendering them with graphics software, using modern user interface principles, and a sense of atmosphere, to create an experience for the user.
32ATPs: The StagePlot Guru for iPad app is art intensive. I would say that the art is on par with any video game. Can you comment about the design process? What is the hardest part? What is the most gratifying?
Flox: Well, thanks for the compliment! I appreciate it. For me the art comes fairly naturally, and I’ve been working with app developers since the first release of the iPhone so I’d had some experience in the mobile world. The real challenge is in making sure that the art/imagery wasn’t there for its own sake, but rather, for the sake of a better user experience. CJ was a great sounding board for all of the designs, and for keeping everything geared toward being a functional tool for musicians, audio engineers, stage managers and technical staff of all kinds. The design process was really about iteration — producing concepts, point of view, etc. until we had honed-in on something great. After that, it was about creating a workflow which could turn out hundreds of items.
32ATPs: Shane, you have an extensive portfolio of design and art work, including fine art illustrations and paintings AND graphic design. What was it like to create art for an app that people are working with every day, a very functional app that is a professional tool?
Flox: I do love creating ‘something cool to look at’, but creating a tool is the best feeling ever. Every ‘professional’ I know — regardless of the industry — finds that small selection of tools that they use to do their jobs as best they can. We definitely want to be that kind of professional tool for anyone in the music performance business — front stage or back stage.
32ATPs: Where does the art go from here? What is the next step for Stage Plot Guru?
Flox: We will definitely continue to release instrument sets and genre-specific add ons and eventually try to cover as wide of range of gear as possible. In terms of the technology — the industry moves fast and what was standard practice last year is replaced by better, faster methods next year. I’m investigating all kinds of ‘avenues’ to go down. Stay tuned, ya know.
32ATPs: Last question- What is on your playlist while you work?
Flox: As for my playlist, I have three stations on rotation in Pandora: Grizzly Bear, Miles Davis, and Aesop Rock.
StagePlot Guru for iPad: Custom and efficient stage plot design
A mobile stage plot app that fits your specific requirements is key, so we’ve reviewed StagePlot Guru’s features here as well. The rich features the professional version of StagePlot Guru provides (for only $4.99) are well worth the price and will become indispensable to your management and technical teams. Soon you will be customizing stage plots that will give your production staff, musicians (and other behind-the-scenes techs), the ability to see at a glance, exactly how instrumentation, amps, lights, platforms, and other “props” should be organized on your stage. There really is nothing else like this tool available and its continuous development with direct feedback from the community practically guarantees a satisfying user experience. For example, version 1.6 was just released, featuring a new “save to PDF” JPG or PNG feature, which was in direct response to user feedback.
Stage Plot Design
The intuitive user interface allows you to build a stage from the ground up using the iPad touch screen, grabbing the icons for everything from audio equipment to instruments, and accessories. The graphics are easy to read and the editing tool bar is collapsible to maximize the workspace on the iPad screen. The pro version allows you to save over 100 different stage plots to PDF or image files for printing and sharing with your team. Plots are backed up on iCloud.
Customize your stage plots by adding your company’s logo, adding equipment lists and notes, and specific contact or stage manager information. Technical input lists can be assigned for every prop, over 100 of which are included in the pro-version.
You can customize the dimensions of every platform in the side editor bar. In addition you can turn the dimensional readouts “off” in the settings of the app.
If you need extensive props and prop sets the StagePlot Guru store has hundreds of additional props to choose from. The Active Media Production Group artists are constantly adding new props, and if you don’t see everything you need, you can make a request for the prop to StagePlotGuru@gmail.com. We tried this and got an immediate response, with our requested prop added in just a few days.
Guru Box and Community
The Guru Box is your personal space where all your prop purchases are stored. It is located on the top bar of the editing screen, and the top, bottom and side bars are all collapsible to maximize your workspace. The StagePlot Guru user community is well connected on social media, with users sharing their stage plots on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (#stageplotguru), however a quick chat with Active Media revealed that a future version of the app will include integrated social features to continue to build the community, bringing all aspects of the industry together on one platform.
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