BRB - giving context to your whereabouts

BRB is a simple web application that gives a fullscreen notice on your computer screen to let people know where you ran off to. Quirky animations and a single editable line of text make for a fun answer to the question, “Hey, do you know where Cole is?”

updated:
collaborators:Dasha Buduchina, Sam Kilgus
category:personal project
URL:goo.gl/f3ELWf
Estimated reading time: 5 mins

I remember sitting in the main offices of Cenify, a smart home startup that had hired me as their first UI designer, in exasperation over the same snag I'd been dealing with Day 1. The problem in question was one I ran into at least once a day and when I thought about it, a problem I encountered outside of work, in the library, and even in my neighborhood cafes.

Problem

Cenify’s iOS Developer saw a lot of me. I had questions, a lot of questions, and he had answers, most of the time. The biggest problem was catching him at his desk. Half the time I would march myself to his desk confused with UIKit and his chair would be empty. Not only that, but no-one would know where he went, or had any idea when he would come back. I don’t blame my Soylent drinking co-workers. They were zoned in, cranking out code.

I started thinking about ways for our iOS Developer to let us know where he scampered off to. BRB was what I came up with.

Solution

The idea was to provide some context to an empty desk, an unattended laptop or workspace. I wanted to use the one thing always visible to me when I came looking our AWOL engineer; his computer screen. I realized using a monitor as a digital notice could be tricky. Too much context might come off as incriminating (“Cole - Back in 5 minutes; posted 3 hours ago”), but too little wouldn’t be very helpful (“Cole - Lunch”). The solution to this context balance problem looked a little something like this. A descriptive motion graphic, a single line of editable text, and the current time.

I put out a initial version as a web app in 2016 using GIFs from Dribbble (giving artist credit), but to me, this wasn’t a long term solution. I wanted BRB to feel like a product with a conducive, fleshed-out aesthetic. Cue Dasha; graphic designer major at RIT, sass distributor in our close knit group of friends, and a doodle goddess. She’s the one behind the delightful motion graphics. Also cue Sam, javascript wizard, who revamped the backend and front-end functionality literally quicker then I could ask him to.

Takeaways

BRB was a fun solution for a specific problem. The best part of this whole project was collaborating with some of my best friends, learning from them and understanding their motivations and visions for the end product. College is a very very special place where you can be surrounded with extremely talented and multi-faceted people who are more then happy to collaborate and make things.