The Offline Space seeks to help hospitality businesses such as restaurants and cafes become more resilient, through providing their customers with an automated pop-up bookstore and access to a curated selection of the highest quality, time tested physical books - creating a choose-your-own-adventure each time they choose to visit the brick-and-mortar store.
The design intent for the site was a B2B landing page, targeted towards pitching the concept to a core user group of owner-operators from the hospitality industry.
Customer profile details:
Owns brick-and-mortar hospitality business
Values quality / excellence, customer end-to-end experience
5 - 10 years in hospitality, successful but open to new ideas to grow business
Time / resource constrained - does not want / need more work
Why bookstores? The idea was born in 2019 from a YouTube video about the concept of ‘listening bars’ in Japan, which are atypical bars kitted out with audiophile-grade audio equipment, and through that video I learnt about the idea of ‘Third Places’ – originated by the author Ray Oldenburg in his book 'A Great Good Place'. A Third Place is a place for people to belong, a commonplace that exists in between work and home.
Read more about this moment of discovery on Medium - "The Incubation of Ideas" blog post
Shortly after finding this video, I got to visit Japan and discover these listening bars myself. I returned home, fueled by the fire of creating a ‘Third Place’ for myself, in an attempt to scratch my own itch. I was curious about molding in the idea of books, because of an intrinsic and foundational belief in the power of books as high-leverage-low-cost mediums of learning. At this point of time, I was living in Gladstone, a regional Queensland town of approximately 25K people, and the first step I took was to post a public poll onto a popular Facebook local community page to gather feedback.
This was in May 2020, and the results indicated that there was a strong community desire for a bookstore, with a longing for a return of previous Gladstone businesses that have closed down over the years. While the pull of sharing high quality books with others and to create a ‘Third Place’ was still resonant, the operational costs of setting up a brick-and-mortar and the risk profile was too high even before getting started.
‘What would things look like if I could just get started?’ was the question that eventually led me to creating the concept an automated pop-up bookstore. By October, I had built the landing page and reached out to my first partner café, prepared a MVP and put things into motion by March 2021. The store was live! Over the next 6 months, it generated a hands-off revenue of $600 while I was working a full-time shift roster as an engineer and put me on the radar for Startup Gladstone’s Innov8ors accelerator program.
The landing site was originally created on Squarespace in May 2020 near the conception of the idea, and was independently rebuilt to the same specifications and hosted after a year on the same theofflinespace.com domain. The reason behind this project was that the price demand was considered too high for a static and primitive one-page landing site.
Unlike my previous project of juliangoh.me, the first website for The Offline Space was created on Squarespace - which was an unfamiliar platform to me at the time, but I did know of it as a template-based website builder. This was a desirable option, because the vision of The Offline Space had been developed and the intention was to get to a minimum-viable-product as quickly as possible.
Although there was no comprehensive design process at the time of the build, the core vision of The Offline Space had been developed to a point where it could be articulated, which then became the guiding principle through the development.
The landing page design was intended to be a concise but strong introduction to the concept - split into the segments of 'why', 'how' and 'what'. In the rebuild (as seen below), the first two segments were consolidated into one, to create a more convenient 'first landing' for users and to remove the need to scroll in order get to the introductory statement.
Throughout the build process, mobile optimisation was a key priority, not only as adhering to good industry practice but also to ensure that all visitors to The Offline Space are able to access the available information.
Aside from the index page, three other pages for 'About', 'Reading List' and 'Lightbox' were also developed.
A scroll-overflow menu was built for the 'Reading List' page to allow visitors to conveniently scroll through and view all the books available on the curated selection, removing the limitation on the original page which only displayed nine from the total.
Note that the 'Lightbox' page was removed from the main navigation in the rebuild process, as the point-of-sale customer guide was specific to a client and not intended for the general audience.