Open interfaces and databases create opportunities
The question was how could Helsinki’s diversity be turned into a service that would cater extensively to a wide range of different users? Helsinki Marketing set out to tackle this challenge with Digia, which brought its technical expertise to the project, with Idean handling the visual design of the service. Digia’s project team included a technical architect as well as DevOps, Drupal backend and React frontend developers.
Everything focused on the end user. For this reason, My Helsinki was built with a mobile focus and its implementation included usability testing.
“We interviewed many tourists, local residents and employees of the city organisation. We held workshops with different people, observed, asked questions and sought to develop the service on users’ terms. Companies both small and large also participated in the development work,” says Pahkala.
The service was implemented with open source-based React. Content production is supported with data sourced through the City of Helsinki’s open interfaces, which is enriched in Drupal. Drupal version 8 was chosen as the content management tool, thanks especially to its interface features. The service resides on the Finnish company UpCloud’s cloud servers.
The My Helsinki service currently sources data from an event database and location database, which are also under continuous development.
“Right from the start, we knew that the limited scope of the database data would pose one challenge. We seek to develop the databases such that not only will plenty of data be available, but also that it can be trusted.”
Pahkala says that linking external databases to the service is also on the cards.
“Users might be interested in what’s on at the Tavastia Club or what movies are playing in town. From the user perspective, this means that we can’t just rely on municipal databases.”
Utilising open source code and open interfaces enables longer-term development.
“The service is not a closed fortress, but more like plasticine. You can use it to build many new things. As the client, we’ve only realised later just how forward-looking Digia was in keeping the expandability of the service in mind at all times. Digia has always been agile and relied on common sense,” says Pahkala.