“The creative application of technology.” It’s a phrase you’ll hear pretty often at DEG, as we help our clients meet their goals through strategic, thoughtful, and (if you don’t mind me saying) downright clever technological solutions.

But that mindset doesn’t only happen externally—it’s how we approach building projects for ourselves, too.

Related Content: Progressive Web Apps Are Here and They’re Changing Everything

Recently, the DEG Marketing, UI, and Creative teams were tasked with coming up with an immersive experience for DEG’s expo booth at Salesforce Connections, an annual gathering of Salesforce marketing customers and partners. The purpose was simple: to create a fun, technology-driven experience that would showcase DEG’s creative and technological know-how, and keep conference attendees coming back for more in the process.

What we created was DEG Trivia: a live, interactive trivia experience that gives event-goers a chance to have some fun, connect with and learn about DEG, and maybe win some fabulous prizes in the process.

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Going from an idea to an experience

Before deciding and executing on our final trivia concept, we focused our brainstorming on a couple of key goals:

We needed to meet conference-goers with the right message at the right moment, and we needed to back that message up with a unique experience that would exceed their expectations.

  • A fun, live experience. Any conference booth can hand out free pens and sign you up for drawings. We wanted to create a disturbance on the expo floor, complete with a live host shouting out the questions to a (hopefully cheering) audience.
  • Distributed interactions. Although the booth was a key component of this experience, we also knew that attendees would be busy and unlikely to hang around for extended periods of time. But, we also knew that every one of them would almost certainly have a device in their pocket that could connect them back to our in-booth experience.
  • Low barrier to entry. Signing up for DEG Trivia needed to be as quick and as painless as possible, to help maximize participation.
  • Replay value. Drawing someone into the booth once is important, but getting them to continue that conversation is even better. Our experience had to keep people coming back for more. This meant building an engaging application, as well as reminding players to play via SMS through Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • Reusability. Building a quality experience like this was no small endeavor, which meant it also needed to be repeatable across a variety of events and scenarios.

Last, but certainly not least, the experience needed to market to the moment. If you’re familiar with DEG, you probably know that we do things a little differently—we don’t market products, and we don’t create solutions or campaigns for flat personas. We use creativity, strategy, and technology to meet people with one-to-one messaging in the moments that matter to them. So, with DEG Trivia, we needed to meet conference-goers with the right message at the right moment, and we needed to back that message up with a unique, surprising experience that would exceed participants’ expectations.

DEG trivia

Conference attendees crowd around the DEG booth as trivia begins

Under the hood of DEG Trivia

As a UI engineer, I’ve personally been intrigued by the concept of “distributed interactive experiences,” for lack of a better term, for quite some time. On the larger scale, we see these experiences manifesting in the form of augmented reality mobile apps such as Pokémon Go and Ingress, as well as the viral success of the mixed-reality app HQ (which, I’d be lying if I said wasn’t an inspiration for DEG Trivia).

DEG triviaDEG triviaDEG trivia

We wanted to replicate the fun and distributed, interactive nature of these apps in our own experience, but with one distinct difference: we wanted it to be a web app. Frankly, as much as we loved our own concept, we knew conference attendees weren’t going to want to download and install a native app just to play our game. With that in mind, we built what’s essentially a progressive web app: a browser-based web application that can also be pinned to a user’s home screen if they choose.

We wanted to replicate the fun and distributed, interactive nature of these apps in our own experience, but with one distinct difference: we wanted it to be a web app.

We realized quickly that our application presented some…let’s call them “fun”… technical challenges to solve:

Our app needed to behave in almost the exact opposite way of how a traditional application behaves. Typically, a user changes an app’s state by clicking links and buttons, but in our case, the app itself (or more accurately, a single human game administrator) had to control what the player could see and interact with. This needed to be based on the current state of the gameplay and what the host was saying in the booth.

All of the app’s screens—from the “Game Starting Soon” countdown screen to the question screens—needed to be kept in sync across every single device that was currently playing the game. Network latency or out-of-sync timers were our enemy, and could single-handedly ruin the experience.

DEG trivia

It was crucial for all players’ screens to stay in sync with each other during gameplay

We were actually able to solve our device-syncing needs more easily than expected by using web sockets, a relatively new web technology that opens a persistent two-way connection between a server and web browser (specifically, we leveraged Firebase’s Realtime Database and Cloud Functions because of their scalability and easy-to-use APIs).

What this meant in practice was that we could send and receive updates to and from all of our players in real time. I hesitate to call it simple, considering the amount of problem-solving it took to get all the moving parts working together, but I will say this: starting a game, triggering a new question, or showing high scores from a single admin interface and watching it appear on every screen in the room with virtually no lag is a pretty impressive (and as a developer, technically satisfying) event to be a part of.

Where we go from here

You haven’t seen the last of DEG Trivia! We’re already planning to host another exciting event at Dreamforce in San Francisco this September. You’re also likely to see some DEGeniuses playing a few rounds of trivia on Friday afternoons, where the app has become a regular feature of our weekly Beer:30s.

Related: Key Takeaways from Salesforce Connections 2018

As developers and marketers, we learned a lot from building this interactive experience. Most importantly, you can be sure we’ll take what we’ve learned here and apply it to our clients’ projects in the very near future.

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