Picture of Chicago Hacks Site

Building Chicago’s First High School Hackathon

In January of 2017, a few friends and I decided to organize Chicago’s first high school hackathon in attempt to bring Computer Science education to those in the Chicagoland area and get students excited for programming. The event was a success, with over 130 attendees, 30 projects submitted, and 25 sponsors.

This is going to be a case study of the website I built and designed for the event. For more about the actual event, you can check out organizer Bhargav Yadavalli's post here.

The Theme of Chicago Hacks

We wanted to do a good job of branding our event, keeping our graphics and general theme very consistent across the board to make sure we left an impression on anyone who interacted with our content. We ended up deciding to use a light blue with color hex #03A9F4 for our main accent color, with the common neutral palette.

For the site we wanted to follow a flat design format, with lots of white, box shadows, and minimalistic layouts. Nothing too complicated.

Poppins Font

Poppins font in Normal and Bold font-weights.

The font of the website would need to fit well with the flat design layout. Some of the candidates were Roboto (Google’s favorite font), Open Sans, and Poppins. I ended up choosing Poppins due to the fact that it was a very good bold font for headings. Poppins is a sans-serif font with a very thin body style and a very thick bold style.

Designing the Logo

We also needed a logo for the event. We pretty much decided we wanted the primary color for our event to be a light blue, so I chose to build the logo on a light blue background.

Chicago Hacks Logo

I went for a geometric font look, with straight triangle edges. I could not find a font near what I wanted, so I just generated these three letters using shapes in Illustrator. I added some shadowing for blending with the background by segmenting the letters. I chose to do this to add some depth to the logo.

The ‘2018’ and ‘HACKS’ part were just rendered using the Segoe UI font in Illustrator in black font-weight.

Chicago Hacks Shirt Front

We also used this graphic for the t-shirt, and then also put some of our high tier sponsors on the back.

Chicago Hacks Shirt Back
Building the Header

On a Hackathon’s website, the header is going to be one of the most important elements. It needs to grab the attention of the visitor in hopes of getting them interested in the event, and hopefully sign up.

The overall theme among different Hackathon websites is using very bright colors. I decided to use a photo of Chicago for the background, with a gradient overlay to make it more colorful. It combined some of the geography of our Hackathon with a very vivid gradient to bring more color to the header.

Parallax View

I also added a parallax scrolling effect to the homepage. It is a subtle but noticeable effect that just adds some flare to the page without sacrificing any performance.

The About Section

The about section needed to provide any information on a hackathon/our event that was needed. This is a rather new type of event for most high schoolers, so we did not expect them to know what the aim of our event was. So with this, it was crucial the about section was seen early on by the user.

About Section of site

We also put the event details in this section, hoping to eliminate any confusion at all, with embedded Google Maps directions and the street address just in case. This was more of a UX decision, where there is an option for Google Maps along with a fallback to a simple street address.

The FAQ Section

There were lots of different questions that could be asked about our event, and to cover them all, I needed to display 11 different questions and the answer to them in a compact fashion. I wanted to stay away from just listing the FAQ's, I wanted to list them in a more friendly manner that was both effective and compositionally interesting.

I found that a three column grid perfectly solved this solution. The answers were not that long, so splitting the grid into three columns used the space very effectively.

The design consisted of a card system that simply just displayed the different questions. They were white and had a very subtle box-shadow to get the cards to stand out from the background. I also created some contrast by making the cards a pure white, and then the background color a slightly off white.

Picture of faq section of page
The Schedule Section

The schedule section was very straightforward. Two days, two columns of events. I styled the boxes to contain one event, with the time and event displayed. Any workshops were marked with a red accent color.

Schedule Section of site
The Sponsor Section

For the sponsor section we just needed to display all of our partners in a grid system. We had three tiers of sponsors, partners, high paying sponsors, and lower paying sponsors. I chose to communicate the different tiers through the size and position of the logo. The higher up and larger the logo was, the higher the contribution, and vice versa.

Sponsor page

I needed to use some advanced CSS styling to keep all the logos the same width and centered properly considering the different sized logos. Some were wide, some were tall, and I had to constrain them to keep the grid uniform.

Building for Mobile

Building for mobile is always going to be hard when you have a page as long as ours. I needed to find a way to deliver all this content on a phone where scrolling to the bottom doesn’t give your finger a cramp. So I needed to cram all the same content into a shorter webpage than what I had.

Mockup of site on Phone

I ended up doing a lot of resizing of elements, eliminating any unnecessary spacing or margins within the site. This reduced the size of the page by about 50% after all was finished.

Conclusion

The site was definitely a difficult thing to create, with a lot of custom graphics and difficulty making sure the site was scaleable. There was a lot of trouble getting the webpage length down in order to increase conversions, but with some work, I was able to decrease the bounce rate by a lot. We got over 10k page views and 6k unique visitors to our website leading up to the event, with a bounce rate of only 72%. The average page visit duration was about 1 minute, with a median duration of 3 minutes, which tells us that most page views that were substantial usually led to them reading more into the event or signing up. The analytics were very telling, and helped us find problems within our website that I fixed as they were discovered.

The website worked. We had over 250 signups and over 130 attend the event in May. I hope to make an even more effective website for the Chicago Hacks 2018 to have an even more successful event.

Github Logo

See this project on my Github