We helped Marius revolutionise the Pokémon community.

Bulba Handbook
805 hours to complete

We jumped at the chance to create a handbook for the world’s largest Pokémon community. It was only after we said yes that the enormity of the task of building a site for 40 million people in three months dawned on us. In the first month after launch, the site received 2 million visits.

Objectives

HAVAmedia own Bulbapedia, a wiki for the largest online Pokémon community and one of the world’s most popular websites. With the imminent release of Pokémon Sun & Moon, they wanted to create a handbook to capture the immense traffic their user base would bring. Our objectives were simple but intense:

  • Develop and launch a handbook for Pokémon Sun & Moon in 90 days
  • Focus on the mobile experience and design for mobile first
  • Create a backend that would allow the content team to manage the entire handbook
  • Establish a server infrastructure that would cope with millions of monthly on-going users

Playing with Pokémon

Although we weren’t able to use the official Nintendo branding, we were allowed to use all of the in-game Pokémon art and assets. This included the iconic Ken Sugimori art and all of the Pokémon illustrations he created for the games.

Strategy

With tight timescales and a huge challenge ahead, we had to heavily prioritise our time and corresponding feature sets the handbook would have. For instance, the Pokédex - the index of all Pokémon in the game - was quickly recognised as the most important part of the site. It had to be full of highly useful and relevant information that would appeal to gamers but also be incredibly easy to browse and absorb on mobile devices.

By following a strict agile approach, meeting several times a week, and breaking down requirements into bite-sized tasks, the strategy was to build up the handbook step by step, focusing on the most important areas for launch (namely the Pokédex, Guides & Walkthroughs, and Abilities). Further enhancements, such as the suite of online Tools to support the game, were released soon after launch.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

Based on the usage of Bulbapedia, we knew to expect a vast amount of mobile traffic. This would be inline with both web trends in general and also the younger, more technically minded user base the site would attract.

Our entire design process was mobile first from the ground up with desktop interactions being designed directly in build. This forced us to prioritise content and test the mobile experience right from the start.

Our expectations were well founded as the site now receives 76% of its traffic via mobiles and tablets.

Implementation

A strong visual style was required, one that would identify the site as being Pokémon related but still distinct from the other fansites online. Aesthetically, it had to strike a balance between being attractive, rich, and appealing to gamers but still being easy to use on mobile devices.

Performance was a key factor, in every sense. The site had to be quick to load on 3G connections, fast to update and maintain with new content, and also lightweight and server efficient. Coping with a massive amount of traffic would have a huge financial implication in terms of storage and transfer costs if the site wasn’t properly optimised.

A sophisticated backend

The world of Pokémon is surprisingly complex. A huge amount of time was invested in creating a database infrastructure and backend admin system that would allow all of the assets and statistics of games to interrelate. It also had to be feasible and easy to expand the handbook to cater to additional Pokémon games, such as Pokémon Go.

Supporting the site, is a large team of 40+ content editors who needed access to a user friendly backend in order to populate and maintain the site. Content is a huge part of the handbook as, ultimately, without worthwhile information the site would be of no benefit to users.

“Primate helped us make a beautiful, mobile friendly site in just three months. The response from over 40 million users has been outstanding, and Primate's delivery was professional throughout the project.”

Marius Stensland
Chief Operating Officer