USER EXPERIENCE | 2014

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Building a non-profit's first digital product

COOL CULTURE

COOL CULTURE

ABOUT

Cool Culture's mission is to to amplify the voices of families and strengthen the power of historically marginalized communities through engagement with art and culture, both within cultural institutions and beyond. 

Each year, Cool Culture partners with over 450 schools and early education programs to provide more than 50,000 families with free, unlimited admission to a network of 90 premiere museums, historical societies, zoos and botanical gardens throughout the New York City metro area.

Since 1999, over a million families have been positively impacted by Cool Culture's work.

Cool Culture's mission is to to amplify the voices of families and strengthen the power of historically marginalized communities through engagement with art and culture, both within cultural institutions and beyond. 

Each year, Cool Culture partners with over 450 schools and early education programs to provide more than 50,000 families with free, unlimited admission to a network of 90 premiere museums, historical societies, zoos and botanical gardens throughout the New York City metro area.

Since 1999, over a million families have been positively impacted by Cool Culture's work.

CHALLENGE

At the beginning of every school year, Cool Culture distributes 50,000 paper passes to allow families to visit local museums for free. As staff, we knew there was a demand for a mobile pass from parents. We also knew that a digital prototype could help museums better understand the patterns of Cool Culture family visits.

Cool Culture was able to tackle this challenge through the Digital Prototype Opportunity. This award, an initiative led by the Blue Ridge Foundation, now Blue Ridge Labs @ Robinhood, provided four weeks of time from ThoughtWorks developers and designers. Out of 120 applicants, Cool Culture was one of two organizations selected for the award, which was valued at over $300,000.

To create a minimum viable product in just four weeks, we kept to a tight schedule and a focus on a minimum viable solution.

At the beginning of every school year, Cool Culture distributes 50,000 paper passes to allow families to visit local museums for free. As staff, we knew there was a demand for a mobile pass from parents. We also knew that a digital prototype could help museums better understand the patterns of Cool Culture family visits.

Cool Culture was able to tackle this challenge through the Digital Prototype Opportunity. This award, an initiative led by the Blue Ridge Foundation, now Blue Ridge Labs @ Robinhood, provided four weeks of time from ThoughtWorks developers and designers. Out of 120 applicants, Cool Culture was one of two organizations selected for the award, which was valued at over $300,000.

To create a minimum viable product in just four weeks, we kept to a tight schedule and a focus on a minimum viable solution.

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RESEARCH METHODS

Cool Culture is an organization that has always focused on families. When starting the project, we started the project with existing information and knowledge about how to best reach parents.

  • 47% of Cool Culture families reported earning a household income of less than $35,000
  • Aside from English, Cool Culture families most commonly speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Yiddish and Hebrew
  • Cool Culture parents were split almost equally between their use of Apple or Android phones

To gather more information for the app build, we used a variety of research methods, including:

  • Individual interviews, including extreme users
  • Participatory design
  • Design charrettes 

Cool Culture is an organization that has always focused on families. When starting the project, we started the project with existing information and knowledge about how to best reach parents.

  • 47% of Cool Culture families reported earning a household income of less than $35,000
  • Aside from English, Cool Culture families most commonly speak Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Yiddish and Hebrew
  • Cool Culture parents were split almost equally between their use of Apple or Android phones

To gather more information for the app build, we used a variety of research methods, including:

  • Individual interviews, including extreme users
  • Participatory design
  • Design charrettes 

ROLE 

As the Communications Manager at Cool Culture, I was responsible for project management within our organization as well as all UX activities. 

Other team members included:

  • Aly Blenkin, UI
  • Greg Dutcher, Lead Dev
  • Anupam Kundu, PM

As the Communications Manager at Cool Culture, I was responsible for project management within our organization as well as all UX activities. 

Other team members included:

  • Aly Blenkin, UI
  • Greg Dutcher, Lead Dev
  • Anupam Kundu, PM

RESEARCH INSIGHTS

Parents' feedback through participatory design workshops shaped our early strategy and initial wireframes. Our biggest takeaways were:

  • Parents didn't want to use an app that would drain their data plan. We designed the UI to be simple and avoid the need to download any large files. We also added information to the app on whether a museum offered free Wi-Fi.

  • Parents asked a lot of questions about museum accessibility. When probed, they mentioned that if they know a museum has accommodations like ramps, large bathroom stalls and space for wheelchair storage, it will likely be easier to include all family members with different needs, including grandparents.

Parents' feedback through participatory design workshops shaped our early strategy and initial wireframes. Our biggest takeaways were:

  • Parents didn't want to use an app that would drain their data plan. We designed the UI to be simple and avoid the need to download any large files. We also added information to the app on whether a museum offered free Wi-Fi.

  • Parents asked a lot of questions about museum accessibility. When probed, they mentioned that if they know a museum has accommodations like ramps, large bathroom stalls and space for wheelchair storage, it will likely be easier to include all family members with different needs, including grandparents.
coolculture-designworkshop
prototype-low
prototype-low-2

PRODUCT FEATURES

The initial version of the app took into account parents' needs as well as operational and logistical considerations:

Museum Finder
Find a Cool Culture partner museum to visit by searching by interest and location. 

Museum Profiles
Cool Culture’s 90 partner museums are included in the app. Every profile includes practical information for visiting families, like hours of operation, transit directions, accessibility information, and Wi-Fi availability. 

Digital Check-In
This feature is most critical for Cool Culture as an organization. The app allows families to check into a museum using a digital pass, as an alternative to a paper pass. Cool Culture families log-into the app which shows their individual ID which can be showing to museum admissions for free entrance.

After a soft launch of the app, Cool Culture decided to invest its own resources to build additional features. I was responsible for design and project management of the following features:

Programming Calendar
Many parents were unsure how to entertain their children at a museum that wasn't specifically for children. The program calendar helps parents view types of activities, like workshops and gallery tours, that are offered for young children and their families at all 90 partner museums.

Backend Dashboard for Museums
One of the reservations museums had about switching from a paper pass to a digital pass was how they would collect information on Cool Culture family visits. Previously, museum admissions staff would have a paper checklist to tally family visits. Instead of putting a burden on the Cool Culture team to report out to museums, we created a dashboard that allowed each partner museum to access how many families checked into their museum using the digital pass.


The initial version of the app took into account parents' needs as well as operational and logistical considerations:

Museum Finder
Find a Cool Culture partner museum to visit by searching by interest and location. 

Museum Profiles
Cool Culture’s 90 partner museums are included in the app. Every profile includes practical information for visiting families, like hours of operation, transit directions, accessibility information, and Wi-Fi availability. 

Digital Check-In
This feature is most critical for Cool Culture as an organization. The app allows families to check into a museum using a digital pass, as an alternative to a paper pass. Cool Culture families log-into the app which shows their individual ID which can be showing to museum admissions for free entrance.

After a soft launch of the app, Cool Culture decided to invest its own resources to build additional features. I was responsible for design and project management of the following features:

Programming Calendar
Many parents were unsure how to entertain their children at a museum that wasn't specifically for children. The program calendar helps parents view types of activities, like workshops and gallery tours, that are offered for young children and their families at all 90 partner museums.

Backend Dashboard for Museums
One of the reservations museums had about switching from a paper pass to a digital pass was how they would collect information on Cool Culture family visits. Previously, museum admissions staff would have a paper checklist to tally family visits. Instead of putting a burden on the Cool Culture team to report out to museums, we created a dashboard that allowed each partner museum to access how many families checked into their museum using the digital pass.


final-screens1
final-screens-1-02

IMPACT

After the build was finished, I was responsible for communicating the roll out of the app to Cool Culture’s museum partners and families. Aside form managing the project, I helped secure partnerships with Datakind and New York Tech Meetup.

Why Don't More Poor Kids Get to See Art, NationSwell

Now That Everyone's Got Smart Phones, We Need Apps That Serve Low-Income Groups, Fast Company

 

After the build was finished, I was responsible for communicating the roll out of the app to Cool Culture’s museum partners and families. Aside form managing the project, I helped secure partnerships with Datakind and New York Tech Meetup.

Why Don't More Poor Kids Get to See Art, NationSwell

Now That Everyone's Got Smart Phones, We Need Apps That Serve Low-Income Groups, Fast Company

 

"The folks at Cool Culture are out to make Manhattan's treasures more accessible to everyone."
– NationSwell

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