Building a non-profit's first digital product
Each year, Cool Culture partners with over 450 schools and early education programs to provide more than 50,000 historically marginalized families and their young children with free, unlimited admission to our network of 90 premiere museums, historical societies, zoos and botanical gardens throughout the New York City metro area.
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.
ThoughtWorks donated four weeks of staff time, including a PM, two developers and one UI designer, to work on the project. To create a product in just a month, we kept to a tight schedule with a few reach goals. I was responsible for organizing UX tasks, including developing workshops and testing throughout the build.
- – Individual interviews, including extreme users
- – Participatory design
- – Design charrettes
We actively sought out parents to understand why they took their children to museums and the inconveniences they faced. They were happy to share their thoughts:
“At a glance, I want to easily view museum options and understand which one suits my needs.”
“I want to look at the application and know the closest subways, hours of operation and special events.”
Parents' feedback shaped our early strategy and initial wireframes.
Minimum Viable Product
The beta version of the app was built in just four weeks and launched with the following features:
- ● All of Cool Culture’s 90 partner museums are included in the app. Each museum profile includes hours of operation, transit directions, accessibility information, and Wi-Fi availability.
- ● Programming information is available, too. View what types of activities, like workshops and gallery tours are offered for young children and their families.
- ● Plan a museum visit by searching by your interest and location. In our beta version, families can search by borough and museum discipline, whether it’s art, science or history to find a new place to explore.
- ● Cool Culture families can check into museum using their digital pass. Families can check into museum using their individualized ID number to access their digitized Family Pass, which they can show to admission staff for entrance to the museum.
After a soft launch of the app, Cool Culture decided to invest its own resources to build an event calendar for parents. In order to do so, we also needed to design a better interface for the backend of the app so that staff could help edit and maintain museum activities.
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.
The project was also featured in FastCompany and NationSwell.