IAM Team Presents
Chicago Cultural Alliance
Chicago Culture Alliance connects, promotes and supports centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive and culturally vibrant region, while highlighting neighborhoods and communities to help give them a more personal voice.
The Team class helped revamp the events page on their site as well as implement a new journey feature that incorporates cultural centers into full day experiences, allowing people to delve deeper into a neighborhood’s rich culture.
Understanding the Client
Prior to making any decisions regarding the final product we’d hope to create for Chicago Cultural Alliance (CCA), we met with Peter Vega, their Collaborative Programs Manager, to ask questions and better understand the organization’s goals.
Peter established that CCA’s mission is to connect, promote and support centers of cultural heritage in Chicago to enrich cultural vibrance and inclusivity in the city. CCA also wanted to inform people about and encourage people to visit the city’s cultural centers, while also giving a voice to the communities and neighborhoods in which those centers are located.
"We have 'promote' in our mission and we're seeking a way to actually do that for our members."
In our first meeting the with CCA we asked various questions to get at the root of their problem and properly identify what success meant to them and how we could provide value to them. We asked questions like:
- How do you market member events?
- What's your most popular marketing tool?
- How do members market their events?
- What does your web traffic look like?
After this meeting we determined that the Chicago Cultural Alliance was seeking more engagement with current audience rather than expanding their audience. They hoped to not only making lasting relationships with their visitors but also to put a face to their name and give their organization a personal voice.
The Chicago Cultural Alliance was struggling with bringing visitors to its cultural centers and weren't understanding why.
Our research pointed to the explore page on the cultural association’s website. The page was text-heavy and had a lot of information organizations and cultural centers throughout the city. All this information was difficult to sort through and was intimidating to their visitors.
Another issue they mentioned was the manual work that went into keeping the events page on their website up to date, often spending up to 32 hours a month to maintain their events.
From here, we understood that the CCA was seeking three things:
- To connect, promote and support centers for a more inclusive and culturally vibrant region
- To inform people about Chicago's cultural centers
- To highlight neighborhoods and communities and help give them a more personal voice
At the beginning of our ideation process we proposed a variety of solutions including a 'Madlibs'-esque search filter in order to build a narrative around search terms and in turn, the CCA's centers, and a GPS powered 'route generator' for nearby centers and attractions.
These ideas however were deemed too complex for our 15-week timespan or would not provide any substantial impact for the Chicago Cultural Alliance and were scrapped for two other solutions: Journeys, and an interactive map.
Our first solution was a platform which allows guests to participate in guided tours of neighborhoods and cultural communities in Chicago. By doing so, we sought to immerse people and create experiences around the already rich stories of Chicago's neighborhoods and cultures.
These 'Journeys' originally came in two forms, 'Guided Experiences' and 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. These experiences were developed to be curated experiences composed of multiple stops in a single area such as events at cultural centers, museums, cultural sites, and local restaurants.
They differed in that Guided Experiences were full-day trips curated by CCA and member organizations whereas the Choose Your Own Adventure was more exploratory as users would be the ones selecting their desired stops and paths around Chicago neighborhoods.
Events and Data
The events team started as two different teams that merged when the solutions overlapped. The first team was looking into ways of improving the CCA's event page. Originally, we prototyped a page that sorted the events by each cultural center, but toward the end we pivoted to a simple list page that falls closer to their current site.
For Journey Chicago, we looked at services that offered similar affordances as what we had planned to build and did a comparative analysis to see what existed, how we could differentiate ourselves, and what features were considered necessities and that users expected from the product.
Furthermore, we to researched the neighborhoods in which each of CCA’s cultural centers are located. We found culturally relevant historical, artistic and dining experiences within walking distance (or a short ride on public transit) from the cultural centers, and curated tours making the most of the what each neighborhood had to offer.
The events and data team did a lot of research into how the CCA currently operates. The main goal was to make something that would be easy to use and that would integrate well into their system. Once we figured out what their system was we started to brainstorm ways that we could leverage what they already do.
We created prototypes in Figma and in Adobe XD both to visualize the designs for what we planned to build as well as to show how users would navigate back and forth throughout the interface.
The Figma prototype for the Journeys went through multiple iterations and directions as we figured out how to display a lot of information in a way that didn't overwhelm. We attempted various layouts and eventually landed on our current design with collapsible tabs as it gave people the ability to show as much or as little information as they wanted.
For the XD prototypes of the events page, the team learned to consolidate information from CCA’s core members, events and pre-existing map pages into one location.
In our testing phase we learned a variety of things we could improve upon in our interface. We learned from our users that the site was too text-heavy and thus was overwhelming, users were faced with too many options from the start and it caught them off-guard. Secondly, we learned that our hierarchy wasn't made clear and thus people didn't know what they should be looking at or interacting with. Lastly we learned that the language we were using in our design was too formal and distant, whereas the Chicago Cultural Alliance wanted to sound more approachable.
"Since Chicago neighborhoods can be a challenge to commute to, we want all of these experience to sound accessible to everyone."
We addressed these issues increasing the whitespace around items and creating more room to breathe around elements, changed the weights and sizes of important elements to draw focus, and rewrote our copy in conjunction with the CAA to better match their voice.
Near our final stage of development, we ended up scrapping much of our existing design and returning to an approach that was much more similar to the events page on the CCA's original site.
Even though our prototype was useable, we realized that organizing events by cultural center didn't line up to the need that this page needed to fulfill, which was to inform users of upcoming events. The cultural center list was an unnecessary barrier rather than an improved organization tactic.
Development was a major hurdle for the team, as we no prior experience with WordPress or PHP. We began by creating a child theme for our theme files to sit, and created two custom post types: Journeys, and Places. To do this we utilized two WordPress plugins: Custom Post Type UI, to create the custom post types; and Advanced Custom Fields, to customize what fields the Chicago Cultural Alliance would need to enter.
Taking a step back and reflecting on what we learned over the course of the semester, we can proudly say that this project taught us a variety of things such as:
- Properly and accurately defining the scope of a project
- Setting a timeline and understanding the milestones necessary to maintain it
- How to effectively communicate with a client and keep each other on the same page
- How to effectively work on a team and collaborate in a group