NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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59E59 THEATERS

Bold, New Theater for Adventurous Audiences

59E59 THEATERS

Bold, New Theater for Adventurous Audiences

The New York City Department of Education is the largest school system in the United States, with over 1.1 million students in more than 1,800 separate schools.

We designed and built MySchools.nyc, the official online platform for NYC families to search for and apply to public schools, from 3-K to high school.

The Drama Desk Award-winning 59E59 Theaters is dedicated to bringing exhilarating and illuminating theater to audiences in New York City with an appetite for new writing. They curate a year-round program of plays with over 30 live productions annually—6 days a week, 50 weeks a year.

We worked with 59E59 Theaters to transform their old website into a robust tool that is as sleek and contemporary as the work presented on their stages. Ground-breaking theater has never been more accessible.

Objective

The NYC DOE engaged us to replace an antiquated, paper-based workflow with a single suite of online applications for families, schools, and DOE admins. Internationalization and accessibility were key requirements of the experience design.

Objective

59E59 Theaters engaged us to reinvigorate and modernize their existing website. It was their goal for the site to more accurately reflect the caliber and diversity of their programming, and to be a more efficient tool for their B2C transactions.

Results

We delivered the first-ever fully online system for all NYC public school admissions. It’s multi-language, mobile-optimized, and WCAG AA+ compliant. The system was fully tested and passed with flying colors.

Results

We redesigned their site from the ground up, moving to a more flexible Django CMS platform and migrating years of production archive materials, as well as integrating the site seamlessly with Spectrix's ticketing and marketing system.

Three Applications, One Experience

We were tasked with creating three user-facing web applications: one for parents and guardians, one for school administrators, and one for the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Student Enrollment. Each app has a different set of goals, use cases, and individual challenges.

The parent/guardian experience was designed to make finding and applying to schools a simple, transparent, and equitable process. The school admin portal was designed for school staff to manage enrollment of both their current and prospective students. The Office of Student Enrollment’s portal had a different set of requirements, as they needed to oversee all functionality, users, and processes—including the most important aspect of all: the matching algorithm that employs a logic-based system (based on the Gale Shapley Deferred Acceptance Matching Algorithm) for matching students to their school choices and returning a single offer.

Curtains Up

With 3 stages, showing 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year, 59E59 Theaters is an incredibly vibrant and active performance space year-round, with over 2.5 million in annual ticket sales. Because one of the main goals for the new site was to drive ticket sales and memberships, it was imperative that from the very beginning of the project, we work with 59E59 Theaters identify a launch date for their new site that would produce the least amount of disruption to their sales. From there, we were able to tailor our processes and create a roadmap that would guarantee we'd meet our goals.

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Bringing Clarity to Complexity

The NYC Public School system is one of the most complex, diverse systems in the world. Because of the many moving pieces and rule-exceptions (such as a school that belongs to two districts in two different boroughs), we had to map out and plan for every variable, big or small. 

In light of these complexities, we were dedicated to simplifying and demystifying the process, easing the burden on families. Now guardians simply add their children in order to see applications available to them — rather than having to first select an application. Next time they need to apply, the system will already have an application waiting for them. Interactive checklists and app walkthroughs explain the process. Dynamic information tailors schools’ acceptance criteria to the student. Filters allow guardians to find schools that suit their child—and their own schedule. And favoriting and drag-and-drop list building assist the decision-making process. It’s a one-stop shop for understanding, tracking, and making important choices for your future.

Modern Design & Accessibility

59E59 Theater's dedication to providing accessible theater is inspiring and we wanted to be sure that their newly designed site reflected the same values. Along with a modernized look and feel that serves as a platform for their brand as well as their shows, and all of the all the essential features of a state-of-the-art theater website, we also implemented WCAG 2.0 AA best practices. A compliant site ensures that more patrons have access to the brilliant work that 59E59 Theaters presents.

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Accessible for All

We built this experience to be fully WCAG 2.1 AA+ compliant, taking into account the many ways a user could interact with the application. We designed for 10 very different languages, including right-to-left languages like Arabic. Buttons, cards, tooltips, and microcopy had to be handled with care so they could scale properly with dramatic shifts in length and character sizes when translated into another language. The intricacies of each school card had to allow for for proper keyboard tabbing, while also making hierarchical sense when interacted with via screen reader. And all of this works flawlessly at every screen size, ensuring that families without a home computer can still breeze through the application process on their smart phones. 

Modern Design & Accessibility

59E59 Theater's dedication to providing accessible theater is inspiring and we wanted to be sure that their newly designed site reflected the same values. Along with a modernized look and feel that serves as a platform for their brand as well as their shows, and all of the all the essential features of a state-of-the-art theater website, we also implemented WCAG 2.0 AA best practices. A compliant site ensures that more patrons have access to the brilliant work that 59E59 Theaters presents.

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Delight in the Details

The scope and flexibility of options makes applying to NYC Public Schools an involved undertaking. There are a lot of factors for families to consider, from program demand to specialized auditions, so we put a lot of thought into crafting a friendly, informative, and stress-free application process. Reassuring notices and fun interactions as you hover and favorite a program enhance the user interface, while “You know you did it right when you see the confetti” has become a common phrase used between advisors and parents. 

Putting Shows Center Stage

Ranging from emerging and established theater company productions, to world premieres, every performance at 59E59 Theaters is new to New York. As such, the supporting materials for each show vary wildly. Flexibility was needed to host a diversity of content such as producing company information, cast and creative team bios and headshots, interviews and press quotes, supporting photos and video, and brochures. Our resulting show detail template is highly adaptable and features customizable content sections and plugins, as well as a banner color picker for complimenting show art, allowing each show past or present to feel like its own unique page.

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Built for Admin Diversity, too

To make sure the back-end tools will support admissions long-term, we architected database models that allow staff to easily switch admin views between school years and grade levels in order to manage student, admissions, and school data. An auto-completing search field enables admins to rapidly retrieve any student’s record in order to assist them.

Robust permissioning ensures different roles can only access what they need. For example, support staff who work directly with families can adjust their applications, but aren’t able to make system-level changes.

Then there's the rule-making, where a select set of admins can go in and refine the parameters surrounding things like due dates, manual placements, specialized school admissions, and even how “multiples” are handled (such as twins or same-age adopted/foster children). This unique feature-set ensures that DOE admins have a flexible tool that matches the wide-ranging and ever-evolving population of New York City.

Django CMS

Upgrading the website to a modern CMS that is efficient for staff to update was also a driving goal of this project. We built the new 59E59 Theaters on Django CMS, which is user-friendly for even non-technical staff to continuously update, arrange, publish and distribute content across a variety of templates and plugins. We were also able to streamline a migration of a vast archive of over a decade of production materials into the new CMS, greatly reducing the need for content entry. Integrating Spectrix with the new site meant we were able to leverage their API to pull in show content and details directly from the ticketing system, eliminating the need to manage show details in multiple locations.

Impact

The New York City Department of Education now has modern means to engage parents and caregivers and help them make educated choices for their students. Guidance counselors can now spend more time counseling and less time entering data. And the Office of Student Enrollment has better reporting and customization capabilities than they have ever had before.

Impact

The module is live at OATH facilities in every borough, lessening the financial and administrative burden on the city, engaging citizens on issues of civil justice and quality of life crimes, and bringing awareness to personal behavior through interactive learning.

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26 DOBBIN STREET, 3RD FLOOR
BROOKLYN, NY 11222     

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