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About

The New Orleans Photo Alliance (NOPA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the appreciation of art and photography in Louisiana and the Southern United States. 

Problem Space

After 15 years of in-person activity, the New Orleans Photo Alliance was forced into digital space during the COVID-19 outbreak. The organization initially thrived with engaging online programming, but experienced dwindling attendance over the course of atwo-year closure. In 2021, the organization reopened its doors with the goal of redesigning its customer experience, integrating hybridized events and revamping the member experience to invite new and lapsed members back into the community.

My Role

Service Design, Design Research, UX Design (prototyping)

 

I was contacted by the leadership team to overhaul the organization’s entire digital landscape. I consulted on the end-to-end experience and comprehensive offerings for both members and non-members. Some of my most impactful areas of focus were design thinking facilitation exercises with key stakeholders, eCommerce redesign, user-centric research studies, and a powerful new responsive website.

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STEP 1

Identifying Customer Personas

I gained an understanding of NOPA customers and stakeholders through contextual research, interviews with leadership, and conversations with members and partners.

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Google Analytics

Unbeknown to the current leadership team, I found a Google Marketing Platform account running in the background of both the NOPA and PhotoNOLA sites. I updated the existing data flow and identified several major insights from the backlog of site traffic data.

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Social Media

During COVID-19, NOPA had benefitted from a rich social media profile. A dedicated employee had maintained a robust flow of content over Facebook and Instagram that publicized upcoming events, opportunities, and news. The organization had over 9k followers on Instagram and 9.5k likes on Facebook (between NOPA and PhotoNOLA accounts). However, follower engagement was low and content was underutilized.

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Newsletter

NOPA’s newsletter was distributed to over 11k addresses monthly, issued some time within the first week of every month. An examination of Mailchimp revealed an astounding click rate of 60%! It was clear that this channel would be our primary channel for member engagement.

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Google Analytics Insights

User Age Data

The average age of NOPA site viewers did not reflect the average age of membership.

 

Over 70% of site viewers were under 30, a demographic that made up only 15% of NOPA members.

Site Traffic Spikes

Every other week at 12pm, 400+ viewers visited the site in a single hour. I traced this phenomenon back to The Gambit, a local news site that ran weekly features of activities in New Orleans-- including the NOPA exhibition schedule.

User Activity

93% of site visitors immediately navigated to the “Exhibitions” page of the site. this was by far the most high-traffic touchpoint.

Site Visitor Referrals

Nearly all visitors to the site were referred by an external link that was not affiliated with social media or Google Search. While unidentified, this indicated low searchability and low social media engagement.

“Are you familiar with the New Orleans Photo Alliance?”


“Are you interested in photography? Why or why not?”
 

“Are you more interested in connecting with the local art community or in learning artistic skills?”

I arranged 30-minute generative interviews with existing members and lapsed members to inform further research and persona development. I also reached out to locals in the surrounding area of uptown New Orleans by setting up a table outside the storefront and asking questions to passersby.

I created an additional third persona out of firsthand experience on site, where tourists occasionally wandered into the gallery with an interest in viewing displayed photography. I asked tourists similar questions, as well as how they learned about the gallery.

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Preliminary Research Insights

Older members (40+) made up the majority of NOPA membership but were least able to access NOPA's digital resources.

NOPA was inaccessible to younger, newer membership targets.

Social media resources were in place, but could not be utilized to their full potential due to website limitations.

NOPA could access huge opportunities for exposure by reaching out to tourists, partner sites, and news media.

STEP 2

User Research

I drafted a comprehensive research plan, which was approved by the leadership team with resounding support. My first act was the reintroduction of monthly “Second Tuesday” member meetings. I kicked off the first installation in the new series with an introductory design thinking exercise.

Twenty-six members, the core team of four employees, and myself (as facilitator) went though a roadmapping exercise, identified five high-priority goals for future programming, and completed a Big Ideas exercise. Responses were later used to build prioritiation grids, assign task ownership, and schedule next steps.

Field Research

I attended Medium Photo Festival in San Diego, CA with the NOPA Executive Director to conduct observational research on the functionality of photography festivals and interview California’s robust photography community. I enjoyed forming network connections, conducting informal interviews, and gathering guerrilla NPS scores from attendees who had also attended PhotoNOLA. 

I also conducted pre and post-event qualitative interviews focused on customer needs at a photography festival to generate a shortlist of requirements for PhotoNOLA, which will be returning after a two-year hiatus in December 2022.

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Design Objective:
Close The Gap in Messaging

Research revealed that NOPA had unclear branding and services. The organization’s mission had been muddled by the breadth of classes, self-serve resources, events, and internal affairs to the extent that new or prospective members couldn’t match their needs with NOPA’s offerings. I proposed a service design-based approach in three parts:

1

The formation of a tighter organizational and graphic identity between the New Orleans Photo Alliance and PhotoNOLA.

2

Highlighting a few central, in-demand offerings with specific focus on the physical space (rebranded as the NOPA Resource Center) and a centralized activities calendar.

3

Creating a clear division between NOPA’s public-facing online presence and member-specific content with a gated web portal

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STEP 3

Service Blueprint

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I presented a service design blueprint to the team in terms of front stage and back stage deliverables. Every component that a customer might see is situated on the front stage while operations and workflows remain on the back stage, where they undeniably shape the user experience, but remain out of sight to users. Both aspects were necessary to tackle NOPA’s needs.

FRONT STAGE

Products

Interface and Website Design

Finally, I designed and launched an entirely new website for NOPA, now hosted and streamlined by the Wordpress Block Editor. This platform enabled NOPA to retain their impressive backlog of blog and exhibition content while also creating a more efficient and accessible workflow for interns and short-term volunteers.

In developing the new site, I reformatted the old site’s information architecture to reflect design changes and clarify offerings. Decisions about information hierarchy were informed by clickthrough and churn according to Google Analytics and in-person useability tests with NOPA members.

BACK STAGE

17%

Increase in email click rate

3x

More unique site visitors per day

My primary focus backstage was an emphasis on sustainable growth. I implemented guidelines for drip content to maximize engagement. Posts and newsletters were set on release schedules at optimized times. After one month, we saw a dramatic increase in our numbers.

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“I used to spend 30 minutes just trying to find this. Now I can do it in a second.”

-Edward Herbert, Gallery Director

Technologies

My initial research revealed that the four-person employee team at NOPA was using an average of 33 web-based platforms for their routine workflows every week. I mapped these tasks on a user journey map and was able to reduce the total number of online tools down to 20. This was especially helpful for the less technologically-inclined members of the team.

One of the biggest changes was migration to the WordPress Block Editor, which was a huge improvement from the organization’s previous system of custom-made wordpress sub-menu posting options (last updated in 2016). I selected the Block Editor for its extensive enablement resources, entry-level accessibility, customizability, and ease-of-use for prolific content creation.

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Infrastructures

I designed a new, agile operations protocol for the internal team that included weekly scrum meetings and project-based ownership. All work was documented and tracked on Asana. After two months using this new system, we freed up enough bandwidth to double the amount of scheduled events at NOPA!

I also worked with NOPA’s Executive Director to kick off nominations for a new nonprofit board of directors. The new board structure includes several new or remodeled positions, now with clearly delineated assignments and goals conveniently provided in the comprehensive operations handbook.

TEST RUN

GiveNOLA Day 2022

Using the new system of front stage and back stage materials and processes, the team and I executed a campaign for the annual GiveNOLA fundraising event-- typically the most lucrative fundraiser of the year. We spent 24 hours utilizing NOPA’s newly updated systems to reach partners, members, donors, and all corners of the vast and generous photography network. By the event’s completion, we had raised a grand total over $14k. A huge success!

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Next Steps

My final contribution to NOPA was a side project that gained unexpected traction: a web3 growth initiative. What began as a strictly for-fun conversation about NFTs evolved into a fully flushed how-to guide for photographers to get started in the NFT space. I hosted an in-person presentation and Q&A that was broadcast online to a nationwide web audience. This concept is now under development under the oversight of a newly-created “Head of Web3 Development” board position. I’m looking forward to continued involvement with NOPA as a consultant on this exciting new area of growth.

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