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.
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.
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.
Identifying Customer Personas
I gained an understanding of NOPA customers and stakeholders through contextual research, interviews with leadership, and conversations with members and partners.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The formation of a tighter organizational and graphic identity between the New Orleans Photo Alliance and PhotoNOLA.
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.
Creating a clear division between NOPA’s public-facing online presence and member-specific content with a gated web portal
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.