Connecting artists and teachers

The Arts Active Trust were one of four organisations awarded funding to create an Arts & Education Network through Arts Council Wales and Welsh Government’s Creative Learning Through The Arts initiative. Proper Design was chosen by Arts Active Trust to deliver A2:Connect for South Central Wales. Based at Cardiff’s St Davids Hall, Arts Active have years of experience delivering education, community and audience engagement projects. They already knew what was needed to help connect teachers and schools with artists. They could tell us what questions artists should be asking teachers and vice-versa, so it was this experience that we drew on in our approach to A2:Connect.

As we learned more about the requirements of A2:Connect (user accounts, profiles, messaging) it became clear that the project should be a single-page-app (SPA). A2:Connect was our first large-scale project on the “MERN” stack – Mongo DB, Express Server, React, and Node. This meant we had much greater flexibility in how the application was structured but with the extra work of creating every layer of our solution from the data-structure and API to the templates and language switching from scratch. The core idea in A2:Connect is that both teachers and artists have Opportunities to share. The difficult bit was narrowing down how we should describe these opportunities in the data so they would be relevant and appropriate when posted by teachers for artists or the other way round.

Testing, then testing the testing

Working with Arts Active we created a shortlist of questions we thought would make sense and built a basic prototype of the form to use at a user-testing session where we asked artists and teachers to complete the form while we recorded any difficulties they experienced or questions they asked. The main thing we learned from our testing was that the questions worked well for both audiences, but that the framing and help-text needed to be targeted to the type of user completing the form. It was also noted that a specific example of how someone similar would complete the form was particularly helpful. Our first pass at a solution had involved a lot of very convoluted non-specific language, trying to cover all possible contexts in a single description. That didn’t work. We realised that by splitting the form over a number of pages, we could determine who we were addressing and who they were looking for on the first page and present a form specifically aimed at their requirements from there on. We created four possible scenarios:

  1. artist seeking teacher
  2. artist seeking artist
  3. teacher seeking artist
  4. teacher seeking teacher

This worked a lot better with users completing the forms much more confidently. We added to this solution by creating four characters (one per scenario) who would be the basis for all help text.

  1. Jen – artist seeking teacher
  2. Dewi – artist seeking artist
  3. Alan – teacher seeking artist
  4. Sian – teacher seeking teacher