Talawa Theatre Company, the UK’s primary black led touring theatre group, launched a major initiative aimed at supporting the country’s black British artists.
With diversity issues in theatre remaining frequently discussed, but slow-changing, Talawa Make will provide key support at each stage of a person’s career.
MAKE aims to create bespoke talent development to provide for the future diversity of British theatre and it will be delivered in four stages.
ENGAGE will reach new people, who are not currently involved with Talawa or with theatre.
GROW will provide opportunities for artists to develop their skills and generate new work.
COLLABORATE will create the space for artists to take risks with peers and meet, play and build a lasting network through a series of encounters for artists to collaborate and take a risk in a supportive environment.
SUSTAIN will provide advice and support to ensure black artists thrive in the industry.MAKE is supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and every year will work with partner organisations across the UK. Partners are Royal Exchange Theatre, Camden People’s Theatre, Voyage Youth and Sustained Theatre Up North
The site opens with a series of strong panels to promote key site messages and current lead articles. Above the slider, we have a narrow primary navigation strip following the same format as the main site, with the adapted MAKE logo on the left, and some personal content icons on the right.
Create an online community
The challenge was to create an online community allowing artists to: connect with each other; find out about activities and opportunities and contact agents, casting directors, producer and similar roles in the theatre industry.
I led the design of Talawa Make since the outset of the project in July 2017.
Up until November 2018, I led efforts to evolve the project and address customer pain‐points related to the complexity of the community.
Narrative design approach
I took a narrative design approach to ground the team and myself in the member journey, leading to create design concepts for core screens and develop innovative solutions to our key customer pain points. Ideas included private messaging between screenwriters, actors and industry to create and organise a new show.
Choosing the leading design
After starting with two different options of the design of the online community from scratch, we realise that time and effort to build all the Drupal module was over our agreed time and budget.
With this in mind, I researched any existing Drupal packages, online community solution, that can be used on the project. Open Social was the best match between the needs of the client and the development effort. After a quick run through the demo site of the Drupal package and the approval from the client, I started to design the wireframes, the Design library System and then the main pages.
A design system beyond the project
We identified the key areas that could be re-applied with future clients in hope to streamline those early steps in setting up styles and also to align design and developer teams in a fast-paced environment.
After sign up, artists can edit their personalised profile page, including – Additional images, Biography, Job Title, Education/training, Skills/techniques, Interests/hobbies, Website/social media, CV, Video, Email subscriptions and more.
Prototype to explore solutions.
In the early stages, after wireframing the main layout, I have created static prototypes (jpg images) to explore ideas of concepts: use of the colour palette, use of the fonts, UI, main profile page, member content page, etc.
Mostly done for the core team, this type of prototype helped us to compare different options and prospective setting a leading way to design and to build the website hierarchy and key pages.
Prototype to evaluate
We used this prototype to understand how people experience some key user journeys, as per Log-in, create and manage My account, write message between users and create content.
Each specific key user journeys was built in the development site and an evaluative prototyping session was created with a specific set of questions. A group of selected users, related to the personas of the website, were our testers. Key personas were: Artist, Industry and Admin of the platform.
Prototype to present
Always in the development website, we built new functionalities with a complex user journey, as the map with the locations of the members. The prototype, in this case, was followed by a step by step guide and a focus group to test the user journey with a follow-up set of questions. This helps us to make decisions on how to reduces friction in the journey and to easily allow the user to reach the scope of the journey: locations and proximity with events and other members of the community.
Implementation of the design
With two different offshore Drupal developers team working on the website, I suggested using Jenkins – Git Hub, an open-source automation server, to implement functionalities to the development site first and then, once approved, to the live website.
With the same approach, we run the beta version of the platform with approximately a hundred members: artists, agents, casting directors, producer and similar roles in the theatre industry.
Running the beta version was needed to refine the user journey of key functionalities.
The distinction in the audience is delivered through site registration, defining key audiences of Artists & Industry contacts.
Artists have full registration setting which allows them to specify their occupation (writer, director, theatre-maker, etc.) and keys skills and interests.
This data will form the foundation of their artist profile and can be used to profile site assets to match their needs: workshop, job offers, etc.
Industry has a more streamlined registration which will allow them to specify their occupation and interests. This audience has their own profile” so that Artists can see know about who they.
Casual users who are not registered or logged in will be able to browse the site and review any content that has not been tagged as private/premium.
Each of the Artist members would have their own profile page, which could also act as their own personal home page.
The profile page provides an introduction to the Artist and has the following features:
– Lead image used as a background at top of the profile.
– Headshot used as the member”s,” avatar” across the site
– Contact points, visitors can send private messages, included options for sending ”Friend” requests and Following
– Biography, a brief overview of the artist is included below the headshot, along with education details, skills and interests.
The platform includes user-friendly content tools that allow site managers and members to upload content and assets for the events, blogs, forums, etc.
These system includes options for adding rich text (with wysiwyg editors), to create: Blogs, News, Press releases, Events, Opportunities, Interactive maps, Resources, FAQs, Forms, etc.
The platform includes a system for posting events to an interactive calendar for promoting Talawa activity.
Members are able to review upcoming events and sign up to attend. After the event members are able to review event materials, post comments about the event and see themselves tagged as attendees.
The platform includes a content type for publishing Jobs, Opportunities and Voluntary positions.
This functionality is available for Artists and Industry members as well as Talawa, so opportunities can be posted from all parts of the community.