• Client

    Barker College
  • Role

    Digital strategy
  • Year


The challenge

Barker College is an independent K-12 school based in Sydney’s north shore. Established in 1890, it has a long history of being one of Sydney’s most prestigious co-educational independent schools. 


Barker College needed to revamp its Portal: an online destination shared by students, parents and teachers. Its role is varied for each audience.


For students, it’s a place to stay up-to-date with school events, communicate with teachers and homework assignments.


For parents, it enabled them to see what events were occurring each school term and ensure they weren’t missing out on anything.


And lastly, for staff, it was a noticeboard for school announcements and collaboration between faculties. 

The feedback from all audiences was that the Portal was outdated, clunky, cumbersome to use and was detracting from the Barker College experience. Barker College knew they needed to update the system; however, they didn’t know where to start – given the complexity of the audience needs and the technical requirements.


We responded to Barker’s challenge with a project plan that aimed to:

  • highlight the requirements of users from a human-centred perspective
  • prototype what the Portal could look like in a future state
  • create user stories in a qualified list as a brief to tender for a new software provider

The process

We divided behavioural research into three audiences: parents, students and staff. We aimed to observe select participants from these three groups using the Portal in their natural environment and their day-to-day activities. 


For parents, the overwhelming outtake was the Portal was used at a glance, often to plan kids’ activities at the start of the week. Sometimes this was as incidental as looking at their mobile phone for 30 seconds while packing the school lunches. 


For students, we observed almost no use of the Portal at all. It didn’t factor into their school lives. Students are busy, overwhelmed and use multiple software systems to facilitate their learning: an example being one student showed us her weekly schedule, which involved logging into ten different systems!


Lastly, for staff, the Portal was too hard to use. The content was duplicated across the site and hard to update as well as confusing information architecture.   


We used these insights to create a brand experience framework outlining the ambition and underlying design principle of the Barker College Portal.



With the brand experience framework signed off by our stakeholders, we ran three co-design workshops: one with parents, one with staff and one with students from Years 3 to 12. The purpose with these sessions was to design an ideal Portal in a lo-fi prototype collaboratively.






We then turned these lo-fi prototypes into a fully-fledged high fidelity prototype – using specific user journeys with each audience to highlight intended functionality. Detailed user stories for each audience complemented the prototype.

The deliverables

We handed our prototypes and user stories over to Barker College to include in their RFP for a new software development partner. Barker College ran the tender mid-2020 and chose a tech partner to roll out the development of the Portal. 


The Portal has launched in an MVP state in Term 1 2020 to overwhelmingly positive feedback from the school community. It will be going through further iterative updates over the next year before the project formally closes out. 


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