It’s not often you get to travel to the other side of the world for work. So, when I was asked to visit NIDA in Sydney for their onsite discovery, of course, I said YES! I love to travel and hadn’t been to Australia before, so it was an amazing opportunity, both on a professional and personal level, to be able to go there to work with them.

Due to the 24-hour travel time and the 11 hour time difference between the UK and Australia, Stef and I set off on Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Sydney, bright and early on Friday morning. We weren’t due to start work with NIDA until Monday, so we had the whole weekend to ourselves to explore Sydney!

DAY 1 - FRIDAY

Once we got into our hotel, we set off to the Sydney CBD to see the sights. We walked around the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, the famous Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We then spent some time at The Rocks where we had lunch and enjoyed the amazing sunshine; a stark contrast to a cold and rainy Scotland.

By late Friday afternoon, Stef and I were exhausted, both from the crazy jetlag and all the sightseeing we managed to fit in, so we decided to head back to rest at the hotel and adjust to the new time zone.

DAY 2 - SATURDAY

On Saturday, we decided to take the ferry across from Circular Quay to the popular Taronga Zoo and spent the day exploring there. We saw the most amazing views of the harbour from the ferry - it was picture perfect, especially with the sun shining! We then spent several hours walking around seeing and learning about all the animals; including Sumatran tigers and their baby cubs, Asian elephants, meerkats and, of course, the native koalas and kangaroos. It was a great day!

DAY 3 - SUNDAY

Stef and I decided to hit up Manly Beach on Sunday to enjoy the sunshine properly before work officially started the following day. We’d heard it was popular with the locals, especially for surfing, so we thought it would be great to get away from the usual tourist hotspots. Again, we took the ferry across from Circular Quay, enjoying the sights from the water before we got to our final destination. Manly had a completely different vibe from the city centre, it almost felt like a small beach town, with lots of local shops and eateries lined up on the street as you walked along to the beachfront.

The beach wasn’t as quiet as we’d hoped, but I could definitely see why so many people went there, it was beautiful. Stef and I spent some time on the beach (I got sunburnt of course), we walked around the local shops and ate some amazing smoothie bowls. It was a very relaxing day and just what we needed before the week ahead.

DAY 4 - MONDAY

On Monday, we met with Stephen from Terminalfour in the morning and headed along to NIDA together to start day one of the discovery workshops. The session started with introductions from everyone, where they spent time highlighting their roles at NIDA. Stef then went on to present her findings from the pre-discovery research we carried out prior to our trip. After this, it was time for the first task, ‘Empathy Maps’, which was a warm-up to try and get the stakeholders into the mind of their users and think about how they would feel coming to the NIDA website.

The final task of the day was ‘Journey Mapping’, which saw the stakeholders go through each of the key journeys for users on the website, highlighting areas of concern or improvement. Although the task took longer than initially thought, it highlighted some key areas to address within some of the pages and user journeys.

DAY 5 - TUESDAY

We were back again on Tuesday for the second session, but this time with end-users involved in the activities. The key to the sessions on this day was to understand both users’ and stakeholders’ perspectives and identify the key differences between them. The sessions went really well and the users were really engaged with the activities.

After the session wrapped up for the day, our host, Laetitia, gave Stef, Stephen and I a tour of NIDA. We got to experience the amazing student exhibition that was on display in the foyer, have a look around the design studios and even visit the set building workshop. It was really helpful learning more about NIDA and all of the different offerings that they provide to their students.

DAY 6 - WEDNESDAY

For our final day, we concluded the workshops with the stakeholders by reviewing the key points highlighted by the users who were involved the previous day. The stakeholders then started working towards creating a new site structure utilising the feedback from those users and then, to finish off the discovery sessions, Stef presented some of her ideas for the visual direction of the website.

The discovery overall went really well, both users and stakeholders were very engaged and we managed to get a lot of information from them for our Project Definition and Scope document. To celebrate, Stef and I had a couple of drinks at a lovely rooftop bar in Sydney CBD and then Stef headed off to the Sydney Opera House to see the ballet Sylvia!

DAY 7 - THURSDAY

Our work with NIDA had finished but we stayed an extra couple of days to try and see as much of Sydney as we possibly could. On Thursday, we walked the Coogee to Bondi Beach coastal walk, which was the most amazing, scenic stretch of Sydney that looked out to the ocean.

Google maps had us prepared to walk 1 hour along the coast but it ended up taking us all afternoon, so by the end of it, we were completely exhausted!

I took a million pictures of the coastline and got to see the most beautiful beaches, so I’m not complaining, it was a fantastic day! We finished the day at Bondi and then headed off to a local bar for some drinks.

DAY 8 - FRIDAY

Our last day in Sydney was spent enjoying the arts and culture that the city had to offer. We dropped by NIDA again after an invite from Laetitia to see their Graduate showcase. The actors were super talented and the show was well thought out with a mixture of on-stage and full production scenes shown to the audience.

We then headed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales to see the ‘Japan Supernatural’ exhibition, which I thoroughly enjoyed. We also walked around the rest of the museum which had some really cool pieces on display by local artists.

Overall, we had a fantastic time in Sydney, the discovery sessions went well and the sights were fantastic. Thank you to NIDA for having us on-site, it was a great experience and we can’t wait to get started on designing your new website.

Catch you later, Sydney - until next time!

After Digital and Terminalfour are working in collaboration to deliver a new website for NIDA: The National Institute of Dramatic Art based in Sydney, Australia. We will be providing the design and Terminalfour will be building the site out into their renowned content management system. If this sounds of interest to you, get in touch!

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