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Byte’s tech investment pays off in the Age of COVID-19

By: Michael Diedrick on Jul 28, 2020

Tags: Process (9) Libraries (6) Museums (6) Arts Organizations (5) Recent Work (5) Tech Simplicity (5) Non-Profits (2)

Libraries, museums and cultural institutions were strongly affected by the coronavirus, and many of the new issues that arose needed fast tech solutions. We have a level of support that ensures that if a need arises, we’re available. 

Whatever tech solutions we can provide have to happen very quickly and for very little cost, since the virus is also causing economic issues for most of our clients. Fortunately, we’ve been investing into a better tech process over the last few years that has reduced the amount of time and resources necessary to make small or big updates to our sites and databases. 

Here are a few projects we’ve built in a very short time:

  • A reservations system for Villa Terrace and Charles Allis Art Museum. The museums needed to limit the number of patrons being inside the museums at any given time, and they needed to create a contactless way for staff to interact with visitors. We created a ticketing system that managed the timings and the commerce so no money needed to be exchanged at the door. We also found a contactless solution where we created QR codes for any ticketed transactions, and then built a QR scanner into the website directly available via their POS system’s iPads.
    screenshot of ticketing system, displaying time slots and ticket types
  • A COVID dashboard for Milwaukee Public Library. All the MPL library branches were closed, events were going online, and curbside service was being implemented, so MPL needed to be able to communicate all the changes. At the same time, libraries are known to be one of the most trusted sources of information, so MPL wanted to build a way to communicate good information about the virus in one easy dashboard. We designed and executed the dashboard and CMS in a matter of days.
    screenshot of Milwaukee public library's COVID-19 focused portal
  • As libraries took their storytimes and book clubs online, the events calendars and other site messaging, along with any events locations databases, needed to be quickly adjusted. Any offsite event system also needed import features for these new virtual locations.
  • Curbside pickup for libraries created headaches, so we employed our forms system that makes forms easy to create and manage.
  • Top page “notice” messaging, which is a standard in all our cultural institution websites, were used in more ways to help communicate the upcoming changes quickly and effectively.
    screenshot of Milwaukee public library's notice about COVID-19 closures

So how did we make all these changes easier? We’ve been investing in our tech process over the years by reducing the number of libraries, reducing the interdependence of code, creating more vertical modular systems and using the most simple language possible for the type of project, and abstracting code only to the level that’s actually needed. The data side was important to simplify as well, the co-mingling of data that happens on off-the-shelf CMSes makes doing something simple extra difficult if you’re doing anything beyond intended usage. All our tables are just pure data, and they’re easy to make, import, export and manage in the CMS. 

COVID-19 forced us all to make changes to fundamental ways things are done, and when the changes required a tech solution, we were ready and able to make big things happen in a small timeframe and budget.