Growing Up NYC Shares Process to Creating an Award-Winning Mobile-First Website

In New York City, there are over 80 free benefits, programs, and services for families, as well as hundreds of community activities per month.

These resources are funded, administered, and organized by different city, state, and federal agencies.

The problem is that it’s difficult for parents and caregivers to keep track of all of them. Knowing which resources are available and how to access them (or when and where events are happening) requires residents to track multiple sites to try to understand—often complicated—eligibility requirements.

Then in October 2016, Growing Up NYC was born.

Growing Up NYC, a collaboration with the NYC Children’s Cabinet, started as a policy initiative to see how New York City is investing in children and families—and have a holistic view and approach on how agencies serve them. That policy was drafted into a printed resource guide to put those resources in the hands of parents and caregivers.

The Growing Up NYC website is an effort to put all the information that about the city’s resources, such as benefits and programs, free destinations, school information, events, and activities, into one easy-to-navigate mobile website.

This way, families can easily find, navigate, and access resources for their children based on their location and age.

And if program details change, it is easy to update live.

A research-first approach

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) uses evidence and innovation to reduce poverty and increase equity. The office advances research, data and design in the City’s program and policy development, service delivery, and budget decisions.

For this project, they took a people-first approach and applied their Service Design Principles. The product was praised as a leading example of a user-centered, iterative design, winning the Adobe Government Creativity Awards in 2018 in the category of Multi-Channel Campaign—Citizen-Facing Campaign.

This was the order of priority in kicking off the project:

  1. Developing a shared mission for Growing Up NYC
  2. Understanding the audience and their needs
  3. Building content based on user needs
  4. Designing

The team first aligned themselves and their partners with a mission to connect parents and caregivers of children between ages 0-12 to resources through Growing Up NYC. This expanded to include teens and young adults (13-24) to provide tools and resources during the pivotal, transitional moments of life.

The Growing Up team then looked to the residents. Growing Up NYC stems from conversations with families around the city, in shelters, during story times at libraries, and elsewhere. Hundreds of parents spoke about what’s important for them, what resources are most helpful, and how they want to receive them.

Questions asked to residents included:

What resources or services do you need to care for your family that the City is not providing?

What’s most important for parents when looking for family-friendly events? Or when looking for a program or service?

When do you look for events? What device do you use most?

Efforts then shifted from research to execution. It was time to establish a content and information architecture, based on the research from the field.

“Our field research helped us confirm our hypotheses about what resources would be most useful for parents and caregivers as well as learn new things we hadn’t originally thought of,” said Darnell Sessoms, Product Manager for Growing Up NYC and Generation NYC**. **“We then started to figure out how to transform these insights into actionable features and components to design and develop.”

Making the design

The research showed that users have the following needs, which translated to the following UX priorities:

  1. Busy, on-the-go: Mobile-first
  2. Have children of different ages who would be served by different programs and interested in different activities: Have programs and events searchable by age
  3. A diverse group of people of all ages, languages, and backgrounds: Use plain language (English and Spanish) and make accessible
  4. Living in different areas: Have events searchable by borough

The internal design team used tools like Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign) to create high-fidelity mock-ups to share with external design and development partners, Blue State Digital and Bandujo. Coming up with the internal systems to collaborate most efficiently together was key.

Branded swag was created for outreach events and disseminated to relevant community-based organizations and their clients. Driving users to a digital platform also required on-the-ground outreach and communication tools.

Collaboration continued with government agencies

“We worked with administrators and service providers to learn how Growing Up NYC could help connect communities to the resources they need,” said Ashley Cortez, Training and Outreach Specialist for the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity.

Growing Up NYC partners with numerous government agencies and community organizations to get their resources—which are not easily accessible and might have gone unused—into the hands of City residents.


Growing after launch

The team continues to track user behavior and speak to residents to improve the online journeys incrementally.

The user-centered process has also contributed to the steady growth of Growing Up NYC constituents. They continue to expand the site and have recently launched seasonal guides to help parents and caregivers discover free and low cost after school activities and summer opportunities for their children.

Building on the success of Growing Up NYC, the team built a companion website for teens and young adults: Generation NYC. More than 100 young people representing a cross-section of New Yorkers, including LGBTQI youth, Foster youth, and young parents, co-designed the website.

Both Growing Up NYC and Generation NYC were quickly adopted by non-profits, schools, local libraries, and City agencies as reliable, useful resources for their communities and as a resource they can use to host resources for their constituents.

“It’s exciting to see New Yorkers using Growing Up NYC and Generation NYC to connect to resources. As more people interact with the site, we can figure out how to fill in gaps and make it easier for them,” said Laura Kerry, Content Strategist at NYC Opportunity.

Today, they have two years of metrics and additional conversations with users to guide them as they continue to improve New Yorkers’ experiences.

Learn more about Growing Up NYC and Generation and the team behind them. Visit the NYC Opportunity website (Growing Up NYC / Generation NYC).

  1. Ashley Cortez | Training and Outreach Specialist
  2. Darnell Sessoms | Product Manager
  3. Laura Kerry | Content Strategist
  4. Mari Nakano | Design Director

Making a Creative Impact at Your Gov’t Agency?

Adobe is now taking submissions for the fourth annual Adobe Government Creativity Awards (AGCA) for 2019.

You can start submitting your project today—and update it on file before the end of the contest on May 31, 2019.

Go to and click “Submit Project” under the “Menu” tab.

Winners will be announced no later than August 2019.