Crafting the platform that showcases Sydney through the eyes of a local


A vibrant and immersive display of the best
events Sydney has to offer.

What’s On by the City of Sydney is a unique digital platform for Sydney-siders and tourists alike; providing the means to create, discover and share a collection of awe-inspiring events from across the city, providing the truest glimpse of ‘Sydney through the eyes of a local’.


What’s On 1.0

In 2014 we commenced a relationship with the City of Sydney to develop their What’s On platform - a vibrant and immersive showcase of the best events Sydney has to offer. Over that year we prototyped, designed, built, tested and launched the website. The website became a unique digital platform for Sydney-siders and tourists alike; providing the means to create, discover and share a collection of awe-inspiring events from across the city, providing the truest glimpse of ‘What’s On’ in your neighbourhood. In the past 5 years What’s On has become the go-to destination for users and event contributors alike. Oh, and we picked up several industry awards along the way.

38k events
16k users
Submitted events
1.8m visits
In the past year
43k visits
For Chinese New Year

Rebooting What’s On in 2019

Building on the success of What’s On, we were asked by the City of Sydney to reboot the platform in 2019. With the platform live for over 5 years and plenty of data to analyse, we took a step back and looked at What’s On holistically to plan how we could take an already great product and make it even better.


Getting user feedback

We commenced with our research and discovery phase for the new What’s On platform. We conducted a total of 8 user interviews split between City of Sydney staff and strategic third-party major contributors of What’s On. These interviews provided great insight into where we’d direct our focus with the new iteration of the What’s On platform.

The findings

The outcome of our user interviews highlighted an opportunity to improve the event submission process for our end users and introduce time-saving help, assistance and suggestions to guide them through the event submission process. On the other hand, we noticed significant ways to assist the City of Sydney web teams in their daily management and workflow of What’s On.


Ideation and prototyping

Equipped with the information from the research findings, we began work on the initial ideation and prototyping of the new platform. We developed interactive wireframe prototypes for each of the key areas of What's On. This allowed us to rapidly user-test our solutions before progressing into visual design.

A dynamic home page that visually adapts to the time of day and even the weather

We wanted to give users a real-time feel for what was happening in Sydney at any given moment. Our solution was to create a time-based hero section that fed in key events in at various times throughout the day. Along with this, we visually conveyed the time of day and weather using CSS gradients and animations. This kept the homepage feeling fresh and lively without the manual effort.

Improving discovery with search and filtering

From our data analysis we knew that the existing filter on What’s On was the second-highest used part of the website, quickly allowing users to find an event of interest. We wanted to improve upon an already great piece of functionality, so our team leveraged Algolia for all keyword search and filters across the website. This allowed for lightning-fast results to surface as users engaged with the keyword search or filter parameters.

A natural mobile experience

From the outset we considered the mobile experience at every step of the way. We developed patterns for functionality that made sense on a mobile device, and then naturally carried them up to the desktop environment.

Engaging events - with a local feel

We designed a suite of templates to house and showcase events within various contexts such as single one-off events and grouped events. Leveraging user-generated-content on these event pages was helpful in conveying ‘Sydney through the eyes of a local’. The team integrated with Stackla to pull in social content from the localities across Sydney relevant to the event being viewed.

Improving the event submission experience

The other very important aspect to this rebuild was how we improved the experience for users contributing their events to the What’s On platform, as well as the City of Sydney staff responsible for moderating them. We implemented artificial intelligence, which analysed images and event descriptions the users provided to then offer pre-filled suggestions for things like event categories, tags and locations. In an effort to reduce the amount of submitted events the City of Sydney team had to moderate and send back to users for re-work, we opted for a ‘live validation’ approach where users had to meet the base criteria for each section before progressing and ultimately submitting the event.

Time-saving with templates

It was clear after our interviews with key third party event contributors that they spent a lot of time consistently entering the same information over and over again when creating their events. We assisted here by allowing event submitters to create a ‘template’ of commonly used event information (venues, event categories, tags, pricing and contact details etc) which they could use to pre-populate their new event listings when creating a new event. This resulted in large amounts of time being saved for event contributors and a higher uptake in event submission across the board.