Encouraging a global audience to stay active while lockdowns are introduced throughout the world. The first national on-demand Health & Wellness platform for YMCAs had been launched just days after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and lockdowns had been introduced. The goal of the Health & Wellness platform is to enable members and families to stay balanced through online workout sessions while their beloved local fitness clubs must remain closed.
An on-demand Health & Wellness platform with a unique CMS system
When a group of YMCAs approached Five Jars with their most challenging web project to date, we knew that their on-demand Health & Wellness platform will be different compared to any other projects we’ve delivered for them so far. However, neither the brief, the requirements nor the technology were unexpected. Indeed, the great challenge was the timeline until which this project must be delivered.
With the global pandemic just heating up and the world adapting to the new normal, Five Jars and several YMCAs started on their journey to deliver a sophisticated and comprehensive online workouts platform enabling its users to stay active while remaining at home. The major goals of the project, therefore, can be separated into four main tasks:
- Outline the required infrastructure able to handle the expected web traffic
- Create a CMS system that allows to intuitively add new content in the future
- Onboard the first users and fill the platform with content
- Launch the platform
YMCA lives up to their vision of caring for the community. This was their motivation to launch the platform as quickly as possible as they knew that sport is essential to the healthy and balanced lifestyle of their members.
“Thank you for creating the platform. What a wonderful creation for members and family to stay fit during this crazy time. I was really missing my Y workouts even though I’m pretty good at working out at home. They keep me going instead of quitting.” Laurie
On March 12, Five Jars received the initial brief and assembled the team. Only 5 days later, on March 17, our first version of the website went online with 100+ videos from 20+ instructors available for the registering members.
This on-demand Health & Wellness platform had not only been demanding due to its extraordinarily tight project timeline but also by the fact that our Five Jars team members were impacted by the global pandemic themselves and had to adapt their personal lifestyle as well.
User journeys as a cornerstone
The platform connects sports instructors and participants in the most simplistic way. Five Jars built the standalone website with an intuitive CMS system enabling both instructors and participants to easily register, add content or feedback and collaborate together online.
The tight timeline did not allow for a comprehensive user journey exploration at the beginning of the project. In order to adapt the website and improve the user experience once the website was launched, we designed the website with A/B testing in mind. By fostering comparison opportunities, we facilitated to proactively react on user journeys in the most agile manner and constantly improve the platform.
Despite the time rush, we introduced a tool to create and implement advanced user journeys by using comparisons. With this approach, we have saved a significant amount of time and enabled the timely launch of the platform.
Video content upload made easy
Starting an online workouts platform does not only require an outstanding infrastructure but, furthermore, actual video content to be shared. Not an easy task with a global pandemic affecting all around us. Through an agile project management approach, Five Jars not only created a sophisticated, user-centric website but also ensured that the right video content is accessible and available on the platform for the very first members.
Five Jars successfully managed the requirements of the client while ensuring with third-party content creators that there is enough content available to attract and retain users on launch day.
The simplicity of becoming a member
While the subscription is free and the on-demand Health & Wellness platform available for everyone, user registration was important to enable a personalized user experience throughout the platform. Through registration, users are able to personalize their view, select their favorites and create their very own workout strategy. Moreover, Five Jars prepared the site for potential connection to the national YMCA database to simplify user registration in the future and build a more sophisticated experience.
“Having these classes helps relieve stress. Feel blessed to be able to be at home and exercise. Thank you!” Meredith
The significance of the authentication
The platform operates on a free subscription basis. Authentication, therefore, is one of the essential building blocks of the platform. That means reliable authentication was of utmost priority for our developers.
Moreover, authentication allowed us to effectively and efficiently implement A/B testing on a per-user basis. Through the immense initial response, this authentication allowed us to test various user journeys in just a few hours and adopt the single best one platform-wide.
The right stack combination to succeed
Drupal is versatile but, foremost, it is part of our home turf. Five Jars built and launched a comprehensive on-demand Health & Wellness platform within a short timeframe, which meant we could not afford to lose any minute navigating through new and unchartered territory.
Five Jars developers used the Vue.js framework to organize the structure of the platform as well as to enable dynamic content to be used. Furthermore, Vue.js allows the YMCAs to scale their website and adapt changes more efficiently. Besides Vue.js, our developers used JSON API.
Some of the key functionalities of the website are third-party applications. First and foremost, we have integrated Google Optimize to enable A/B testing on the user journeys and steer the optimization of the platform based on facts rather than on impressions. Second, we integrated video marketing software through an API to boost the marketing success of the platform. This integration significantly contributed to the global success of the platform.
Scalable infrastructure new defined
We knew from the very beginning that this project is different. While many of our earlier projects had significant web traffic in their first week, we expected this online workouts platform to break all records. Collaborating closely with this group of YMCAs enabled us to gauge the size of their vision and prepare not only the website but also the infrastructure accordingly. Quick scalability, therefore, represented a major requirement and enjoyed the highest priority among our developers. We created a cloud environment powering the platform on launch day and beyond that day with guaranteed no downtime.
Within less than three weeks, people from 189 countries registered and started using the platform. The first national YMCA platform became a global star and at the end of the third week, nearly one million unique users had registered and started using the platform.
While these figures sound great on their own, comparing them with usual YMCA web traffic demonstrates how significant the traffic has been. The on-demand Health & Wellness platform had more web traffic in the first two days than 90% of the other YMCA websites usually have in one entire year.
“It was like Christmas Morning here when we opened the Y App and saw all the videos! Bless you for all the good work you do at the Y.” Lynn
Five Jars itself felt the impact of the global pandemic when receiving this extraordinary project brief. Not only was it challenging for everyone to work solely from home but, foremost, that a project with such a worldwide reach should be delivered within less than one week.
We here at Five Jars kicked off immediately and gathered together to unite behind this unique vision of YMCA and their on-demand video platform. As always, it has been an outstanding pleasure to enable an NGO to accelerate their mission and spread their vision.
We set up a scalable cloud infrastructure, built a custom website with an independent CMS system, and added content for the launch. Furthermore, we enabled simple content upload to foster the long-term success of the platform. Last but not least, the global orientation of the platform posed specific requirements to the infrastructure to keep the loading and use of the content smooth.
The feedback received by the users of the platform was overwhelmingly positive and none of us had imagined the impact we create through this on-demand video platform. This project demonstrates what extraordinary teamwork, a rigorously agile project management approach, and an outstanding vision can achieve when being combined. Together with YMCA, we’ve delivered a website keeping countless people active – in just under one week! Since 2020, the platform evolved from a rather simplistic on-demand platform into a sophisticated and comprehensive workout platform Y360. And the best of it? We launched this on-demand video platform 6 months ahead of any other competitor such as Apple and their Fitness+ service.
More case studies
YMCA of Greater Brandywine
YMCA of Greater Brandywine encompasses eight YMCAs with more than 80,000 members across Chester County. We worked with the YMCA to digitally transform their membership experience. Starting with a migration to the Open Y platform, we quickly followed with improved Group Exercise schedules, a streamlined program registration process, a digital
Council for Exceptional Children
Full web presence redesign for a major educational association (Council for Exceptional Children), a professional association of educators focused on advancing the success of children with exceptionalities. Five Jars went through the full cycle redesign with the CEC team to digitally transform their web presence and improve brand consistency across
Channel Islands YMCA
Channel Islands YMCA has maintained eight replicated WordPress websites with its growth. The project's main goal was to consolidate all websites to one primary site with branch landing pages and create one-off pages from each landing page. Launched Open Y website simplified website navigation, enhanced content management experience increased
YMCA of Greater Seattle
The YMCA of Greater Seattle fosters healthy living habits, and a strong sense of community in the Greater Seattle region through its 14 branches. YMCA of Greater Seattle is one of the key players in the Open Y community. We worked with the YMCA to digitally transform their membership experience, starting with Open Y migration. We also improved