Skip to main content

Small UX changes, big results for AppleTree

Preschool girl happy to be in class

"Not only do they communicate and work effectively with our internal team, but they've been an amazing thought partner throughout the engagement."

Can seemingly small changes make a big impact?

AppleTree’s innovative Pre-K instructional platform had UX issues which made it difficult for teachers to fully leverage the platform. They needed us to assess and fix the most pressing UX issues—all before the first bell rang.

Since a redesign was out of the question before the beginning of the 2018 - 2019 school year, we had to nail down teacher frustration points and implement changes, however small they might seem, that would remove the key points of friction before school started.

Getting schooled by the users

We sat down with teachers (well—via Zoom, but it still counts) and listened to what was most irritating about the old design, and what would make their lives easier. According to them, we needed to improve three specific areas of the platform:

  1. Leaderboard

  2. Weekly/Daily Grid

  3. Materials


The Leaderboard is the main dashboard teachers use to see how their classes are doing. The teachers made it clear that they were scrolling way too much in this view and they wanted more control over how they could view class performance. We implemented an intuitive expandable/collapsible structure so teachers can quickly navigate to each class in a jiffy.

Screenshot of the appletree leaderboard

Toggle buttons allow teachers to expand or condense data, with easily accessible quick links to the most-used planning feature.

Weekly/Daily Grid

In the Weekly/Daily Grid view, there is a “Planning” mode and a “Viewing” mode. We found subtle usability issues that made planning out the week harder than trying to get these students back into “Learning” mode after recess.

From our interviews, we found out that teachers were unclear when “Planning” mode was actually turned on, and frequently, they would make a bunch of changes and then forget to save their work. We implemented changes to the icons and layout, but most importantly, we made “Planning” mode feel visually like teachers are in a different mode. And there was no question that we needed to make that save button more prominent.

Screenshot of appletree planning mode

We altered the On/Off button and implemented a lightbox style format to make it completely clear that “Planning Mode” was indeed on. We also implemented a sticky “Save” button so that teachers would remember to save their work.


The Materials section is the hub for all lesson materials that a teacher uses in their class, from books to homework assignments. One of the main problems with the old design was that the hub was designed for only one viewing style but we learned that every teacher has a different style for how they organize their materials. We brought all materials under one roof while adding a filtering system so teachers can organize the information however they like.

Screenshot of appletree materials

We implemented filters so teachers can view their classroom materials any way they prefer. We added a search feature to make it easier to locate specific materials.

A little bit of strategic UX goes a long way

The platform is now suited to how teachers actually use it. Our engineers also did a tune-up on the code so that the app would feel lightning-fast, even on spotty school wifi.

With seemingly small changes—such as adding filtering functionality and the ability to customize layout—teachers are able to get more value out of the tool and focus on changing each of their student's life.

“Though they’re obviously Drupal experts, they've made a considerable effort to understand our needs and help us work towards our mission.”