KitaExpert - ending preschool struggles

Korneliusz Caputa
March 20, 2020

As a parent, ensuring the best possible life for your little ones is top priority. I hope. :)

Unfortunately the infrastructure in Berlin doesn't make things easy for parents with preschool-aged kids. The city's Kitas are packed and there's no convenient way of knowing when a spot will open up for your little bugger. We've encountered this problem first-hand, when Kalle was putting his daughter to a kindergarten. His wife and him had to come up with a process and a spreadsheet to frame the whole effort as an iterative project.

The good thing is that it worked. The bad thing is that it had to be done. The even worse thing is that nothing of sort was readily available to rely on. (unless you're OK with forking out a stack of €€€s for a Kita consultant to annoy people over the phone for you)

We asked around if anyone found a good solution for this, but the only thing we got in return was stories. Oh my, the stories.

One amazing example was a friend of ours, forced to place his kids in two Kitas on opposite sides of Berlin. So every morning his wife and himself must commute 40 minutes before to take each to their Kita - and of course the same in the afternoon! Nice, huh?

So, as self-respecting software nerds, we decided to build an app to do that.

What does this do?

Kita information and availability is actually publicly accessible on berlin.de. However, it's not really user-friendly. In the heat of the search, you want something that gets out of your way.

So we take the public information, organize it and make it searchable by useful criteria (like your district or commute times). We conveniently lay everything out on a map, allow you to select the Kitas you're interested in and let you download the Holy Spreadsheet of Carl-Petter ™. It's an actionable worksheet you can use to guide your process and track where you're at.

Architecture

The challenge we set ourselves with the project is to keep it backendless i.e. adhere strictly to the JAMStack principles.

We created it as a Gatsby application with React + Redux and keep all the logic on the front end. The map is Leaflet and we employ the great HERE Maps API for commute time and distance calculations. To improve SEO and allow sharing Kita links, we generate a separate page for each one.

We run scheduled lambda functions to get fresh data and push it to our repository. That gets picked up by a BitBucket pipeline which rebuilds the whole thing and triggers a deploy to S3. The site is distributed via CloudFront.

What's next?

We'd love to continue making things easier for people. Some things on our roadmap:

  • sending availability and follow-up notifications
  • handling communication with Kitas
  • eligibility checks
  • making KitaExpert the go-to service for making sure your little ones transition smoothly into this important stage of life!