Midway Through DESIGNATION’s Virtual Phase

In February of 2017, I began my journey with DESIGNATION Labs’ UX/UI Design Bootcamp. It’s only been three weeks since I started the program, but I feel like I’ve learned more in that short period of time than I did with the six month UX designer course on CareerFoundry. It’s been one of the most challenging and gratifying experiences yet, and this post will give you a high level glimpse into what I’ve been up to since it began.

Not Everything in Life is Sweet

When I took DESIGNATION’s intro course back in December, the prompt that they gave us involved designing a streetwear application. I was instantly ecstatic that I would get to solve problems for an industry that I was passionate about, and that joy never wavered throughout the next six weeks. The whole experience brought so much happiness to the shopaholic inside of me, and I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the process. Alas, much like real life, I knew that I’d eventually have to tackle a project that I wouldn’t be fond of at the start, and that was exactly what happened with the next phase of the program.

The challenge my design team and I was given was to improve the City of Chicago’s website, specifically the experience of users whose specific goal is to find and communicate with elected officials. Instead of redoing the entire website (a horror that no team of young designers should ever have to go through), however, the challenge involved us designing a responsive microsite that would focus solely on finding and communicating with elected officials.

The Foundation of Our Process: Research

Right after the challenge was assigned, we immediately began to schedule one on one interviews with different users in order to get some qualitative research done. After a week passed, we eventually hit our goal of eight regular users, and two SME interviews. We tried our best to diversify our interviewees in order to better imitate the wide target audience that the city of Chicago had.

The research we had gave us some critical insight into our user behaviors. I interviewed two students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn who were a part of the student government. One participant revealed how there was a preconceived mistrust of government websites. I asked him what method he preferred to reach out to his local elected officials, and he claimed in person because he feared that he would be wasting his time if he tried to do so through the alderman’s website. My other participant shared her frustrations about the information that she was not able to immediately find in elected officials’ websites. As an activist, she needed news, updates, and/or guides on how she could act on different issues. She was also disconcerted with the disconnect that some local elected officials had with their constituents, claiming that it was due to politicians “feeling high and mighty on their pedestals.”

In addition to qualitative research, we did some quantitative research as well. We created a fifteen question survey that got fifty responses, and this helped us further understand our users’ behaviors when they go on the City of Chicago’s website.

The insights we gained from our interviews was that trying to contact your local elected officials were futile because they were either inaccessible through the web, or their attempts of contact were being ignored.

Data Demystified: Synthesization

Once that we had accumulated a plethora of data, it was time to synthesize our findings to create our personas. Ideally, this would have been done in person since we were going to be using copious amounts of sticky notes. But two of our team members were in Chicago, one was in Hobboken, NJ, and I was in Detroit. So we decided to use a sticky note web application called Mural (mural.co) to create our affinity diagram.

I found this step in our process to be particularly fascinating because I had never done it before (I am currently a one man design team for a logistics company based in Detroit). We had to analyze another team member’s interview transcripts and list out all the insights that we could find, regardless of whether we thought it was relevant to the problem or not (because you’ll never know what insight could end up being useful later on).

After we had listed out all the insights that we found from our user interviews, it was time to start the actual synthesization process. First, we created high level categories such as needs, goals, pains/frustrations, demographics, assumptions, and devices. Then over the span of four hours, my teammates and I grouped all the post its that were related to each other under the category it fit into. We then broke it down further, and created sub-categories in order to organize the post its more.

Before Synthesizing
After Synthesizing

We also used the findings from our quantitative research for further insights into our users. Our survey showed us that even though users had a mistrust of the process, they still had a strong desire to contact their local elected officials. 39% of the survey respondents claimed that their biggest pain point when contacting elected officials on a government website was lack of information, while 35% claimed that it was hard to find. However, an overwhelming 69% claimed that they would like to learn more about their local elected officials via a website, with over 88% of respondents preferring to communicate through email.

After successfully synthesizing our research, and analyzing our survey. We were able to create a problem statement that would further aid us in the next step of the process, persona creation.

The Process Continues: Personas and Journey Maps

Based off of our interviews and our survey, we felt that we could focus on three distinct groups of users who would normally contact elected officials: John, Sally, and Hannah.

John represented entrepreneurs concerned about legislations that could affect his business and/or employees.

Sally represented students and young professionals who are politically active and well informed about current events.

Hannah represented users who had been to the city of Chicago’s website before to use its services, but had never sought out their local elected officials before.

My team and I then proceeded to create journey maps for John, Sally, and Hannah in order to see how they would interact with the current website. We also used this step of the process to determine what opportunities lay for our team when it came to actually designing the solution.

Step Numero Tres for Team D.E.S.I.G.N.: Task Flows and a Sitemap

For this week, our main deliverables were creating task flows, a sitemap, and our first paper prototype (finally!). Since I am currently waiting on feedback on my work, I won’t post the pictures or talk much about the process until I have a chance to iterate. So stay tuned, and come back to this post sometime in the near future, and I’ll have it updated then.

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