Uplifting the LGTBQ+ community through UX

Georgia Tech HCI students partner with the Atlanta Pride Committee to increase community engagement

Georgia Tech’s Human-Computer Interaction graduate students and the Atlanta Pride Committee partnered together to increase LGBTQ+ community engagement for the Atlanta Pride experience.

One of the many reasons that I choose to attend Georgia Tech’s MS-HCI program is that you get to work with industry partners as a first-year student. However, due to the on-going pandemic and course structure changes, our class was not presented with the opportunity to work with external clients. That did not deter me from finding my own! With some help from a professor on outreach, my team and I were able to create our own partnership with the Atlanta Pride Committee (APC). I want to share my experience on partnering with a local community for our UX research class project.

Finding a problem space

When we initially reached out to APC to help them transition their Pride 2020 activities into a virtual setting, we did not know our specific problem space to scope within a semester. However, APC’s willingness to collaborate and open communication provided insights into their pain points. After multiple meetings with Andrea Dwyer, the Digital Marketing/Media Specialist for Atlanta Pride, we were able to hone in on our problem space: APC’s new scavenger hunt project.

Like many other events these days, it was the very first time that Atlanta Pride was held virtually. To incorporate various types of interactions for Pride attendees, APC decided to launch their first scavenger hunt, following suit from Charlotte Pride. The scavenger hunt experience is a small part of the APC’s Pride 2020 app, however, our team knew that this is a great opportunity to mitigate various video streams with an interactive game to maximize the engagement within the LGBTQ+ community. Our team formulated a goal to redesign APC’s scavenger hunt platform that can afford both in-person and virtual experiences in order to increase community engagement.

UX research on Pride events and scavenger hunt

We conducted UX research with the Atlanta Pride attendees and scavenger hunt participants in order to find their motivations to participate in Pride events, gauge their sense of community in a virtual setting, and better understand how we can help APC provide a fulfilling online Pride experience. One of the research methods that we utilized was observing the 50th anniversary Atlanta Pride events. This part was so much fun and I would 100% do it again.

A screenshot of our UX research team on Atlanta Pride’s Instagram story.

Additionally, we were able to sit in on the scavenger hunt subcommittee’s meetings to understand the APC’s existing scavenger hunt platform and their process of organizing the scavenger hunt. With the results of our preliminary research, we were able to share ideas about how to engage younger demographics as well as raise questions about their current scavenger hunt design. Right now, our team is working on refining our design based on our research findings to receive feedback from APC.

Industry-like Experience

Although the class timeline did not align with the Atlanta Pride’s schedule, partnering up with APC offered us more than a class project. We were able to experience an industry-like process of UX research and design with constraints and feedback. I have listed those key factors that differentiate working with APC from a class project.

1. Research resources

Our problem space was a very new avenue for the APC, so there wasn’t previous research on scavenger hunt experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. However, we did not have to start from scratch. We were able to look at the APC’s social media analytic data to help us understand which platforms we need to utilize or take into consideration in order to engage the Pride attendees. APC was also willing to help us recruit our survey and interview participants via their newsletter. Although we couldn’t utilize this due to the timeline discrepancy with our class reports, it was vital to know that we had a backup plan for reaching out to our user group.

2. Business stakeholders

Atlanta Pride has various stakeholders. Unlike a lot of academic research classes, we had to take into consideration the business sponsorships ranging in size from Delta Air Lines to the locally run Out Front Theater Company. Aligning the APC, business sponsors, and the Pride attendee’s needs in designing our scavenger hunt platform is a vital experience to prepare us for the industry.

3. Deliverables and feedback

We had a weekly meeting with the Media Specialist as well as need-basis meetings with the scavenger hunt subcommittee. By preparing our deliverable and getting feedback on each meeting and our research finding, it helped us refine and specify our research goal, design requirements, and ideas. We also plan to get feedback on our high-fidelity prototyping from the director of APC, Jamie Fergerson.

4. Networking opportunities

Our team was able to communicate with a handful of the APC folks which allowed us to broaden our networks. One of our teammates, Sav Phillips worked as a social media marketing volunteer, taking over APC’s Instagram and Twitter during Pride. Another teammate, Austin Peete, successfully utilized his new contacts and landed a job as a digital content creator.

My biggest takeaway

This client-like relationship with resources and opportunities was crucial. However, the most valuable lesson that I took away from was the fundamental care and deep understanding of the users’ needs. Because APC’s mission is to uplift and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, it made us more meticulous on our design requirements and more conscious of how our design will be used.

“The loving atmosphere and seeing that there are so many people who are either a member of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally is what makes Atlanta Pride special to me.” — A Pride attendee from our survey

Partnership with APC has been a challenging yet delightful project. We are happy to see that APC will continue to implement the scavenger hunt in Atlanta Pride’s program moving forward, and we are very excited to keep iterating our designs! We hope that our new scavenger hunt design can engage more diverse attendees, provide a dynamic space to interact, and bring the community together to celebrate Pride.

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