Voting made easy, for everyone!
Designing an easy to use mobile app experience that is accessible and loved by everyone.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
This project was designed and developed during my time as Lead Product Designer with Table XI. Disability Action for America, a political action committee, came to us with a loosely defined digital product to get more people with disabilities to go out and vote. While they weren’t sure what they wanted to build, they did know they wanted to launch by the November 2018 elections. As with any new endeavor I had a lot of questions.
They hired us to help them concept a minimul viable product, create a product strategy for implementation and design and build the MVP. The challenge was to learn and figure out where to start. We needed to narrow down the problem space and map out the project scope.
The client was eager to get started, but instead of diving straight into production, it was critical to learn about the unique problems people belonging to different disability groups faced in their voting experience. This understanding would guide our design work toward maximum impact. I designed and conducted a two-week user research sprint to learn more about the problem space and built empathy with people whose life experiences differ because of physical or cognitive differences.
Next, we continued scoping the work through a design discovery workshop. This process allowed us to eliminate guesswork and ensure our clients’ limited budget was spent on building something users would find useful and want to engage with repeatedly. I designed and facilitated a discovery workshop which produced innovative ideas, clear business and user goals along with a prioritized product map.
Following the three-week discovery work, I designed an MVP mobile app in parallel agile design sprints with the development team. My responsibilities included information architecture, wire-framing, user testing, branding and UI design.
The team was composed of two senior mobile developers, a senior project strategist, a product manager, two main stakeholders and one senior product designer(me). Although each specific role had it’s own purpose and responsibilities, there was a lot of overlap in disciplines and collaboration in all aspects during the full duration of the project.
My specific role and responsibilities included leading research and discovery, facilitating the product strategy workshop and leading the agile design sprints.
The full product cycle, from inception to launch, took close to 3.5 months.
- Research sprint — two weeks
- Product strategy workshop — one week
- Design and development — three months
I conducted user research through surveys, in-person interviews and industry analysis. We spoke with people who identified with having the following traits (physical, visible, invisible and mental impairments) to learn and understand what unique challenges they experience in the election cycle and how they currently overcome these challenges. A few sample questions:
- What is the voting process like for them?
- What is most frustrating?
- What needs to change to make the voting experience easier or painless?
- Do they feel empowered?
- What is keeping them from voting?
After conducting the interviews, I analyzed the data and organized the findings into a deck that the stakeholders and product team can readily consume. The goal was to share critical themes about our target users so the entire team could quickly empathize with the users.
We performed interviews with people who identify with the following attributes:
- Visible physical disability (ex.chair users with moderate to severe mobility impairments, fully blind)
- Non-visible physical disability (ex.deaf and partially blind)
- Cognitive challenges (ex.autism, dyslexia)
We learned that different user journey stages pose different challenges for different user types. Few problems overlapped with all groups but some were so unique that each phase could sprout different digital products.
I designed and facilitated a three-day product design workshop as part of our discovery period to quickly get both teams collaborating, sharing perspectives and expertise around the business and the users. To speed up, we needed to slow down and gather all the information we need to make quick and smart decisions.
There were a total of seven participants in the workshop and I led them through completing three to four exercises each day. Each activity was aimed at building on the previous one, so by the end of the three days we had clarity and alignment on business, users and product goals, as well as a direction to follow.
The immersive time together also gave us intangible benefits. The three days allowed us to build team camaraderie, allowing us be highly creative and productive moving forward.
The most effective way I know to organize and share findings is creating a mental model that visually communicates vital phases of a users’ journey: what actions they take, what they feel, what tools they use, what problems they experience, and what key problem statements summarize users’ needs. This technique helps the team prioritize target users by giving us narrowly defined problem areas we can use to discuss priorities based on the user and business needs.
The product strategy workshop was designed to create clarity around goals and constraints and to create priorities — what do we need, what would be excellent to have and how do we measure success — along with a product release plan. This project was timeline and budget-driven, so to be most successful during agile sprints, we needed a sharp focus we could be innovative and savvy within.
Our initial goal was high level: “Make an app to empower people with disabilities to vote.” We were able to refine that to “Create an app that will make it easy for college students to get informed, stay on track and place their vote.” With a focused problem area, we could begin creating specific, measurable and actionable goals that could be tracked.
Through research and discovery, we were able to identify, prioritize and define our target audience and which experiences caused the most problems. That understanding led to a clearly defined MVP we could tackle within a couple of months.
Based on the research, we switched the focus from targeting a specific group with disabilities to targeting all people. The hypothesis was that if the app was designed to work for users with the most complex needs, it would naturally be easy to use for everyone else. Making the app accessible to everyone, meant following strictest accessibility guidelines and not taking any shortcuts.
MVP GOALS SUMMARY
- Primary: Mildly engaged college students
- Secondary: Politically engaged citizens
- Increase voter turnout
- Increase county specific volunteer engagement
- Launch beta version in five key states: PA, CA, IO, IL & FL
- Design and build the app to be fully accessible to any person who is visually impaired (fully blind or color blind)
- Design and build the app to be fully accessible to any person who is cognitive impaired (low spectrum autism and dyslexia)
THE RESULT: MEET BRINK
Brink is an app that empowers all citizens to participate in US elections with a particular focus on voters with disabilities. Soft launched in October 2018. Built for iOS and Android mobile devices.
AGILE DESIGN: THE THOUGHT BEHIND THE APP
How does a user access all of the application segments?
Sprint focus: How might we increase voter turnout? What information can a user find on the home screen?
- Voters rights info
- Notifications of key deadlines
- Pollingplace location info
- Voting logistics
- Candidate information
Wireframes App Concepts
Detailed requirements for designers were captured in Trello cards and were gathered and written during sprint planning sessions.
Sprint focus: What are different ways to remind users to vote and guide them through the election process?
Sprint focus: Visual direction exploration
Style tile creation was informed by a 3-hour brand sprint exercise that set the foundation, values and direction for the style exploration. The sprint resulted in three different style themes that met the client’s two established goals: “We don’t want to be trendy or disrupt. We want to seem trustworthy and empower.”
Each of the themes shared a use of high contrast and distinguishable colors with consideration for the visually impaired (partially blind and colorblind folks).
- The color contrast was tested using the app contrast. I ensured I didn’t include combinations lower than the AA standard established in – WCAG Accessibility Guidelines.
- Copy was written to be descriptive and clear to someone with autism who cannot easily decipher metaphors – a need we uncovered in our user interviews.
- The text also included a healthy combination of imagery when appropriate, with no GIFs or other animations so as to not confuse/distress someone who is dyslexic – another finding from our user interviews.
- Our user interviews also pushed us toward display fonts that are friendly to dyslexics.