Project detail and samples
Communication style for project: informal (small/ startup nonprofit)
The initial challenge:
This international community repair nonprofit wanted their regular volunteers (fixers and event hosts) to be more active on their own custom community platform (no Facebook or other corporate platform for Restart—this was built on Discourse) and upload data from repair events that is critical to Restart's mission and funding stream. The team had an inkling that a lack of user participation on the platform was due to usability problems. Their proposed UX approach was user research and redesign of the entire platform, with a focus on global navigation problems.
However, the budget was very tight, and I suggested that we might skip the user research as I could see what the primary usability problems were, after a heuristic/ QA review, reviews of secondary research and Google analytics—and I delivered this analysis in a written report. But I wasn't convinced the barriers to adoption were only due to usability issues, as my experience with community platforms is that engagement is typically a very tough challenge—so I wanted to probe usefulness and desirability.
Scope we finally agreed upon: survey to do a landscape scan of perceived problems, then some remote interviews by Skype with members globally, followed by a brief findings report, and finally, redesign (wireframes, with their agency to execute visual design/ branding). Through the research, I was happily able uncover ways the site could be more useful to members, along with a more complete view of usability issues. I was also able to convince the tech-savvy Restart Project team to think more holistically and in a human-centered way about the task flow and service needs of their overburdened hosts— before, at, and after—repair events, in conjunction with Restart's own strategic repair data-gathering mandate. By analyzing the needs and behaviors of various actors at repair events, I was able to use service design concepting to discover how Restart might get attendees to upload data in a way that actually helped, and not hurt, the flow of the events, specifically: additional simple mobile apps that help automate and divvy up current tedious tasks between more people, so as not to continue to over-burden the organizers, in a logical flow.
“When I log in, I freak out so much… so I just go to the top where it’s safe. Only three buttons.” - user research participant
User research validated my assessment the platform is too “busy” (especially the Dashboard)—too many features and overwhelming pages, some unintuitive navigation. Below is the Home/ Dashboard page BEFORE redesign. Note the boxy visual layout, no clear calls to action, overwhelming amount of content, and the global impact stats for repair (emissions and waste prevented) lost at the bottom. There is also an inconsistent global navigation schema that makes it difficult to find the repair data (Fixometer), and generally get around the site. Moreover, most of the page content didn't speak to the most compelling and top-of-mind concerns or interests when members logged in.
Key design improvements (This version shows the version for a host who hasn't set up any events):
More intuitive global nav, ordered by most popular sections, with meaningful alerts
Mobile-first design strategy
Simple and optional news/ special message section for anything that needs immediate member attention
New feature for group chat (using a modified Talk module), easy access to Group page(s)
Bold CTA for adding data, with easy contextual event/ group selection
More useful Getting Started section that is a sidebar, not a central and distracting checklist
I updated the designs to accommodate an additional feature of adding non-electrical ("unpowered") items to the Restart repair data, and making impact stats clearer with this new addition, as Restart couldn't currently calculate emissions for unpowered items. Adding unpowered items, such as clothes, jewelry, tools and more, was a commonly requested feature.