Making Democracy Work (mobile app)

Duration: 2 weeks
Team: Me along with 3 fellow students at General Assembly.
My Role: It was a collaborative process where all of us worked at every stage of the project. I was responsible for the delivery of research synthesis, defining the UX process and communicating day-to-day roles for the team.

The League of Women Voters is 96 year old organization in the US dedicated to voter registration, education and access. Today the organization has expanded its mission to include defending the environment and financial reform in politics. As of 1973, the organization has opened its membership to both men and women.

 League of Women Voters: Then and Now

League of Women Voters: Then and Now

The League has found it challenging to engage with their constituents. The organization would like to have a storytelling tool that will give their users more direct access to its resources.

Our idea was to create a social media app for the League that will serve two main functions:

Stories will be captured as video, audio and written documentation that will allow users to share each other’s experiences. The app will also offer mobile voter registration and updates on the League’s meeting, events and initiatives. 

I took the lead on research and after conducting an examination of the League’s history, I developed a three step research methodology for the team:

Step 1: Competitive & Comparative Analysis
I did a competitive and comparative analysis of other non-profits focused on voting rights. I cross-checked all of the organizations’ social media presence and website engagement functions.

We also tracked the level of engagement the League’s current website. The relatively low uptick on their national website in the first 4 months of 2016 and the high bounce rate on their home page suggested that the League’s website was probably not engaging to the user.

Step 2: Surveys
The first thing I wanted to understand was the awareness level of the League’s work amongst the public. We designed an online survey to seek out these answers.

Of those surveyed, we learned that 97% of them are eligible to vote, but only 43% of them knew about the League.

Of the 43% who know about the League, 38.5% of them are women.

The general lack of awareness about the League is problematic, especially since this survey was conducted during the 2016 national election year. But lack of awareness by women seems especially egregious given the League’s founding during the Suffragette Movement— and that the name of the organization has the words “Women” and “Vote” in it.

Step 3: Personal Interviews
I interviewed with the Berkeley, CA League’s Committee of Higher Education Chairperson, Sarah Funes. The interview with Sarah helped frame the team’s understanding that the League is a tremendous resource to be tapped into, but that the organization’s own internal bureaucracy makes it challenging for users to be able to communicate with them directly.

Post research and interviews, we focused on developing personas that matched the League’s constituency. We finalized on 3 personas (Guillermo, Sarah and Chloe), each with a particular need for the League.

We created an empathy map for each persona’s experience in interacting with the League’s current website. Each persona had the specific goal of trying to find voter registration information on the League’s website. The personas’ tracking matched with our research analysis of the League’s website: the site was informative and heavy on text, but had no clear call for action.

Once we had a good understanding of the problem space, the team jumped onto brainstorming and idea generating.

It was quite clear to us that we wanted to focus on creating a separate mobile app for the League that would serve a different purpose than the website. While the websites were focused on delivering information to users, the app would be an explicit call to action for users to get involved. The app would serve as the bridge that connects the “political” to the “personal” for user, by having them share their stories with one another.

I designed the initial template for our wireframes, setting the design tone for the rest of the team. As we iterated and user tested the wireframes, we started to streamline the app towards clearer functionality.

At some point during the ideation and user research, I felt that we were missing a key emotional aspect to our solution. We were getting sidetracked with building out multiple features and losing sight of the apps original purpose. We needed to focus and I took a step back to define that. Our final proposal was two fold:

1. Identify User Needs Clearly: for a while we kept trying to add features to our app in order to address every type of user. We had a long conversation and realized that the app will never be everything for everyone, but rather needed to be something specific for The League’s constituents — individuals who require a resource for sharing their stories.

2. More Doesn’t Equal Better: we were also starting to replicate the website’s problem within our app — embellishing it with heavy text that few would want to read. We regrouped and grounded ourselves to our minimum viable product (MVP) and disciplined ourselves to stay in that “lane.” In other words, “show more” (i.e. communicate with design) and “tell less” (e.g. minimize the verbiage).

Content needs to have a clear intent and be precise

As we iterated on our design decisions and wireframes, we started prototyping our app with InVision, taking into account the user’s feedback. My two big takeaways from this process are:

Takeaway #1: The smaller the screen, the clearer your intent
Mobile by definition means transportable and fast. So your app needs to match that usage. It’s all the more important then that your design be efficient and easy to understand. The user’s on boarding experience and learning curve has to feel simple.

Takeaway #2: Edit, edit, edit
It’s so tempting to just compress what you see on a 15" laptop screen into a 6" mobile screen. But that doesn’t translate into a good user experience. Cut out the parts that don’t “fit” and retain (and in some cases upgrade) the parts that work in your app.