Kristine Chong and Celina Munoz are prime examples of the amazing things that can happen when boot camp graduates put their skills toward a good cause. For their second project in The UX/UI Boot Camp at UCLA Extension program, they were tasked with selecting a nonprofit and helping improve the user experience on one page of its website.
After countless hours of research and work, the duo was then asked to present its suggestions on how to improve the site to the organization in question. Kristine and Celina selected the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) and through their work, helped create a homepage that was more streamlined for volunteers looking to work with the nonprofit.
Check out our conversation with them below to see how this amazing project came together.
How did you both become interested in UX/UI?
CM: I studied graphic design in college, so I come from a design background. After having jobs in digital design, which is where I felt the most comfortable, I gained an interest in user interface design. It kind of led me down the rabbit hole of user experience. The program seemed to cover all the basics of what was needed to produce a product, and the origins of making one and delivering one. It was a no-brainer to continue on that path.
KC: I had a pretty diverse work background. In school, I studied film and media. I have a background in customer service and business advocacy. I spent a lot of time with customers and becoming more sensitive to their needs and goals. Then in business advocacy, I learned about businesses’ needs and goals. When I learned about UX/UI, I thought that was the perfect way to be a mediator between those two fields.
Why did you choose LAHSA?
KC: When we were choosing a nonprofit or social cause, we knew we had four weeks to create a solution for their website and do a redesign for them with user experience as the focus. We wanted to choose a social cause that was relevant in our lives and wanted to be very strategic about it. If you’re going to work on something for four weeks, we wanted to really work at it and choose an organization that would make a difference with the work we were putting into it. Homelessness is such a huge issue in our community.
CM: As a team, we decided we wanted to focus on one of the biggest issues facing Los Angeles currently: homelessness. As of 2019, it’s estimated there are 31,516 homeless individuals living on the streets. After talking about our own experiences, Kristine started researching what the best organization would be and who had the most influence in the homeless community. While all the initiatives we looked into did valuable and impactful work, we discovered that all of them get funding allocated from data collected from LAHSA’s Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.
What was the reformulation process like?
KC: LAHSA performs an annual Homeless Count, which is basically a census of the population of LA and LA County who are homeless. These counts determine where funding for homeless programs gets distributed. We looked at how volunteers sign up to participate in helping conduct the count and what that process is like—from becoming aware to deciding whether or not to participate. This was the user experience portion we focused on. By identifying this target user, we examined their needs and goals and were better able to curate the page for them.
CM: We started interviewing our target demographic. We wanted to target young men, because we felt men would feel more comfortable volunteering in homeless counts that required volunteers. We gathered four members of the public to interview, and then an interview with someone who is a coordinator for one of LAHSA’s regional chapters. We used this user data to come up with a strategy of how to best move forward.
What did you find out from these interviews? What did you conclude and what changes did you implement because of it?
KC: Safety and time commitment were two huge issues. Generally, people wanted to help, but they work full-time and don’t have a lot of leniency in their schedules. We concluded that users wanted to make an impact but with minimal time and effort, if possible.
CM: We were tasked with making a style guide that included a better portrayal of the nonprofit’s brand voice, photography, language, and typography. Because homelessness is such a touchy issue, homelessness can seem very exploitative and not thoughtful if you aren’t careful. Using the data, we had a better sense of the best direction from a branding perspective and used elements that would better fit the mood that we were going for. We also did a cleanup on the LAHSA logo to make it more versatile and tailored the page to be more scannable and easy to read. We wanted to make things more streamlined and tie everything together design- and branding-wise, to get a better user flow.
What kind of feedback did you get?
KC: We met with representatives of LAHSA after our project had wrapped and just hearing from people on their staff that our insights had helped them figure out what they should do was so amazing! It was great to see that the research we had done was translating into their work life—that made us feel validated in what we did. Even if they didn’t implement all the changes we suggested, we could tell this was something that they had been thinking about for a long time but didn’t know how to act on it. Overall, they responded really positively.
CM: They ended up using some of our strategies as far as design and navigation go. The next homeless count is in January, so we will know more then if the sign-up experience for that has improved.
How was it using your UX/UI skills for a good cause?
CM: It was validating to hear LAHSA talk about the fact they have had these conversations before, but we were able to get clear data to show them what could be improved. It was great to see that even something as simple as a sign-up page could really make a big difference.
KC: To work with a real organization and have them respond positively to our efforts was so nice. Often you do a student project and it goes nowhere, but we got to speak with real people and help solve a real problem. That was definitely the best part.
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