Summer 2020 — 16 weeks — Interaction Design
Teamed with Ashten Alexander, Yasmin Daneshjoo and Vera Drapers
It is becoming increasingly more important in American society to be knowledgeable about politics because for many, these decisions impact the rights and sometimes, livelihood of individuals. In a polarizing climate, it is very difficult for citizens to find reliable, accessible, digestible information. This is why my team members and I created VoiceIt- an app designed to raise awareness about currently elected representatives, candidates and bills as an incentive to vote, and share many actionable resources to get further involved in issues people feel passionately about.
Before beginning our project, we asked ourselves, "How might we design for a social cause?" With an intent to create an app that would better the world and transform the lives of others, we were determined to design a solution for the greater good. While we brainstormed many ideas, I was pretty confident I wanted to create an app that would advocate for civic engagement because as a 20 year old, my ability to vote is a way to show support for communities and causes I care about. Since last May, we saw a large increase in our peers interest relating to social justice and thought with the upcoming election, it would be a perfect time to address the issue. With that, we decided it would be meaningful to create an app that addressed our age groups lack of voter turnout and overall engagement. After establishing our goal, we pursued the question "How might we encourage political engagement by providing young voters with the right tools and information, so that they may effectively vote within their community?"
Contextual Inquiry Participatory Design
Prototyping User Feedback
Once we had established our "How might we" prompt, we began the process of contextual inquiry. Straight off the bat, we posted throughout our personal platforms asking for people to fill out an anonymous survey and were lucky enough to get over 270 responses. This survey was given to assess potential users current involvement with and knowledge about politics. With the data, we categorized their answers to better understand the core reasons they were, or were not, participating in civic engagement- such as lack of time, etc. which helped to create a design solution that would be most effective and purposeful towards them.
After gathering a large scope of information, we then conducted further interviews which went far more in depth, lasting around an hour where we were able to better understand the potential user’s barriers with civic engagement, and what was preventing them from getting more involved. We again, synthesized this information in order to define our user.
Main barriers preventing potential users from civic engagement:
Lack of time/motivation
Goal to target younger voters- had smallest voter turnout in past years, yet age 18-25 has the largest age group potential to vote in the upcoming election
Local level voting- more important data to prioritize, rather than national level elections, because this information is harder to obtain and makes a bigger impact for communities
From here, we adjusted our mission statement to ask,
"How might we encourage voting on a local level and improve people's knowledge of political candidates in order to help young people make more responsible voting decisions?"
Through a better understanding of user needs, we were able to establish our primary personas, Gianna and Mak. Both characters had very busy schedules and did not participate much in local elections, for their own personal reasons, but overall, both wanted to make more informed decisions.
Our next step was to begin the participatory workshop. We conducted three activities to do with our participants in order to get further feedback.
001 Participants share a passionate letter describing a relationship with an app and what they believe to be its worst/best attributes. This helps evaluate aspects we may/may not want to include in VoiceIt.
002 Participant takes us through their experience from the moment they have received their ballot in the mail to when they have dropped it off. This helps us understand aspects to include that will ease and improve their journey.
003 Participant ranks potential features and their importance. Helps us distinguish our own perceptions of necessary elements v what the user needs.
We gathered a lot of key information from these workshops, however our most important discoveries were that the "Get Involved" feature was less important to the participants and more important to us. Personally I found this aspect to be vital as it would get users to come back to the app frequently, in addition to take a step further regarding civic engagement, than just voting. We also found that the users wanted a news source, however they also wanted the app to be non-bias (two inherently conflicting factors). With these unexpected false assumptions we had made, we added these findings to our "things to consider."
We then created a "User Journey Map" which outlined the persona's journey throughout the voting process.
With all of this research conducted, we began to ideate our initial screens. We were able to see how differently we would all conceptualized potential setups of the app, and then began to combine ideas.
INSIGHTS (Flaws + Solutions)
Organization of Get Involved / My Reps / Nominees / Bills
Get Involved and Bills: combine the two (information constantly refreshes, personalized feed)
Nominees: create as a pop-up (only relevant during voting seasons)
Not possible to color code- don't want associations between bills/representatives and support/disagree
Solution: create clear, simplified headers and eliminate color code
After wire-framing, we brought our screens into Figma, where we created a functioning prototype to conduct further user-testing and get more feedback. We implemented changes to better serve needs of users and a brand identity to best communicate our app's features and abilities.
At this point user feedback mostly consisted of nitty gritty details such as unclear icons and implementing better navigational tools. We revised our functions to best meet the user needs and finally reached the deliverables!
View nominees during election time
Recommended bills and “Get Involved” events based on content user interacts with
Filters to narrow down content (posting time, distance, type, etc.)
Ability to save content in order to refer back to it in the future
Bills- ability to comment, save, follow, support/oppose
Get Involved- ability to follow/save, select interested/going buttons
Trending bills and “Get Involved” events to stay informed about relevant content
Categories of bills and “Get Involved” events to allow user to become more educated about specific topics of interest
Guides to teach user about the political system and how it functions
Understand representatives background, core values and position
User can understand their agreement level with representatives based on past voting for bills
Ability to contact representative