Research and Interviews
Located 20 minutes northeast of Atlanta, Georgia (the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta is highlighted in blue), the city of Clarkston, Georgia (highlighted in green) is often referred to as the “most diverse square mile in America.” Over the past 25 years, 40,000 refugees have been resettled in this small city. With the consistent arrival of refugees from all over the world, Clarkston has become a place of refuge for new Americans. It has also been a point of interest for socially engaged individuals and a homebase for many organizations (especially refugee-serving organizations).
We interviewed several current and former residents of Clarkston (including nonprofit directors and former refugees) to learn about their experiences with resources for newly resettled refugees. In one conversation with Dr. Heval Kelli, a Syrian refugee who resettled in Clarkston in 2001, we learned that it is not uncommon for outsider-founded initiatives that address many of the same issues. So often, he notes, “what you think is right for the community might not be what the community needs.”
After distilling our findings, we came up with a set of key insights:
(1) the inundation of collaboration requests has caused a strain on organizations;
(2) the high interest in the area has contributed to competing and overlapping interests/goals; and
(3) there is a potential need for an easy-to-use, transparent way to know about the happenings of Clarkston, especially regarding social entrepreneurship.
Based on these findings, we decided to design a platform to connect social entrepreneurs and volunteers with existing organizations and initiatives in Clarkston.
We conducted an informal stakeholder analysis, in which we determined the position of different stakeholders in terms of influence and interest from an outsider perspective (society perspective). We then began to organize the elements that we wanted to include in the platform by way of affinity mapping. We grouped together topics and ideas that would be arranged together on a website.
Based on our research and organization, we developed two user journeys: one for a social entrepreneur and another for a potential volunteer. It was important for us to keep in mind our stakeholder analysis, by keeping the barrier of entry low and the transparency high.
Our wireframes build on our research, insights, and user journeys. Made using draw.io, these initial explorations are simple and straightforward. We placed the broadest level of granularity on the most left (“Impact Areas” and “Opportunities to Serve”) and the narrowest level of granularity on the most right (the specific organization and their information).
Using Adobe XD, I made an interactive prototype for both web and tablet (iPad Pro). We maintained a similar layout and information architecture as our initial wireframes. The biggest difference with this current iteration is the addition of a landing page/onboarding page. We also added a top navigation, including a “My Profile” option.
We conducted usability testing with three stakeholders in person and two stakeholders remotely (using the platform UserLook Recorder). The usability testing consisted of a “Think Aloud Test” in which the participant would narrate themselves navigating the prototype. After the participant felt that they had completely explored the prototype, we would follow up with a set of questions.
Our main usability testing goals were to understand what information users were retaining, and whether users understood how to access certain information. Users liked being able to see the whole list of organizations, but some users were confused as to what the platform was for (for refugees or individuals interested in the area). Another user noted that they would like to see the map be interactive with a pin appearing at the location of the organization. Other users noted the simplicity of the interface, which makes it easy to use and stress-free.
Based on these findings, we added a mandatory 1, 2, 3-step onboarding process on how ClarkstonLink works before bringing the user to the main page, as well as a slogan for constant reminder (which is important for brand, as well). Overall, there was a general understanding of the purpose of site, the different categories, and the steps to arrive at a certain organization.
Site Map (Partial)
This partial site map shows the flow from onboarding to navigation, showcasing the granularity of information increasing from left to right.
The most well-received aspect of ClarkstonLink was the simplicity of the interface. In maintaining the simplicity, we also strived to be transparent. All of the features serve this goal. We limited the amount of color and options, while still allowing users to explore all organizations.
Learning Outcomes and Future Directions
At the Ideas to Serve Competition (I2S), we presented our idea and prototype. About 10 attendees tried our prototype. Most of the feedback was positive, with some specific questions on scaling, financial goals, and how to actually receive a list of Clarkston-serving organizations. All of this informal feedback was extremely helpful as we reflect on our experience and look towards the future.
To improve ClarkstonLink, we need to conduct more user testing, continue the dialogue with Clarkston nonprofits and civic leaders, and develop further iterations of the design of the website based on testing. An important lesson that we have learned throughout this process is that design for good (and design in general) can’t exist in a vacuum; you need constant awareness of and feedback from your target users.
More specifically, we plan to integrate a news feed feature into future iterations of ClarkstonLink based on feedback. A news feed would notify users about local Clarkston events, such as cultural festivals, service days, and more. Our original goal with ClarkstonLink was to serve the community and we believe that the news feed feature will help establish, connect, and retain the community of ClarkstonLink users.