Web Design: Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority

OVERVIEW

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) manages funding for homeless initiatives. Every year, LAHSA coordinates the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, a census of the homeless population that determines where resources are needed most and relies on the help of 8,000 volunteers.

TIMELINE
2.5 weeks (Fall 2018)
ROLE
Collaborated with 2 UX design students with a personal contribution to user/client research, information architecture, early ideation, and project management.
DELIVERABLES
user/client interviews, user persona, sitemap, UI style guide, user flow, sketches & wireframes, high-fidelity prototype
TOOLS
Sketch, InVision, Slack, Trello
THE PROBLEM

Volunteers in their 20s-30s want to help the homeless population in their community, but struggle to find an impactful opportunity that fits within their schedule.

DESIGN QUESTION

How might we help volunteers make an informed decision to register for LAHSA’s Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count so that LAHSA may also quickly reach their goal of 8,000 volunteers?

City Problem

AS OF 2018…
• Over 50K homeless people in LA County
• LA County homeless population ranks 2nd highest in nation

Organization Problem

ANNUALLY…
Needs 8,000 volunteers for the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count
• Census data = funding

User Problem

ON-GOING…
• Wants to help the homeless but unsure how, has limited time

1. Research: Understanding the Problem Space

INITIAL EXAMINATION OF THE WEB EXPERIENCE

A website audit was conducted to examine the current user experience for a volunteer trying to register for the Homeless Count. We looked at content, content structure, and user flow to understand how information was organized, framed, and communicated.

KEY TAKEAWAYS: SIGNING UP IS COMPLICATED

1. No clear path for volunteers to register for the Homeless Count from LAHSA.org
2. Information about the Homeless Count is difficult to find on LAHSA.org
3. Volunteers must register on TheyCountWillYou.org

Proto-Persona
Website Audit: No clear way to sign up or learn more about the Homeless Count on LAHSA.org.
THE PROTO PERSONA IS A 36-YEAR OLD MALE WHO WORKS FULL-TIME

As a high school teacher in Boyle Heights, CA, the user cares about making a difference. He wants to help the homeless in his community in some meaningful way, but struggles to feel like he's making an impact.

Proto-Persona
Proto Persona: The user wants to feel like his is making an impact.
USERS DON'T VOLUNTEER AS MUCH AS THEY WOULD LIKE

User interviews were conducted with 4 male individuals ages 23-41 who occasionally volunteer, but aspire to do more. The goal was to verify assumptions about the user, learn about the user's relationship to volunteering, and gauge his attitude towards the homelessness issue.​​​​​​​

USER

• Volunteers occasionally
• Lives in Los Angeles, CA
• Wants to help the homeless
“Well I mean my biggest challenge has always [been]… I don’t ever have enough time to [volunteer].”
REASONS: LIMITED TIME & LACK OF AWARENESS

Interviews yielded helpful feedback regarding users’ approach to volunteering and reasons why it can be difficult to commit - limited time and lack of awareness. Users generally understood the complexity of homelessness as an issue, but responses varied with their understanding of what would be expected of them.

HESITATIONS ABOUT VOLUNTEERING

• Safety
• Lack of clarity about what to expect

HOW THEY LEARN ABOUT OPPORTUNITIES

• Close social networks:
work, school, church, social media

MOTIVATIONS FOR VOLUNTEERING

• Personal/emotional connection
• Interest in helping the community
• Peer pressure from social networks

CHALLENGES TO VOLUNTEERING

• Lack of free time
• Less of a personal connection cause
• Lack of awareness of programs
MEANWHILE, LAHSA NEEDS TO RECRUIT 8,000 VOLUNTEERS IN 10 WEEKS

After speaking with users, we spoke with a representative from LAHSA to better understand the Homeless Count from an inside perspective. What were their challenges? How did they recruit 8,000 volunteers every year? How did they address safety concerns?

Raul Lopez

West LA Community Engagement Coordinator
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
“It’s during this time where everyone’s kind of thinking of other things to do and usually people don’t sign up right away.”
LAHSA STRUGGLES WITH A DELAY IN SIGN-UPS

Although volunteers only needed to commit 3-5 hours, many would not sign up until the week or so before. Volunteers were recruited by LAHSA, however they were asked to register on TheyCountWillYou.org --dividing the user's attention between 2 different websites.

2. Define: Areas of Opportunity

The crowded information architecture and scattered details created ambiguities about volunteering for the Homeless Count. The existence of two websites also unnecessarily complicated a simple user flow.

HYPOTHESIS: BETTER COMMUNICATION, ONE WEBSITE, MORE VOLUNTEERS

If LAHSA could clarify the role of a volunteer as well as clearly communicate the importance of the Homeless Count, then Victor would see that choosing to volunteer with LAHSA would be an easy way to make a big impact with minimal time and effort. We also hypothesized that consolidating both websites into one would help LAHSA achieve their volunteer count more quickly.

Proto-Persona
Value Proposition: Better communication would help volunteers see the value of participating in the Homeless Count.

3. Ideate: Setting New Structural & Visual Standards

OUR APPROACH: REORGANIZE & REBRAND

LAHSA’s home page was cluttered with text, links, and unfamiliar terms. To solve this, we planned to reorganize the site map and enhance comprehension with more content chunking. We also developed a new brand voice with the goal of making LAHSA’s brand image more motivating, engaging, and unifying.

THE CURRENT SITE MAP: SCATTERED INFORMATION, NO CTA FOR VOLUNTEERS

During this phase, my role was to use the card sorting method to take an inventory of the navigation items, identify content patterns, and consolidate categories. We found that one of the biggest sources of confusion was that LAHSA.org targeted 2 users equally (1. homeless service providers and 2. people seeking homeless services) with no call to action for volunteers.

Proto-Persona
Current Site Map: Scattered information and no clear hierarchy.
NEW SITE MAP: CLEAR SECTIONS, USER-FOCUSED

In the new site map, there is a designated tab for service providers, people seeking services, and volunteers - creating clarity and user focus. The card sorting method helped declutter the navigation bar from 9 to 5 items.

Proto-Persona
New Site Map: Fewer primary navigation items and more user focus.
MAKING THE CONTENT STRUCTURE & VISUAL DESIGN EASY TO SCAN

We utilized content chunking and the rule of 3’s to make sections 'snackable' and “easy as 1, 2, 3.”

DESIGN CONCEPT

STREAMLINE

content onto 1 website
(LAHSA.org)

SIMPLIFY

sign-up process
into 3 easy steps

CLARIFY

role of volunteer &
address concerns up front
NEW BRAND VOICE: MORE MOTIVATING & ENGAGING

We identified 5 adjectives that would give LAHSA a more approachable brand identity.

Proto-Persona
Brand Voice: Strategically identifying words to represent LAHSA's brand voice.
BRAND STYLE GUIDE: VISUALIZING THE NEW BRAND VOICE

Team member, Celina Munoz, translated the brand voice into a full UI Style Guide.

Proto-Persona

4. Prototype & User Test

USER FLOW: THE USER BECOMES AWARE, LEARNS MORE, CLICKS SIGN-UP

The user discovers the Homeless Count through a friend's Facebook post and feels motivated to navigate from LAHSA’s Facebook page to their website.

WIREFRAMES: STRUCTURE & FUNCTION BEFORE VISUAL DESIGN

We quickly turned sketches into mid-fidelity wireframes that would be easy to user test in InVision. The wireframes focused on structural elements that would make the redesign functional and easy to use.

Proto-Persona
Wireframing: Making structure & function a priority before applying visual design.
USER TESTING: ENSURING THE EXPERIENCE MAKES SENSE

We user tested mid-fidelity prototypes with 3 potential volunteers focusing on their understanding of the Homeless Count. Their feedback influenced changes in the high-fidelity prototype such as adding the organization’s mission statement.

Proto-Persona
User Testing: Gathering feedback to improve comprehension.
View Desktop Prototype 

Reflection

Balancing the needs/goals of the user and the client. Both the volunteer and LAHSA wanted to help the homeless population, but had different obstacles to achieving that goal. This project was about listening to both groups and finding a balanced solution.

Collaborating under a tight deadline. Within 2.5 weeks, our team only met up 5 times. In order to meet our project deadline, it was important for us to set deadlines for key deliverables. Accomplishing small tasks by each session, we were able to review and discuss our progress, make decisions, and establish new goals moving forward. While apart, we communicated regularly on Slack and tracked assignments on Trello.

Communicating a complicated organization clearly. It was a challenge to weave all of the stray information about LAHSA and the Homeless Count into a clear and concise redesign. Content chunking and site map reorganization were crucial in structuring content more clearly for our user.