A social impact project
Develop some sort of product that addresses an issues of the prison-industrial complex, utilizing UX for social impact.
A website that educates people on if they are eligible to vote, and if so, gives them the resources to do so. The language and design of the site are optimized to low-literacy users (based on Nielson/Norman guidelines for low-literacy web design) as a majority of those leaving prison are functionally illiterate. It was designed to be utilized as a teaching tool in settings where people are opting-in to long-term life skills programs that get them back on track.
We researched the prison-industrial complex to find the major components of how people are incarcerated and how it impacts them most directly upon leaving prison. This research also illuminated that most people leaving prison are functionally illiterate, and we found that there are different design considerations needed for those users according to Nielsen/Norman.
We did in-depth interviews with three people, including:
- A formerly incarcerated woman
- A public defender in Chicago
- A worker with the Center for Health Justice
They each brought up points to consider in developing our MVP. The formerly incarcerated woman told us how hard it was to get a job, and that since her employer is aware of her felony, she feels that they take advantage of her inability to get other work easily. The public defender told us how important local elections were to the day-to-day lives of people (like voting for a judge) but that it's very hard to learn about these elections. Finally, the worker for the Center for Health Justice pointed out how the immediate needs of those released from incarceration are food, shelter, and employment before voting.
These personas were built out of topic research, our in-depth interviews, and researching organizations that help formerly incarcerated persons. Tim's persona represents those going through long-term programs and Radiance's persona represents those that teach those life-skills classes.
Hi-fidelity prototypes + iterations
Our first iteration was usable but boring. In our second, we found what colors appealed to the demographic (mainly men in their 20s and 30s) and used hip, urban images that were more appealing than a sterile, corporate look. We also added the "About" page to educate other members of the community why voting is important for ex-convicts.
During user testing, we found that leading with the "You are NOT Eligible If" statement made people feel discouraged, like we were starting off with the bad news first. Users also thought the "X" meant you could exit out of the window. We switched the order and also added a link to where users could learn how to still get involved, even if ineligible to vote.
We originally had a video when a user landed on the page of their state. User testing showed that this was confusing. Many people said they didn't want to watch a video yet they would be nervous to skip ahead. We iterated to where the landing page had a visual overview but was clear to users after iteration that you could scroll or click on down through the steps.
According to Nielsen/Norman's design guidelines for low-literacy users, we designed our site with the following considerations:
- One column on a page
- Write at a 6-8th grade reading level
- Don't allow large blocks of text to fall where a user would need to scroll to see more
- Make it clear if there is content to scroll down to
- Use at least size 14 font for readability
We incorporated the design considerations in multiple ways. The first was we did a task analysis of how someone would currently learn if they are eligible to vote again. We found Georgia's state website to have too many columns, too many calls to action, and verbiage that was well above an 8th grade reading level. We diluted the key information when making our pages.
We were able to use Microsoft Word's "Spelling and Grammar" tool to find readability statistics, which included the grade level our copy was written in. This allowed us to be certain we were in the 6-8th grade reading level required for low-literacy users.
Since low-literacy users are not able to keep their place in a block of text if they have to scroll, we made sure to visually break up each section of information. We changed the background to indicate it was a new section, made sure to put buttons at the bottom of each section to indicate there was more beyond the fold, and generally designed the site in a way where there wasn't large blocks of text.
The state pages are one, long continuous scroll with buttons that go to an anchor position if someone would prefer to click through.
Sketch 3 | Invision | Marvel | Omnigraffle | Microsoft Readability Statistics | Think Tank Research | White Boards
Topic research; usability testing; mid- to hi-fidelity wireframes; digitizing prototypes; low-literacy copy writing; color theory; business benefits; presentation.
I worked on this project over the course of two weeks with Lauren Black.