Assist

A micro-volunteering platform

Two phone mockups. The first shows the first page of the Assist app which lets someone request help. The second shows a volunteer receiving a notification with a request for help.

My Role

  • Interaction designer
  • Visual designer
  • Researcher

Summary

Assist is a micro-volunteering platform designed to let people get help when they need it most. Assist was created via inclusive design practices, making it a compelling example of how focusing on a specific disability can yield powerful solutions.

Project team

  • Brittany Bentley: Researcher, Prototyper
  • Joe Bernstein: Researcher, Project manager
  • Josh Schramm: Interaction designer, Logo designer

Duration

  • 10 weeks

Original research question

Our research began with emphasis on a specific group of people and a specific scenario.

How might we help someone with low or no vision navigate an unfamiliar building accurately and confidently?

Research methods

Interviews

We went to Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind and talked to people about their workplace and how they navigate new places. We also interviewed several people with vision impairments to understand how they navigate daily life.

Observation

We observed people as they navigated public spaces like train stations and libraries.

Survey

We conducted a survey of people with vision disabilities to understand current strategies and main pain points for navigation.

Literature review

We read research about wayfinding and perception to understand what was already out there.
Collage of four photographs taken at the Lighthouse for the Blind. The photographs show the technology used by employees with vision impairments.

Personas

Based on all of our research, I created three personas to guide our design process.

Three personas stacked on top of each other.

Ideation & sketching

Our team brainstormed solutions using our research findings and our personas. We came up with more than 50 solutions ranging from an accessibility review platform to a rolling cane that pulls users automatically toward their destination.

A collage of images showing ideation and sketching. One image shows two people standing at a whiteboard. Four images are hand drawn sketches of ideas.

Pivot

After all of our sketching, we were still unsure which direction we should go in. We returned to our research findings for further analysis. Using affinity diagramming, we looked at our research through different lenses. We noticed that the people we talked to didn't really express strong pain points around navigation at all. The problem seemed to be more that they felt like a burden for asking others for help. This helped us completely reframe our thinking.


The problem that we were trying to solve was less about helping people navigate spaces than it was about getting people help when they need it most.


With this insight, we shifted focus to an application that would help people get the help they needed when they need it through a micro-volunteering platform: Assist.

Interaction mapping

I did an exercise to map the interaction flow of the system. Because Assist is a multi-sided platform, it was important to lay out the interaction of both the helper and the requestor side by side to see how both experiences work together across the system.

Prototype

We created two sets of low-fidelity prototypes. The first set focused on the help request experience. The second set focused on the volunteering experience. We created paper prototypes for both experiences. For the volunteer experience, I used InVision to create an interactive prototype.


Because we wanted to be able to effectively test with our target user group, people with disabilities, we kept a physical paper prototype of the help request experience.

Usability testing

We tested both prototypes to get feedback on the concept and to understand usability of our first design.

When testing with people with vision impairments, we had one team member mimic a screen reader while another swapped out screens and UI elements.

Findings

Participants liked the concept of the app and thought it would be helpful and enjoyable to use.


On several screens, the order of elements read was confusing for people with vision impairments. People particularly struggled with the task time estimation screen.


Volunteer participants were confused by the checkmark button> at the bottom of the screen.


Participants with vision impairments stressed the importance of trust and safety, suggesting that we provide better ways to build relationships between volunteers and requesters.

Final design

Using our findings from usability testing, I created a second iteration of our design that put an emphasis on trust and safety as well as clearing up some of the components that our participants found to be confusing.