Be Nice Mobile App
There are certainly many opportunities for volunteering in NYC, but it can be overwhelming and confusing to find what to do, and the application process can be deterring. I wanted to create something that helped people get out into the world and contribute to their communities.
People lack an integrated resource for sifting through the multiple volunteering events and opportunities in their area. Long application timeframes, unclear availabilities, and changing schedules are all challenges, highlighting the need for an overall simple and clear search and recommendation platform.
GOAL: Allow for an easy method for users to find and sign up for personally relevant volunteering opportunities.
Scope: 8 weeks
Tools Used: Sketch, Invision
Role: Solo project
Hi-fi and lo-fi prototypes
Visual/UI design and branding
How can the search and sign-up experience be improved for people who want to volunteer?
I identified that people want to volunteer in their communities, but because of time constraints, complicated pre-approval processes, and a lack of an efficient search tool, they don’t follow through. People need a way to quickly find volunteering opportunities that are tailored to their needs. The Be Nice app resolves this by providing one central place to sift through the myriad volunteering opportunities available.
Research Goal: Who is the user? What are their goals and pain points?
The target audience could be anyone who interested in volunteering, however, I chose to focus on millennials in major cities where there are many volunteer options available. A 2016 Millennial Employment Engagement Study by Cone Communications showed that millennials as a group value volunteering at a higher rate than the national average, including opportunities both during and outside of work hours.
Conducted interviews with 6 participants ranging from 23-28 years old, 4 of which were interested in volunteering or had volunteered before and 1 who was not interested. The top 3 things I wanted to learn from the users:
• What are their priorities when searching for events or opportunities? Why?
• What is their experience level in volunteering and why or why not do they do it?
• How are they currently going about finding events to join? Why?
"I feel like it takes forever to find something that works for me."
"Looking for volunteering is not fun."
"I wish it were easier to see everything that's available at once."
Affinity mapping helped me to pull out themes from the users' feedback and find potential features to include in the app.
Main barriers to entry:
1. Effort and ease - Users were not volunteering because of the time and perceived effort in searching for an event in the first place.
2. Specific requirements - Lack of filtering for location, frequency, type of event
3. Applications and trainings
Current search strategies:
All participants used word of mouth or Google to search the type of activity they were interested in and some form of the word "volunteer".
4. People don’t want to commit - changing schedules, work, and a general attitude make it hard to dedicate time to activities.
5. People are busy and want the search to be done for them.
6. People are not interested in social media sharing everything, but volunteering with friends is fun.
1. People don’t have time to or are not motivated to go through all the different sources that tell them where they can volunteer.
2. People are overwhelmed by the many types of volunteer opportunities available and don’t know where to look.
3. People want a very simplistic, clean and straightforward tool to find events, with no desire for “unnecessary” functionality that distracts. Lots of notifications and social media are not important here.
With these insights in mind, I determined the high level goals of the new app. All subsequent steps will be based on the following ideas:
The main goal is to find the right match between potential volunteer and volunteering event. The app is supposed to serve as a "one-stop-shop" for searching and signing up for events by figuring out the user's current interests, skills and availabilities and then presenting them with a choice of recommended events.
The second goal is to centralize the search for different types of volunteering activities available and make it easier to find what the user is looking for.
The third goal is to make it as easy and efficient as possible for the potential volunteers to actually sign up, apply for and go to a volunteering activity (as well as for the volunteering organizations to coordinate).
It's important to engage the potential volunteers when using the app by providing them the information and tools they need to sign up for an event and go, without any other distractions, so it's important to keep the app as simple and straightforward as possible. They want to get out in the world, not be constantly bombarded by notifications or feel a need to publicly share everything.
COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS & FEATURE INVENTORY:
I researched and analyzed 4 other direct competitors, none of whose designs were very aesthetically pleasing nor totally solving all of the user's problems.
They are overly complicated, and none seem to solve the application process itself (except Involver which looks to now be extinct). When I searched for events in New York City on Golden and Give Gab I was only shown 2 options, with all filters open.
Golden and Volunteer Match had the most useful features. Overall, Volunteer Match most closely resembled Be Nice in terms of functionality, however, it was not intuitive and could be refined. GiveGab was extremely social media based, which is not the focus for this app.
The complexity of competitors tools with all their features was a concern that arose out of my interviews and competitor analysis so I addressed this by reducing unnecessary features and keeping the tool simple.
Using this flow, I sketched out many different ideas of the main screens and how they would be connected. Below are a few examples.
Wireframes & Key Changes
After a couple of iterations, I moved to Sketch and played around with more ideas on screen. I wanted to test a couple layout variations of the recommendations results as I wasn't sure which one to go forward with.
Based on my initial interviews, I had developed a set of 3 lo-fidelity prototypes to help me test my presumptions.
Specifically, the three prototypes would test for the following:
1. Information Density
2. Information Sequence
3. User’s Priorities (in receiving or viewing recommendations for volunteering events based on their preferences)
My first round of user testing with my lo/medium-fi prototypes showed that several things needed to be adjusted.
First of all, users were swiping impatiently through the on boarding and registration screens.
I realized there were too many screens and, if combined, they would ease the sense of urgency by giving the user the option to sign up right away or continue swiping at any moment. In the final design the number of screens were shortened again.
Secondly, the page names and icon placements were not intuitive.
After flushing out all of the steps and screens I put them through another round of user testing and made further changes.
Recap of Usability Testing & Key Changes
1. Users wanted to be able to see all info at once and have the ability to search themselves or have a personalized “experience”, so I kept both the list search view and the recommendations page as a list view
2. Category names in the menu weren't intuitive so I had to revise them. Volunteer Opportunities changed to Search opportunities, My Profile changed to My Account, and My Matches changed to Recommendations.
3. A filter was added to the search page to allow users the ability to refine by times available, length of activity, location, interests, and requirements such as trainings or applications.
4. My Appointments was moved under My Account instead of within My Recommendations, which made more sense to users. Messages would also be made accessible under My Account.
5. The ability to share with friends to volunteer together came up during testing. Since social media sharing isn't a priority for them I added an easy option to text friends an event.
6. During testing, it was observed that users were rushing through onboarding which was too long. I shortened the amount of screens and combined them with sign up so that they were together on one page, giving the user the option to skip onboarding and just sign in or sign up
7. Some users wanted to be able to know right away if posts required training or applications so that they could bypass them. These requirements were included in the filter options on the Search Listing page. They were also a call out point on the Search Listings and Recommendations page, making it easy to spot and ignored if desired.
Design & Final Iteration
Feature 1: Clear & Friendly Visual Communications
It was important to convey a fun and friendly attitude with the app. Yellow is the brightest color of the visible spectrum and is the most noticeable of all colors by the human eye. Yellow projects happiness, high energy and optimism, and was well suited for the type of tone I wanted Be Nice to have. The contrast between the white text on yellow background did not seem to pose a problem during testing and I tried to keep it to a minimum. The images and copy also go with the theme.
Icons and highlights - Icons provide quick visual cues for different category types and colored dots highlighted special or relevant information about the events.
Feature 2: "About You" Questionnaire & Recommendations
Allowing users the option to fill out their preferences through a short questionnaire which would offer them their recommendations for which events would be most suited to them.
Feature 3: Share with Friends
It was important for users to have the option to share an event they were interested in or actually signed up for with their friends. Since social media was not a priority, texting was the most appropriate method to give the user.
Feature 4: Standard Sign Up & Applications
Standardized application and sign up forms directly within the app can motivate otherwise uninterested users to join more or different events by making it easier, faster and more transparent process. Under My Account they can see what applications are pending approvals or cancel appointments right away if needed.
Try it out for yourself!
The research and focus of this app was mainly on the volunteer in this case. It would be important to also look at the other side of the relationship in the situation and include the thoughts, needs and procedures of the volunteer organizations themselves.
Also, there were specifics related to the "About You" questionnaire, such as the types of skills and types of volunteering, that I would have liked to do further research on. And, as always, continue testing!