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User research is an important start that allows to learn about users’ needs and expectations.
Through user research it was learned that users are looking for a web application where they can learn from each other’s experiences, see other people’s timelines and share theirs. It is already very frustrating being an immigrant hence they want to reach out to well-organized and credible information easily.

Focusing on so many features is not beneficial. 

I thought having more options in the homepage would give the user what they needed, but usability tests revealed that more options only increases the cognitive load and makes users get confused navigating the app. Given the chance I would discover how to serve the informative pages and glossary to users without confusing them. I want to do more tests specifically on these 2 features.

Improving the user experience meant immigrants would easily find credible information and share their burden with the community and get support and find answers to their problems.
Through all stages AwaytoHelp improved a lot and became its current self to be able to carry its mission which is to help immigrants in the USA.

What’s next for AwaytoHelp: AwaytoHelp will be in development to become a responsive web application once a development team is set up.

Primary Research

How were participants recruited: Screener surveys were sent out through springboard community and social media.

Research participant criteria: People who have been immigrants in the USA for not more than 5 years.

Why were only certain immigrants selected: An immigrant who has been here more than 5 years would not have problems as precise as someone who is still in the process of adjustment.

Why 5 years: 5 years was figured to be enough time to specify the immigrant as still struggling. A majority of immigrants come to study in the US and after they graduate, they encounter different problems. Most universities help their international students; however, after graduation, they don’t have a support system anymore and they start having problems that they need to handle by themselves. This includes tax problems, job opportunities, visa problems and so on.

 

Secondary Research 

According to the research within the previous 5 years, more than 1 million immigrants come to USA every year and the 10 most common problems they are facing are:

  1. Language barriers

  2. Employment opportunities

  3. Housing

  4. Access to local services (health care, legal advice and access to mental health or social services)

  5. Transportation issues

  6. Cultural differences

  7. Raising children

  8. Prejudice

  9. Isolation

  10. The weather

Secondary Research 

According to the research within the previous 5 years, more than 1 million immigrants come to USA every year and the 10 most common problems they are facing are:

  1. Language barriers

  2. Employment opportunities

  3. Housing

  4. Access to local services (health care, legal advice and access to mental health or social services)

  5. Transportation issues

  6. Cultural differences

  7. Raising children

  8. Prejudice

  9. Isolation

  10. The weather

Secondary Research 

According to the research within the previous 5 years, more than 1 million immigrants come to USA every year and the 10 most common problems they are facing are:

  1. Language barriers

  2. Employment opportunities

  3. Housing

  4. Access to local services (health care, legal advice and access to mental health or social services)

  5. Transportation issues

  6. Cultural differences

  7. Raising children

  8. Prejudice

  9. Isolation

  10. The weather

Research was done with the aim of narrowing down the pain points of immigrants

Affinity Map​

Affinity map helped categorize and make sense of the data that came from the user interviews. At first all the sticky notes felt intimidating, but the more sticky notes were grouped the easier it got, and at the end the trends were clearly seen. These trends helped shape the first ideas for AwaytoHelp and clarified which problems needed to be focused on to help immigrants.
 

Organized with categories, color based on interviewee

  • Problems

  • Solutions

  • Websites and Apps Used

  • Likes and Dislikes for the Websites and Apps Used

How to make sense of all the information that came from 6 user interviews?

Early Brainstorming 


When the brainstorming started we wanted to give the perfect solution to all users, but we knew we needed to focus on the persona. We constantly reminded ourselves of “Ali”.
According to the primary research, immigrants look out for support on web applications. Therefore, AwaytoHelp has been decided to be designed as a responsive web application instead of a mobile app.

 

Ideas that were informed by research

  • Credibility: Experts in forums (lawyers, insurance professionals, healthcare professionals etc)

  • Professional Help: Contact option for experts (If the reply in forum not enough, individual contact is possible)

  • Community and Sample Size: Forums where people can share and rate posts, sort posts accordingly

  • Terminology: Glossary for foreigners (Most used terms that immigrants might not be familiar with)

  • Need for Information: Informative pages for most common problem areas (healthcare, finance, visa and gc requirements, employment opportunities and driver’s license)

  • Timeline Tracking: Information about other people’s visa and green card timeline

Findings from Guerilla Usability Tests

  • Users got confused with some of the word choices. Words that were confusing or not intuitive: Status, Experience, Terms & Definition, Visa Tracker, Share Tracker

  • User pointed out a missing button for sharing tracker functionality

  • User got confused with a form field label for tracker creation

  • Overall, there weren’t any major workflow roadblocks. All participants completed the tasks successfully.

Design Solutions ​

  • Word “Status” was changed to “User Type(User or Expert)”

  • Word “Experiences” was changed to “Forum”

  • Label “Share Tracker” was changed to “Create Tracker”

  • Word “Terms and Definitions” was changed to “Terms Dictionary”

  • Label for “Post Your Experience” was changed to “Ask/Share”

  • Create Tracker button was added

  • Added more explanation on Visa Tracker section

  • Added tooltips for form fields

Wireframes 


After analyzing the results from Guerilla usability tests, low-fidelity wireframes began. Low-fidelity versions helped focus on core design decisions before diving into details. It provided the structure for future details.

 

Wireflows

 

Wireflows were used to show interactions of both static and dynamic screens of AwaytoHelp. These wireflows simplified the workflow as well as helped ideate screen designs.

What does the user want to see ?

The user wants a website that is clean, simple, well-organized and has enough contrast. AwaytoHelp aimed for a simple, clean, organized and modern look. Since it’s a content heavy website, and immigrant life is already complex, it was very important for users to find the information easily. In each iteration, AwaytoHelp became more organized and more complied with UI design principles.

Accessible Colors 


Accessibility audit: When working on UI design, accessibility guidelines were applied to make AwaytoHelp be accessed by anyone regardless of their functional limitations. For accessibility purposes, accessibility audit has been conducted before finalizing the UI design decisions.

Blue tones are chosen, to make AwaytoHelp look trustworthy, credible, informative, communicative.
Maroon is chosen, to let people feel that this website is helpful, caring, sharing, facilitative.

Imagery

The Statue of Liberty symbolizes freedom and the USA itself, hence it was chosen as the only image of AwaytoHelp.

Typeface

Advent Pro was chosen for the logo: Advent Pro was chosen to convey simplicity and minimalism, it utilizes some of the sans-serif characteristics with a modern look. It is important to set AwaytoHelp different from outdated websites with outdated information and give the sense to the user that the application is up to date.

SF Pro Text was chosen for the copy: SF Pro Text is the system typeface in iOS, macOS and it was very important for AwaytoHelp’s content to look familiar, clear and consistent. Immigrants already feel out of place and when they are looking for help, it is crucial for them to feel the familiarity. Being an information heavy web application AwaytoHelp needed a clear and consistent typeface like SF Pro Text to accomplish this goal.

Other Design Choices

Rounded corners: Our brains think sharp objects are harmful, since the human brain applies this to everything it experiences; rounded corners look approachable. AwaytoHelp uses rounded corners to make users feel safe and give a friendly message.

Secondary Research 

According to the research within the previous 5 years, more than 1 million immigrants come to USA every year and the 10 most common problems they are facing are:

  1. Language barriers

  2. Employment opportunities

  3. Housing

  4. Access to local services (health care, legal advice and access to mental health or social services)

  5. Transportation issues

  6. Cultural differences

  7. Raising children

  8. Prejudice

  9. Isolation

  10. The weather

Secondary Research 

According to the research within the previous 5 years, more than 1 million immigrants come to USA every year and the 10 most common problems they are facing are:

  1. Language barriers

  2. Employment opportunities

  3. Housing

  4. Access to local services (health care, legal advice and access to mental health or social services)

  5. Transportation issues

  6. Cultural differences

  7. Raising children

  8. Prejudice

  9. Isolation

  10. The weather

Glassmorphism and Gradient: AwaytoHelp aims to make the user feel safe so they think the application is reliable. This was done incorporating glassmorphism trend to transmit the feeling of transparency by also giving AwaytoHelp a clean and contemporary look. Gradients on the other hand, complements glassmorphism and adds to design. With the help of these trends AwaytoHelp became a more eye-catching and memorable web application, a web application that users would like to come back and continue interacting with.

High Fidelity Mockups

After all the hard work, it was time to put everything together - high fidelity mockups were created. The style guide and brand platform was incorporated to bring AwaytoHelp to life. However, this does not mean the work was done. AwaytoHelp’s mockups went through a substantial amount of testing and iterations with the help of detailed user feedback.

Prototype

After receiving and integrating plenty of valuable feedback and iterating accordingly, the high fidelity mockups were turned into a prototype on Invision to run the first usability test. After coming with a usability test plan and an interview script, a moderated usability test was run with 5 immigrants. This first usability test helped identify aspects of AwaytoHelp that could be improved and ensure that it meets the needs of users.

THE SYNTHESIS

INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE

REVISED HMW STATEMENT AFTER RESEARCH

" How might we help immigrants gain awareness on Visa/Green Card topics? "

STYLING

WHAT I LEARNED

DESIGN

THE RESEARCH

AwaytoHelp is created as a way to help immigrants in USA.

Problem: More than 1 million immigrants come to the USA every year. They face many barriers that make it difficult for them to adapt such as doing taxes, healthcare, finance, etc. Most immigrants wait for their visa or green card to be able to work, drive or simply live in the USA leading to adaptation issues and a stressful transition.

 

Role: I participated in every stage of the design thinking methodology and worked on research, ideation, sketching, wireframing, styling, prototyping and testing to create AwaytoHelp.

Team: Asel Yasacan (Solo)

Duration: 6 months

Tools: Figma, Miro, Invision, Zoom

INITIAL HMW STATEMENT

" How might we make an immigrant’s transition to life in the USA easier? "

PROCESS

Discover & Define

1

  • Screener Survey

  • User Interviews

  • Secondary Research

&

  • Persona

  • Empathy Map

Ideate

2

  • Affinity Map

  • User Flows

  • Wireflows

  • Brainstorming

  • Information Architecture

  • Sketches

Prototype

3

  • Paper Prototype

  • Wireframes

  • High Fidelity Mockups

  • High Fidelity Prototype

Test

4

  • 2 rounds of Moderated Remote Usability Tests

Research Methods

Secondary Research

Revealed 10 most common problems immigrants face.

Screener Survey

17 survey participants.

User Interviews

6 out of 17 were eligible for user interviews.

Healthcare

People get confused with healthcare terminology and they don’t have enough knowledge, hence there is a need for healthcare information.

Visa Knowledge

The need for knowledge on visa requirements, visa related issues, what to do on a certain visa and what not to do.

Credibility, Validation and Sample Size

The need for credibility and validity of posts in forums. Is a post trustable or not? If the sample size is more than the trust increases.

Legal Issues and Lawyers

The need for legal advice, and the example websites for it.

Official Websites and Forums

The websites and apps used to get information regarding immigrants problems.

Close Contact

The necessity of close contact to solve problems.

Top Themes From Affinity Map

FINDINGS AND SOLUTIONS FROM FIRST ROUND OF USABILITY TESTS

FINDINGS AND SOLUTIONS FROM SECOND ROUND OF USABILITY TESTS

After incorporating the solutions from the first usability test, second prototype was created on Figma to run the second usability test.

LOTS OF ITERATIONS AND TESTING

After all the hard work, it was time to put everything together - high fidelity mockups were created. The style guide and brand platform was incorporated to bring AwaytoHelp to life. However, this does not mean the work was done. AwaytoHelp’s mockups went through a substantial amount of testing and iterations with the help of detailed user feedback.

Persona to represent the findings of a larger group

Why is the persona created: According to all the research data gathered, it was decided to create a persona to represent the findings of a larger group. This way the persona would remind of who the designing is for through all the design stages.

How did having a persona help: Whenever there was a doubt, we asked ourselves “ Is this what Ali needed?” , “ Would he be happy with this feature?”

Affinity Map​

Affinity map helped categorize and make sense of the data that came from the user interviews. The trends that came from Affinity Map helped shape the first ideas for AwaytoHelp and clarified which problems needed to be focused on to help immigrants.

Organized with categories, color based on interviewee

  • Problems

  • Solutions

  • Websites and Apps Used

  • Likes and Dislikes for the Websites and Apps Used

What do immigrants say?

There should be credible or experienced people who can answer fast in platforms.

T.V

The idea of being able to see other people's visa processes is great.

J.H

You don't listen to one person in forums, sample size matters.

M.Q

Talking to people that is going through the same visa processes is relieving and you learn from them.

Y.C

Interacting with people that goes through same visa processes helps me.

A.G

INSIGHTS FROM RESEARCH

Basic Necessities

Immigrants who have been here less than 5 years, have basic necessities problems like healthcare, finance, visa requirements, employment opportunities and driver’s license.

Most immigrants don't see loneliness as a big problem

The problems of cultural differences and loneliness was thought to be one of the most common problems, but it turned out most participants did not see this as a big problem.

Credibility and Validation

Platforms where people share their experiences do not provide credible answers and leave immigrants looking for information in doubt. Credibility and validation is very important when it comes to forum-like websites.

Community 

Platforms where people share their experiences, gives courage to immigrants by making them see other people going through the same challenges.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and User Flows


MVP is a product with a simplest core features that delivers value to the customer. MVP AwaytoHelp is a responsive web application where users can share their experiences and get help, help others and look up timelines of other people that is waiting for their visa or green card.


How was the MVP decided: User interviews, research data and the personas helped to decide the MVP. From the MVP we have identified 3 red routes:
 

  • Share experience, ask question in forum

  • Reply to an experience or question in forum

  • Share timeline in visa and greencard timelines​

Testing as early as possible is crucial.

We started with sketches: Sketching allowed us to find solutions quickly without diving too much in details and helped set the base of our wireframes.

Guerilla Usability Tests: Before switching to wireframes, the paper prototype test was done with 5 immigrants. Testing as early as possible, helped identify and fix problems before starting the wireframes. Analyzing the findings resulted in tweaking some of the design features.

IDEATION