HACK THE NU FIRST PLACE
Volunteerism allows for individuals to connect with and contribute to their communities. How can we encourage young people to seek out opportunities to volunteer?
At Hack the NU 2019, my team created an experience specifically aimed at young people to encourage meaningful engagement with community initiatives.
How do we create new and innovative opportunities for our youth to roll up their sleeves and get involved in our communities?
A mobile app integrated with the Google Assistant that would allow young people to locate and sign up for community initiatives, prioritizing convenience and encouraging involvement through social connection.
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Before brainstorming ideas, we needed to think about why our challenge existed in the first place—what problems stand in the way of young people wanting to get involved with volunteering?
THE BEAST IN QUESTION
The current process to find volunteer opportunities in the Halton area, as shown above, is confusing and hard to navigate.
We performed an analysis of the process, identifying problems that included: too many long drop-down menus, an excessive amount of esoteric options, an inability to filter results using more general guidelines, a disorganized interface, confusing calls to action, and overall poor visual design that exacerbated the existing issues.
This creates a clumsy, undesirable experience that causes the user to simply give up on their search, deciding it not worth the trouble. These visual and experiential problems were imperative to keep in mind when designing our solution.
The main problems we identified were:
In today’s fast-moving society, people are unlikely to feel inclined to spend a lot of time searching for the perfect initiative—young people want to quickly find and sign up for suitable events.
Easy Access -
Convenience goes hand-in-hand with the ability to easily access event details, schedules, and other information, which is important for the busy lifestyles of many young people today.
Social Incentive -
Many young people act on incentive and social reward. While we wanted to avoid creating a social network, social aspects would incentivize users to volunteer.
UNDERSTANDING THE USER
Despite the short time-frame, we knew that user research is critical to creating a useful product.
We spoke to friends that fit within our main demographic—young people who were interested in volunteering, but did not. Through these conversations, we aimed to identify why they were not engaging in volunteerism and community initiatives. The most commonly cited reasons were lack of time, inability to find opportunities, and excessive registration processes.
In accordance with the problems and pain points we identified, we decided to implement Actions on the Google Assistant, allowing users to easily search, sign up for, and schedule volunteer events on the fly.
For the companion app, we included features such as a personal network to tap into social incentive, the ability to search for and filter opportunities, a schedule of events the user has registered for to help with time management, a chat system to clarify any event questions, and the ability to sign up for events to streamline registration.
LET'S PLAN IT OUT
Due to the short time-frame and in an effort to create a sleek and useful product, we needed to be selective about the features we would include. Our main goal was to streamline the process of finding and signing up for volunteer events as much as possible, so we placed our focus on these specific areas.
KEY FEATURES & SCREENS
SIGN-UP - SIMPLE, STRAIGHT-FORWARD, AND STREAMLINED
Instead of long, tedious sign-up forms, registering for events through the GenNet app is simple, taking only the most pertinent information.
This makes the user more confident and secure in sharing their information, and the convenient registration process increases a user’s overall inclination to volunteer.
CHAT - INSTANTLY CONNECT
WITH EVENT ORGANIZERS
The built-in chat feature allows the user to instantly connect with event organizers within the app. The interface allows the user to easily connect faces to names to events, reducing any confusion.
This makes communication easily accessible and stress-free, allowing volunteers to quickly receive and clarify event details.
PROFILE - SHOW OFF YOUR COMMITMENT TO DOING GOOD
The profile page is optimized to simultaneously give the user the ability to keep track of their favourite initiatives and show off the number of events and hours they’ve racked up volunteering.
These considerations create a distinct incentive for the user to continue to search for events and increase the number of hours they’ve contributed.
Integrating the Google Assistant was an important part of optimizing the aspect of convenience in our solution. This allows users to sign up for events on the fly, without needing to sit down and scroll through pages of events.
The voice app suggests events based on proximity and availability, and allows the user to easily sign up for events with just a couple of voice commands. The event is then, in theory, sent directly to the app so the user can view their schedule and clarify further details.
The amazing developers on our team prototyped the voice interactions as seen and heard in the video!
Hack the NU was my very first hackathon, and this was also my first time working with other designers and developers. It was a completely new experience for me, and I am so grateful to my incredible team members, the judges, and everyone at the event for being so supportive.
My team (of all women, btw!) took first place in the entire hackathon. Our integration of the Google Assistant and polished prototype helped us stand out, but I also believe that our genuine passion for volunteerism and the challenge made all the difference.
THE EXCITING FUTURE
Going forward, I’d love to build upon this project. The visual design can definitely be improved upon and the interactions could be further refined. I’m also curious about experimenting with typography and different visual styles.
After sharing this project with a product owner when I was at Hack Western 6, I received the opportunity to help design a real volunteer platform. This project is currently underway, and I have very high hopes for it.
I am frankly shocked and extremely grateful for how well-received this project was, and I feel that I have grown immensely as a designer from this whole experience. Volunteerism is very close to my heart, and I am so excited and lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to pursue something I am genuinely passionate about while continuing to grow my skills.