Service Design/UX Research: Free Geek
Service Design/UX Research: Free Geek
Free Geek (Service/UX Research)
conduct iterative design to assist a non-profit organization in improving a focused area within their group. use related design methods for interaction designers such as ethnographic research, prototyping, and workshops.
Project Type: School project
Duration: 13 weeks, in a team of 3 (Fall 2018)
Team: Erin Jang, Mandy Cheung, Lucas Fung
My Role: Ethnographic research, content writer, preliminary wireframes and designs for presentations and final result
Tools: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop
Contrary to previous offerings of this course, our class was to work with and assist a local non-profit organization over thirteen weeks for a design-oriented improvement. This involved ethnographic research, observations, surveys, workshops, and participatory prototyping to pinpoint a major area of improvement within their organization. Weekly presentations for the class included covering organization members’ and customers’ experience throughout their time in the organization (for example, personas, journey maps, and preliminary concept ideas) and using integral points to move forwards with the organization.
Understanding Free Geek: Ethnographic Research and Surveys
After finding this organization, my team and I had to hit the ground running in understanding who they were, what they do, and what they stand for. Over the first six weeks, we completed ethnographic research to understand their workers, customers, and volunteers through personas, journey/experience mapping, surveys, and one-on-one meetings with board members and coordinators.
Each time after gaining new research, my team and I would gather back together and discuss common themes that were arising among the organization as a whole or within different departments. This led us to our first design focus, which eventually changed multiple times later on in our research due to our iterative design.
iterative design & Concept creation
Ideation Through Refined Design Focus
A key element that moved us forwards past the first six weeks of research was conducting a participatory workshop with Free Geek’s volunteer coordinators. Over two workshops, I, along with members of my team on separate days, prompted and conducted this workshop to identify the organization’s own personal understanding of their volunteers and what they think they value from Free Geek. These workshops also served as idea generation for the final concept, which drove us forward to consider what was plausible for a short-term goal that could also slowly be adjusted and implemented to fit long term goals. After these workshops we prepared two design concepts for Free Geek’s critique and went back to the drawing board after receiving feedback on plausibility and alignment with their goals.
Wireframing and Paper Prototyping
Before our final concept had materialized, we wanted to make sure that Free Geek understood our motivations for our final concept and the reasons behind making it. To help them understand, we created a paper prototype from iterated wireframes, which went through and was edited by all members of the team before being printed. This paper prototype helped us move forward in what makes sense for our end user and what their natural understanding of the concept was, rather than us as a third-party imposing our ideas onto them. This was an integral portion of our research as we had difficulty categorizing skills of volunteers and showing progress.
Final Concept and Result
The final result of our time at Free Geek was a web portal that aligned with our research and needs of two integral portions of the organization: staff (specifically volunteer coordinators) and volunteers.
Through this portal, volunteers and organization staff would be able to view volunteer profiles, which included schedules, and more importantly, view personal goals and what volunteer stations were available and work towards it by viewing their own technical and soft skills. For the staff, they would be able to view all the volunteers’ progress and add these skills to their profile as well as leave notes/comments for the rest of the team to view.
Though the portal has not been actually built yet, we passed this off to the organization along with our research to help them work towards their short/long-term goals and to increase the transparency between all those involved within Free Geek.
Challenges and Solutions
There are quite a few limits that a third-party cannot touch or are very tricky to navigate around such as funding and time usage of workers within non-profits. However, as a team and with the organization we addressed these problems and found a way around tricky factors to arrive at a synthesized conclusion and design focus.
It was difficult to understand an organization’s 15+ year history and their entire workflow in less than ten weeks. This required weekly research visits and sometimes more, however, we were determined and understood it was necessary to talk to all parts of the organization – members, customers, and volunteers to hear their side.
This project was one of my first experiences with service design and ethnographic research in design. It really helped me understand the importance of designing for your end users and how important well-designed organizations can strive towards their short and long-term goals. Also, iterative design helps put a new spin on things and allows you to step back amongst what you have been looking at too closely sometimes, and I understand why it works so well now.
It was truly a great experience to understand the inner workings of a non-profit organization that does so much for their community and strives to do more despite all the work they already do. Volunteers are there on their own time, and many of their workers commit extra time on top of their own work time to help the organization out. Working with Free Geek was quite inspiring as they are a bias-free organization that accepts and helps people from all walks of life in education, outreach, and ethical recycling.