Design an app that would build on existing products, making a home for those who wanted to get and stay involved in political and community organizing.
It can be overwhelming to navigate information and opportunities to get involved on your own. Peer recommendations and a centralized place for information are important for motivating action.
A friendly and welcoming app experience that allows people to get involved in causes they care about on their own and with friends. Prototype available here.
UX/UI Design, Branding
In an era where trust in institutions, politicians and government is at an all-time low, people still tend to trust information they get from their peers, friends and family.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Democrats have scrambled to get ahead when it came to new ways of organizing and increasing voter turnout. “Relational organizing”, reaching out to people in your personal network rather than strangers, has emerged as a promising strategy. Some preliminary studies have shown that outreach from a personal connection is more effective than outreach from a stranger. Relational organizing is particularly effective in increasing engagement among historically marginalized groups. Relational organizing has always been around but the increase in technological tools has helped campaigns get more serious about the strategy.
I am deeply interested in politics and building a more just world, so I wanted to undertake this project to learn about this landscape of political organizing as well as how design can serve as a tool for this work.
I knew there were already some apps that focused on relational organizing so I wanted to take a deep dive into the existing landscape, research on relational organizing, as well as talking to users to understand how and why they got involved in causes they care about.
I conducted a landscape analysis on six apps related to relational organizing and outreach. Some are focused on individuals, while others cater to campaign teams and leadership. I downloaded them all to understand what features they offer and the user experience. The screenshots in order below are: Vote With Me, Outreach Circle, Team, Reach, OutVote and Vote Joe.
I read articles and reports on the effectiveness of relational organizing as a whole and the future of digital organizing. Higher Ground Labs is funding many of the companies developing the current relational organizing apps, so I zeroed in on their reports to understand the landscape.
I interviewed four people ages 24-35, with previous campaign volunteer or work experience. My user interviews were particularly important for this project because I wanted to get inside the head of someone who is interested in getting involved in campaigns, either enthusiastically or not. I interviewed four people and found fairly similar themes throughout. I created an affinity map to organize my user interview findings into themes.
I turned these themes into insights and opportunities in the form of “how might we” questions to guide my design going forward. Here is a sample of the most important insights and opportunities collected from my research.
People are motivated by different things to engage in political activism.
Mainly, they are motivated by invitations by friends or peers, strong feelings about the current political climate and/or a certain candidate. Invitations from people they know are the strongest motivator.
People also are encouraged to get involved based on comfort with the options available (such as texting vs. door knocking).
How might we capitalize on what motivates people to get involved?
How might we use peer networks to encourage involvement?
How might we present varied options for involvement so people can choose what they feel comfortable with?
It is easier for people to stay engaged when it is simple for them to plug in.
Being able to participate even if you only have a short amount of time lowers the barrier to entry and keeps people coming back.
How might we keep processes simple to minimize the time people have to spend on anything administrative?
How might we structure actions so people can choose what to participate in?
How might we share how much time an action is expected to take?
It is important for people to tailor messages to those they are reaching out to.
Tailoring/personalization can come in the form of the way the message is phrased, the specific ask, or easing certain fears.
There is a lot of time and energy that goes into researching and putting together content, and tailoring the messages to different recipients.
How might we allow for tailoring messages to different recipients?
How might we reduce the time it takes for people to reach out to their friends and family?
How might we provide information to users so that it reduces the burden of research they have to do?
Based on my user interviews, I knew I wanted my app to focus on individual users, especially those that might be a little shy about dipping their toes into organizing.
OutVote and Vote Joe (both designed by OutVote) are the most robust apps for individuals and had many of the features that I identified from my user interviews. I focused on these two as a model for my future app. But, based on what I found in my user interviews, I wanted to approach the app slightly differently.
I developed a feature list in the form of a built-out site map to guide my process moving forward. I looked back at my “how might we” statements and turned those directly into features of my app.
One of the main features I wanted to add was a robust onboarding process so that users would know exactly what the purpose of the app was, what they could do with it and why we would be collecting certain information. None of the other apps that I researched had onboarding processes that felt welcoming enough to me.
From my interviews, it was clear that people were comfortable with different kinds of tasks and wanted to find ways to stay involved. So, another feature I wanted to add was a robust tagging and filtering system so people could find and save actions that worked for them.
I mapped out the user flow based on my sitemap to see how a user might navigate around the app. This was an iterative process to figure out all the connections between the different sections of the app.
I did end up changing this structure based on my usability testing, which I discuss below, but here you can see my process as I turned my user interviews and research into the user flow and then wireframes.
Once I made the user flow, I created my wireframes based on this journey throughout the app.
Because of time constraints, I wasn’t able to test my wireframes and focused on testing once I had my full UI design. However, in future projects, I would make sure to test my wires to identify any confusion or problems with features and UX before moving on to design.
Once I had my wireframes finalized, I moved on to branding for my new app. Although I didn’t have a client for this project, I wanted to create three branding and style options as if I were going to present to a client to give them a full range of options for the app. I created the following three directions:
Option 1 was inspired by activist movements that were started on campuses. I wanted to focus on people and humanize the experience of doing activism. I learned in the interviews that people don’t want to feel alone in this work, and the photographs are meant to create a community feeling.
I designed Option 2 in the style of vintage activism and voting posters. The primary and additional accent colors bring in a rainbow aspect for community, welcoming, and pride, while still being bold and energetic. The headline typeface is bold and action-oriented, which is what I wanted people to feel when using the app. The style also brings a vintage poster feel to compliment the colors. The imagery and iconography were chosen to convey a feeling of community and friendliness, while also motivating action.
Option 3 was created with building blocks in mind. I wanted people to feel as though they were building something beautiful together out of smaller pieces. The bright primary colors evoke building block toys while also being energetic and fun.
I chose option 2 as the most successful direction of the three and went ahead with that design for the rest of the app. I felt as though the friendly illustrations and the vintage activism vibe really set it apart from the other two options.
I also designed a logo for the app, which would primarily be used as the app icon for the Apple store. I wanted the icon to evoke the energetic and friendly vibe of the app. I played around with various iterations of app icons and eventually landed on a modified version of one of the illustrations I used for the rest of the app.
After completing my designed screens, I conducted remote usability testing over Zoom. I interviewed four people and gave them each six tasks to complete that corresponded to the onboarding and the five navigation tabs.
From the testing, it was clear that I needed to clarify a few aspects of the design. The main problem users had when using the app was not understanding the icon in the bottom navigation bar that corresponded to “Contacts”. They weren’t familiar with the icon I used and, understandably, wanted to click on the Messages icon instead.
I considered the flows of the app and realized that there was not a great need for users to access their contacts from the nav bar. They will most likely find them through an action that requires them to send a message to friends (accessed through the Home tab) or to follow up on messages they’ve already sent (accessed through the Messages tab).
I updated the design to have a four tab navigation bar instead and put the contacts sync feature under the profile. A user would also be prompted to sync their contacts the first time they tried to do an action that required texting friends.
The final mobile prototype for this project is available here.
This project was such a great opportunity to learn about digital organizing and activism. I found the initial user interviews especially valuable to understand not just potential users for this project, but the pain points and joys of doing digital activism. I can take this knowledge forward with me as I hopefully work on more projects in this space in the future.
For future iterations of this app, I would incorporate a more robust social aspect to the app. After seeing how users interact with the app after it was released, I would build out a feature based on community and teams. The team portion of the apps I saw in my landscape analysis focused solely on combining stats together, rather than much group activity. I think the existing apps in this space could use a way for people to connect with other users and create group activity.
My hope for this space is that more people are made aware of the options for activism. The users I spoke with thought the app I developed was a very good idea, without knowing that there are similar products that already exist. I hope that this technology spreads and more people can get and stay involved.