Equal Jobs Agency
An end-to-end product design for a mobile application that connects formerly incarcerated individuals to job opportunities.
Student Concept Project
Role: UX Researcher, UX and UI Designer
Case Study Focus: Product Development, Research
Build an end-to-end job finder application for formerly incarcerated individual by first defining the problem space, then using the design thinking process to provide possible solutions.
Case Study Takeaways
My goal for this presentation is to show my approach for:
- user research
- product development.
Understanding the mental model of formerly incarcerated job seekers
Before I start building a job finder mobile application, I first need to learn about the problem space so I conducted market research to learn about what is currently available to formerly incarcerated individuals.
For my market research, I focused on job finder applications (direct competitors) and in-person programs (indirect competitors) that specifically target formerly incarcerated individuals and offer career counseling.
Full Research Findings
- All of the direct competitors are online platforms that helps job seekers find jobs independently. The platforms are easy to scale, and covers a wide target audience.
- All of the indirect competitors are job training and counseling programs that specifically assist formerly incarcerated individuals in-person. The platforms are location-based, target-focused, harder to scale, and conducted in-person.
- The user experience of finding a job for the indirect competitors usually consist of a goal plan and a time frame with in-person assistance.
- The user experience of finding a job for the direct competitors includes no in-person assistance and an uncertain time frame.
From my competitive research, it was important to create an online product that borrows the in-person components of the indirect competitors but is still scalable like my direct competitors in order to serve more users.
To deliver a product that will successfully connect formerly incarcerated individuals to employers that want to hire, it was important to create research goals to learn more about the problem space and the job search experiences of the user.
Each interview was done remotely via Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom.Full Research Findings
- Ideally, I would gather primary user research from former inmates and job employers but this was difficult. Instead, I gathered my research from a combination of interviews from literature and from my network.
- Some of the challenges that returning citizens face include: lack of work experience, access to affordable childcare, time commitment to mandatory treatment groups for some, and employers who view criminal records with distrust.
- Mentorship is associated with better job retention.
- The most accessible industries are social services, restaurants, and construction.
- In Literature 1, majority of employers were unwilling to hire individuals with a criminal history. Those that do, like Arturo, do it for philanthropy.
- Social networks are important where local residents have familiarity with the area and access to acquaintances and old employers.
Determining the personality of the application
Just like how instagram, twitter, and Facebook have their own personality, the aim for the Equal Jobs Agency app is to embody a nonjudgemental mentor that would cheer on the user during the job search, to remember the users' job search goals, and to provide resources to the user. In order to accomplish this, I created a persona, customer journey map, and a user flow.
Two versions of Aspirant Adam to reflect accurate statistics
From my user research, I created the persona, Aspirant Adam. For this persona, it was important to identify his goals and frustrations that directly and indirectly affects his job search motivations and experience.
- It was also important to include an assessment of his tech knowledge since the mobile application may be tech heavy.
- Second version represents accurate statistics of education and marriage
Anticipating how to help Adam during his job hunt timeline
I created a customer journey map to brainstorm how the app will help Adam prioritize his goals, give resource suggestions, and provide assistance during different stages of Adam looking for a job.
Customer Journey Map:
- This shows how Adam will use the application upon release from prison, during the job search phase, and after interviews.
- I referred back to the research to prioritize the solutions: leveraging network and mentorship.
User flow for creating a goal plan quiz and share on social media
Based on the research, many returning citizen job seekers use in-person programs and their networks to secure a job. The user flow takes the job speaker to fill out a goal plan quiz which aims to serve as the in-person element of traditional programs by customizing and providing guidance. Then, the user can share on social media to get any job leads and anonymous donation support from their friends and family.
- It was important to allow the user to exit out of the job plan quiz during any question.
- User should be able to start exploring content without completing the job plan quiz in the beginning.
Determining the best layout and design patterns
Jumping off the user flow that I created earlier, next I found the best layout and design patterns for the task flow of Adam completing his job plan quiz in order to personalize his profile.
Mid-fi Wireframes for the Job Plan Quiz
I referred back to the research to prioritize the solutions: leveraging network and mentorship. Here I iterated the user flow for Adam to take the job quiz and eventually share on social media to share any job leads and donation gifts.
- I borrowed design patterns from Linkedin, Indeed, Monster, and quiz patterns from fitness tests
- It was important that the test questions were at the 5th grade reading level.
Conveying Equal Job Agency's personality through visuals
Next in the process, I defined the personality and brand of Equal Jobs Agency. I accomplished this by choosing vibrant colors, a welcoming font, and colorful illustrations -- while also considering accessibility for visual and technology literacy.
- Although the red gives a nice energetic color, the cons of using red as a CTA were acknowledged. I used an additional checkmark to increase accessibility.
- For my button designs, I use shadows and checkmarks to indicate when an answer was chosen to increase accessibility.
Preparing the prototypes for user testing
High-Fi Wireframes for the Usability Test
It was important to prepare high fidelity wireframes for the usability test since I didn't have a lot of interview participants with an incarceration background to validate the copy write of the mobile application. Thus, the high-fidelity wireframes will test the visual accessibility and navigation of the application.
High-fidelity wireframes for completing the job plan quiz
Determining if the designs are on the right track
Next, I used the software Maze to conduct the usability test. The test participants include: 1 formerly incarcerated individuals and 4 participants who were in the same age group and were the first in their family to graduate from college.
- The former inmate participant gave feedback on the copy write regarding information about work release, probation curfews, and treatment groups.
- 3/5 test takers were confused about the work release question. I will add a "More Information" Icon. I edited the future aspiration question and made more answers applicable to the test taker.
- 2/5 test takers weren't able to find an answer applicable to the future aspiration question. I will add more application answers to this question.
- 1/5 test taker was a Spanish speaker and he completed the test with an intermediate english reading level. He had difficulty a few questions.
Job Search Results:
Job Plan Quiz:
Job Plan Quiz:
Reflections and Next Steps
Below is the final prototype with the responsive design for mobile. I was inspired to create this project because I had family members and friends' family members who had a difficult time finding a job with a criminal history background.
- I enjoyed interviewing the users for this project. On one end, I interviewed a former inmate who wanted to continue his education; he gave me a lot of insights on how to improve the application. I also interviewed a CEO of a surf clothing company based in Argentina who recruits mostly formerly incarcerated individuals.
- I wish I had more user interviews from the key user instead of relying on secondary research.
- I noticed a research error in my part. I recruited for test participants who were the first in their family to graduate from college which taints the data because they may have higher technology and reading literacy.
- If I had the resource, I would like to do more service design iterations of this project that includes more feedback from the key users. For instance, access to cell phones may be difficult in the first place in order to get this application.