Background

Project Brief · Business Goal

Currently there are no mobile services that facilitate the job search process for formerly incarcerated individuals, even though 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year.

Project Brief
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.

Business and Philanthropic Goal
Help employers expand their talent pool and help connect a specific audience of job seekers to job opportunities. Target foundations with a focus on social justice issues.

Problem Statement

Market Research · User Interviews · Persona

How can we help returning citizens find jobs?

1. Understand

Before I start building a job finder mobile application, I first need to learn about the problem space so I conducted a market research to learn about what is currently available to formerly incarcerated individuals.

Market Research
For my market research, I focused on job finder applications (direct competitors) and in-person programs (indirect competitors) that specifically targets formerly incarcerated individuals and offers career counseling.

Direct Competitors:

Indirect Competitors:

Full Research Findings

Findings:

  • All of the direct competitors are online platforms that helps job seekers find jobs independently. The platform is easy to scale, and covers a wide target audience.
  • All of the indirect competitors were job training and counseling programs that specifically assists 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 in-person components of the indirect competitors but is still scalable like my direct competitors in order to serve more users.

Customer Interviews
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 more about the problem space and the experiences of the user.

Each interview was done remotely via Skype, WhatsApp, and Zoom.

Full Research Findings

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.
"It took me me a while to find a job, I was told that I could not work in fast food so I went to [names retail store] and I got the job but then they rejected me because of my [violent] charge. My second offer I had to reject because of the [treatment] groups I had to take at night." Literature 1
“I did have a couple of people who helped me out with my resume, cover letter, and all of that stuff, but there's no where to get there if you're not part of a college or that does reentry. They not gonna show you that, you're not gonna have that information.” Gordon, Former Inmate

Learnings and Summary:

  • My market research guided me to think about an in-person component to incorporate to the job finder application.
  • Then from my user research, I was able to find that mentorship and leveraging social networks could fulfill that in-person component.

Defining the UX Strategy

Persona · Customer Journey Map · Product Roadmap · User Flow · Sitemap

How to design a product that embodies a nonjudgemental mentor that would cheer on the user during his job hunt, to remember the user's job search goals, and to provide resources to the user?

2. Define

After understanding the market and the potential users, I next focus on building out the application with the goal of creating experiences where the app acts as a helpful older sibling or a nonjudgmental mentor- In order to accomplish this, I created a persona, customer journey map, product roadmap, user flow, and sitemap.

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.

As I created my design iterations later on, it was important to conduct research when necessary again. For example when creating the first version of my persona, I didn't looked into statistics of education and marriage status, which directly and indirectly affects the job search process. Thus, I did more research to create a more accurate version 2 of Adam.

Anticipating how to help Adam during his job hunt timeline
I created a customer journey map to map out how the app will help Adam prioritize his goals, give resource suggestions, and facilitate networking support through the mentorship and the social media share alongside Adam's timeline of applying to jobs.

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.
  • This also allowed me to see what features to prioritize immediately and what can be added in the future.
  • During Adam's job hunt timeline, the goal is for the app to be helpful and encouraging

Prioritizing features for the launch
From my research, I learned that current assistances in the reentry space are underfunded and understaffed. Additionally, returning citizens have many needs and barriers. Because I can't fulfill all of the needs at once, I created a product roadmap to prioritize features that can be accomplished for now, features to develop later, and more complex services for the future.

Product Roadmap:

  • Features to prioritize now are the goal plan, resume generator, job filter, and mentorship airing
  • From a business stand point, it was important to find opportunities in the digital space that can scale the software and serve more individuals
  • Possible challenges include the high learning technology curve and mentorship recruitment.

Task flow for creating a goal plan quiz
I took one feature from the product roadmap to focus on, which was the goal plan quiz, for my task flow. The goal plan quiz is important because it serves as the in-person element of traditional programs that formerly incarcerated individuals depend on. Thus, I created this task flow which becomes the skeleton for my wireframes later.

User Flow:

  • 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.
  • The goal plan quiz also allows the user to anticipate features of the app, such as the mentorship pairing and social media share

Simple bottom navigation menu for easier navigation
I created a sitemap to get a better sense of how to group relevant pages together. The bottom navigation menu was simplified to 2 pages in order to make navigation easy for Adam, especially if technology literacy may be an issue.

Sitemap:

  • Originally, the bottom navigation bar was a menu to 5 pages but was reduced to 2 pages after usability testing for easier navigation
  • Limiting the number of pages to navigate to allows the user to find what they need more efficiently.
  • Drafting the sitemap challenged me to think about how to make navigation easy for Adam, especially if technology literacy may be an issue.

Learnings and Summary:

  • From this primary and secondary research, I created the Persona Aspirant Adam who has just gotten out of prison and needs to find a job within two months to support his family.
  • After understanding the market and the potential users, I next focus on building out the application with the goal of creating experiences where the app acts as a helpful older sibling or a non-judgmental mentor.
  • In order to accomplish this, I created a CustomerJourney Map to anticipate how the app will cheer and provide resources during Adam's two month job hunt timeline.
  • I brainstormed what features to prioritize for the launch by creating a Product Roadmap. One of these features is a Job Plan quiz that assess Adam's goals and roadblocks, so I created a Task Flow for this feature.
  • While thinking about the information architecture, I created my Sitemap while considering the non-judgemental mentor personality of the app and the technology literacy as a possible challenge for Adam. Thus, I simplified the bottom navigation bottom menu to 2 pages for easier navigation.

Designing based on UX Strategy

Low Fidelity Wireframes · Mid-Fidelity Wireframes ·

What is the best layouts and design patterns that fits the app's helpful older sibling or non-judgemental mentor personality?

3. Iterations

Jumping off the task flow that I created earlier, next I find the best layout and design patterns for the task flow of Adam completing his of a job plan quiz in order to personalized his profile and start his account.

Low Fidelity Wireframes for the Job Plan Quiz
To guide the direction of my wireframes, I sketched the wireframes based on the task flow description. From there, I annotated on what design pattern to research for my mid-fidelity wireframes.

Low-Fidelity Wireframes and User Task: 

  • Annotations
  • [ 1 , 2] Find patterns of a sign-up page. Questionnaires similar to wedding planner or setting up a fitness goal
  • [ 3 ] I like the cards vs. list view from that Monster.
  • [ 4 ] The user can skip the job plan and start exploring content
  • [ 5 ] Possible on-boarding?
  • [ 6 ] Find patterns of social media share, similar to petitions like Change.org or GoFundMe

Mid-fi Wireframes for the Job Plan Quiz
After getting a better sense of the user flow, I had the framework of what pages to design. Here I iterated the user flow for Adam to take the job quiz and eventually share on social media.

Mid-fi Wireframes:

  • These pages include: the welcome page, the test questions, the job search page, the profile dashboard, and the social share page.
  • 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.

Learnings and Summary:

  • For the low-fidelity wireframes, I looked up job searching, job feed, and assessment test design patterns for the mobile phone.
  • For the mid-fidelity wireframes I had to consider the content and copywrite. During this process, I had to refer back to my research on the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals, while searching for survey questions best practices, and also considering to make sure the langauge is at the 5th grade level.

Defining the brand of Equal Jobs Agency

Logo Design · UI Kit

After I created the layout in grayscale, next I will brainstorm and finalize the personality of Equal Jobs Agency.

4. UI

Next in the process, I define the personality and brand of Equal Jobs Agency. It was important for the brand to embody human personalities of a helpful older sibling or a non-judgmental mentor through not only the terminology and clear interactions, but through the visuals.

Creating a logo that conveys Equal Jobs Agency
In order to embody human qualities, I focused on these following values: helpful, approachable, empathetic, and encouraging. I accomplished this by choosing vibrant colors, a welcoming font, and inclusive illustrations -- while also considering accessibility for visual and technology literacy.

UI Kit

  • Vibrant colors, welcoming font, and inclusive illustrations
  • I chose unique icons that displayed job search and a professional in a suit for an icon to add personality and distinction to the application.
  • For my button designs, I use shadows and checkmarks to indicate when an answer was chosen to increase accessibility.
  • Differentiated primary and secondary call-to-action items through text hierarchy

Learnings and Summary:

  • In the beginning, I aimed to make the terminology and interface interactions to embody a considerate human being similar to a helpful older sibling or a nonjudgemental mentor that would cheer on the user during his job hunt, to remember the users' goals, and to provide resources to the user.
  • Thus, for my UI kit was important to deliver these human qualities further through the visuals. I focused on the brand words: approachable, empathetic, and encouraging. I accomplished this by choosing vibrant colors, a welcoming font, and inclusive illustrations.

Preparing for usability tests

Prototyping

After finalizing the personality and UI kit, next I create the high-fidelity wireframes to prepare for prototyping in order to validate my designs.

5. Prototype

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

Learnings and Summary:

  • These high-fidelity wireframes will test for the visual accessibility and navigation of the application since I was only able to recruit one participant with an incarceration background

Test, test, test!

Usability Test · Affinity Map · Priority Revisions

In the next process, I test my high-fidelity wireframes to determine how usable they are.

6. Validate

Next, I test the high-fidelity wireframes through a usability testing and then I created an affinity map to determine what design decisions to prioritize.

Validating designs through a user test
I used the software Maze to conduct my usability test with 1 formerly incarcerated individuals and 4 participants who was in the same age group and was the first in their family to graduate from college.

Affinity Map

Findings:

  • The limitations of my usability test was that many of my participants were college educated. As a result, many of my test takers were probably technology literate.
  • 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.
  • 5/5 test takers couldn't scroll properly. This was a result of how the Maze test was done. As a result, there are no interaction changes that need to be made for the application. However, in the future. I should always improve the prototype experience for the test taker.

Priority revisions

Learnings and Summary:

  • I conducted a Usability Test with 5 test takers to validate the design that includes the navigation, accessibility, and terminology.
  • For my priority revisions, I focused on make the questions more clear, improved the terminology, made the call-to-action color a darker color to improve accessibility, and improved the text hierarchy.

Reflection and Next Steps

Reflection · Next Steps

How to improve Equal Jobs Agency in the future?

7. Final

Below is the final prototype with the responsive design for mobile.

Clickable Prototype

Reflections:

  • This project is heavy on the research and UX Strategy (Customer Journey map, Product Roadmap, Task Flow, and Sitemap) because it was important to understand the problem space, the challenges that will Adam faces, and understand how to use research to guide the design.
  • Additionally, I learned a lot about creating around constraints. For instance, I didn't have access to primary research to interview formerly incarcerated individuals so I found existing interviews in academic papers. Additionally, I had to administer my usability test to only 1/5 of my target users, which only allowed me to test significantly for the design but not significantly on the copy write.

Next Steps:

  • One of the biggest components of the mobile application is the social media share. I made the assumption that users may want to share their journey with their friends and family; however, it is better to do another round of usability testing to see if how this will be perceived and the success of the engagement.
  • Another component of the mobile application mentorship. The success of the mobile application depends on the demand of mentor volunteers who want to give back, thus it is important to focus on the user flow and experience of these volunteers for the next step.