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HouseATL: UX/UI for a Unified Affordable Housing Database

Designing a user interface to provide an overview of the state of Atlanta’s affordable housing landscape.

 
 

The Problem

Multiple organizations and agencies in Atlanta collect similar subsidized, affordable housing data, but there is no centralized database that allows for a holistic view of the housing landscape in Atlanta. With HouseATL and non-profit Enterprise Community Partners Southeast, I lead a participatory design workshop to gain UX insights and design the user interface of a unified database to solve the issue.


Background
Participatory design is a more equitable way to gather insights to create a strong and positive user experience. This co-design and creation is especially important when working with political issues like housing, and is a powerful tool when working with community-based organizations so that both designers and participants learn from each other.

Objective
Using participatory design involving a broad array of stakeholders, design a UI that helps make housing data more accessible to Atlanta-based agencies.

Project Duration
January 2019 - December 2019

My Role
Researcher, UX/UI designer

Team
Myself as the designer within a larger development team


What I Did

I worked with another designer to design the participatory workshop, and I personally led the workshop itself. I analyzed data output from the workshop in design implications and was the only UI designer on the team for most of the project. I also built prototypes, conducted usability tests and heuristic evaluations of my designs, presented designs to our client, and delivered design specifications to developers for development.

What I Learned

Participatory design (PD) helps translate the design process for stakeholders while providing practical benefits for the design and development team.

Building trust and mutual learning with designers and the users through PD makes for a more equitable process.


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Participatory Design Workshop

When working with community and civic organizations, a participatory workshop helps encourages active participation from the end users. This co-designing process allows for designers and stakeholders to actively build relationships with each other, as well as actively learn and develop solutions together.

Working with another designer, we went through multiple iterations of the workshop activity and developed it to be “a conversation with the database,” which meant that we were able to translate the technical design to the language of our stakeholders, and our stakeholders were able to translate the language of their housing expertise into something that we understood.

The research goals for the workshop were:

  • Determine how different organizations use the database

  • Discover what methods users already are familiar with and employ

  • Develop the database output into a useful form for the users.

I led the participatory workshop myself, which included thirty members of the housing community in Atlanta, ranging from city employees to housing justice organizations to housing advocacy groups.

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After analyzing the data from the participatory design workshop, I moved forward to wireframing and prototyping what the user interface would look like, and how the user experience would specifically fit the needs of the housing experts we worked with.

This process included continuous feedback from housing experts within our team as well as the development team to ensure that it was technically feasible within our budget and timeframe.

A sample of what the data from the Participatory Workshop looked like before analyzing and coding

A sample of what the data from the Participatory Workshop looked like before analyzing and coding


Design and Iteration

The design process began with myself distilling the PD workshop data into something roughly that we could use as a skeleton for our prototyping.

Because this project needed to move fast due to budget, time, and development constraints, we moved quickly into developing a higher-fidelity UI.

During the summer months, a different designer created the first iteration of the user interface herself, and when I returned to the project in August, I worked on creating the second iteration from feedback that I gathered from our team housing experts, and this iteration would be used for further testing and evaluation with our stakeholders.

Information architecture and rough skeleton after analyzing the data.

Information architecture and rough skeleton after analyzing the data.

The first iteration of the design created by another designer who worked on the project during the summer.

The first iteration of the design created by another designer who worked on the project during the summer.


My design of the user interface after more user feedback, iterating on the fantastic base from the other designer’s work

My design of the user interface after more user feedback, iterating on the fantastic base from the other designer’s work

My iteration focused on three main capabilities:

  • Filtering the data directly to show affordable properties on the map

  • Applying layers to visually compare the map and other generated data of interest

  • Providing an “at-a-glance” snapshot of affordable housing in Atlanta as a whole

A wireframe of a dashboard that shows at-a-glance data of the overall landscape of affordable housing in Atlanta

A wireframe of a dashboard that shows at-a-glance data of the overall landscape of affordable housing in Atlanta

Ongoing Work

I’ve built an Invision Prototype to test my designs with HCI experts with Heuristic Evaluations as well as Usability Tests with housing experts from the Atlanta Department of Community Affairs.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be iterating on these screens one last time before building specifications to hand over to our developer, and will then further be developing functionality (export data, onboarding flow) throughout the rest of 2019.

This will be updated as more work finishes!