Covid Community Help
An app to organise local volunteers
Role: product designer, ux/ui designer and visual designer
Last march, apocalypse seemed to happen. In such troubling situation, a lot of us young people, felt the urge to help those more vulnerable of COVID-19 by helping in simple tasks of the every day life, such as delivering their grocery shopping for them or making friendly phone calls to those shielding by themselves. Everywhere in the world people put up signs in their buildings with their phone number offering help, or went to social media in search of a more organized way of volunteering. In my case, I did the latter.
At that moment I was living in Hoxton, London. For those who know the area, it is very diverse: from working class families to young people, attracted by the proximity of the cool areas of Shoreditch and Hackney but also the City. Through Facebook, I found some people who wanted to get organized to help, and I didn’t hesitate to join them.
The organization had to be fast, but we didn’t have enough tools: we created a WhatsApp group and a Google drive folder in which we could add ourselves to the different tasks we were offering ourselves to. There were a couple women in the group who had previous experience with volunteer management (or so it seemed! Shout out to them and thanks for their massive effort) who ended up taking the burden of the bigger structure organization, something we wanted to avoid at first.
So, to sum
up, during the following months, I decided to design an app that would offer a
response to these problems found:
We did some
zoom meetings to talk about health and safety and data privacy. In the end
these meetings went from weekly meetings to very long almost daily meetings
with each new member, which sort of seemed a bit too much. How it worked, we
put up flyers in the hood with one of the girl’s phone number, and when she
received a call asking for help, she would write in the WhatsApp group what was
needed. This didn’t really protect her privacy, and what ended happening is
that these messages got hidden in a WhatsApp group with increasing members, who
also took advantage of the community to ask COVID-19 related questions – too many
messages in the end.
- Data protection issues in organization of tasks
- Too many zoom meetings to talk about health & safety
- Data protection issues to the person putting their phone up
- Too much work for organizers and to the person putting their phone up
- Messages lost in massive WhatsApp groups
Let’s get on with it
The app had to be easy to use both to ask for help and to those wanting to help. Nevertheless, the elderly, the more vulnerable people and those who may need the help of a volunteer the most (because they don’t usually shop online, don’t own a computer, don’t know how to use it), are unlikely to get to use this app, so in order for this app to be useful we needed a way in which these people could be part of it without the need of an app.
Therefore, we needed 3 personas, with different needs and profiles, and the app should be helpful for each of them.
Matt, 28, works in IT.
Very engaged in the community in the neighborhood, wants to help out in these difficult times. He works many long hours but can engage during the evening and weekends.
Likes to jog along the canal, and have a nice time with friends in the local music venue.
Marina, 38, works as a primary school teacher.
Working in a primary school she is in contact with many people every day, and so today she needs occasional help, since she has to self-isolate for two weeks following a close contact with a positive. The rest of the time, very involved in the local community, she can help. She enjoys reading and is an amateur swing dancer.
She volunteers in the local library, where she has a story-telling workshop with little kids on thursdays, and dances every wednesday on lindy-hop night at the local pub.
Martin and Martha, 78 and 74, retired.
They don’t have a smartphone, never really needed one, but being on their 70s they are in the risk group and will need to shield. They are not too comfortable grocery shopping online – and anyway there is a very long waiting line for the delivery these days. They enjoy gardening and have a splendid balcony.
They enjoy watching TV and play board games – they deserve to rest after a lifetime of hard work.
In order to satisfy these 3 very different personas and build a helpful tool, I decided the app should at least have these features:
Profile creating: in order to save our task and time availability we need to create user profiles. These profiles will be both help searchers and offerors, since today I may be helping but tomorrow I may need to self-isolate.
phone calls: Martha and Martin will see a phone number in the hall of their building
and will call when they feel the need. This phone call will go directly to the
app of Matt, the volunteer, without the need of their personal number being on
the street. Similar to Uber app, where you can call the driver without needing
his phone number.
creating for app users: Marina won’t need to call, she will have the app on the
phone, and will need to create tickets herself once she needs something.
creating: following Martha’s and Martin’s call, Matt will need to create a
ticket in the app so the closer available volunteer can help.
Tasks in your area: there has to be a very clear space to visualise all tasks in the hood, filtered by distance from you
Messaging tool: Marina and Matt will need to discuss basic things such as availability time frames, so it will be useful to have an in-app messaging tool to avoid needing to give away our phone numbers.
Help map: with rising people in poverty due to economic difficulties, some businesses gave away free things to people in need (food, clothes, or whatever they had) and volunteers shared it in the WhatsApp group. It is very useful information but without a space to put them this information was lost.
People also could write down things they have in their home that could offer (like baby clothes they no longer need, or warm food, etc). When I was in New Orleans and there was some heavy storm or tornado (which is quite frequently), people would put this kind of messages in the Facebook tool that allows you to say if you are safe from the event. During crisis people give the best of themselves, and these acts of kindness need a space so they don’t get lost.
The challenge with the user flow is that the app needs to not get too complicated (the lesser the clicks the better, since it is volunteering based, and we want to minimize people getting bored of it), but at the same time allow all the features that we stated.
A world-wide pandemic is hard enough, so I wanted to give a very calming and soothing style, with light colors and warm textures. Even if I wanted to use whites and blues, since they are the colors of healthcare, I wanted to give it a warm-ish and friendly look, so I added a bit of green and light purple to the color palette.
I had a very specific thing in mind for the imaginary, so rather than looking for these online, I decided it would be fun to just create them myself with Blender, a 3D program I like to use.
These last few years and especially with the new situation in which photoshoots are harder than ever, there is this trend of advertising products (like rugs, furniture or even fashion) in surreal 3D settings. Some of the best studios that do that are in Barcelona, and at that moment I was really geeking the style. Having these as inspiration, I created some hyper geometric compositions, harmonic scenes that sort of bring inner peace.For this, I used the pastel color palette previously decided, with materials that would create soft shadows, such as translucent glass. The composition should be peaceful and harmonic, with aligned centers and flat directionality, to feel like cotton and clouds.
These are some of them:
I did moderated testing with 5 people, from 28yo to 40yo. Some of them live with families and some live by themselves. All professionals from different industries: architecture, healthcare and tech. The findings were mostly positive, and drove to three main changes:
- “Health and Safety” should be more visible since it is where people will not try to go by their own will. It used to be only in menu and we added a button in the dashboard.
- The “Want to help” profile creation lacks a description of the tasks. It used to be a card selection in a single page and we developed it into a slider “Yes or No” screen. Even if now it looks too long, like that we make sure what exactly each option involves. This may maximise clicks since people is more prone to accept tasks when they know exactly what they involve.
- “Stats in your area”: we used to have a section where you could check the latest news but we took it out in case this leads to misinformation, since at first there was daily updated information via official channels but at times, it is not the case.