youth volunteer experience
In the province of Ontario, secondary school students must spend a minimum of 40 recorded hours of community involvement to obtain a diploma. High school students search for opportunities online that can help them achieve this goal by scouring the internet for placements. While most organizations post openings online, there is no source of truth for connecting with every single opportunity available while on the go.
Scouring multiple websites creates a lag between students and their goals as they spend more than necessary time searching for a placement that suits their individual constraints.
While researching existing solutions to help students get their hours, I studied volunteer websites that focus on placements in Ontario. Websites such as SparkOntario.ca allow students to search placements using primary and secondary filters, and show versatility by interchangeable interface between list and map view for ease.
However, there were no corresponding mobile applications for searching placements. This opened up an opportunity for a potential mobile application product catering to youth volunteers. Synthesizing the information I collected from my research as well as through user interviews, I distilled my data down to three high-level problems to solve for:
Placements were not meaningful enough leading the youth to feel less fulfilled at the end of their shift, therefore, reducing their motivation to continue past required hours
Students sometimes lost credited hours because manual recordings were misplaced or entered incorrectly causing frustration and leading to repeat hours
Some organizations don't take youth volunteers seriously and have them fill out paperwork or sit instead of letting them do fieldwork which leads to poor experiences
My proposed solution helps the youth search for all available volunteer placements in one spot while filtering results according to their personal interests and constraints. The youth can then use the application to track their volunteer hours digitally, thus, reducing administrative errors in recording volunteer hours. In addition to being a one-stop shop, GoodGivr enables an accountability system using volunteer reviews for every organization a volunteer has provided their time to.
Constraints for this project include designing GoodGivr from two different perspectives: one from the volunteer's perspective, another from the perspective of the organization to make this prototype a functional communication system.
Here are the design solutions I focused on:
New suggestions every week keep the user informed about opportunities they will like when they’re available. All suggestions are relevant to the user’s preferences to help save time wasted in searching for the right opportunities.
Details for each initiative include external contact links, the ability to read reviews from previous volunteers, and saving the placement for later.
Users can view the details of each of their active placements by tapping on the arrow to expand. They can see information like number of hours volunteered and available, the durational nature of the placement, and contact buttons to contact the organization directly.
To find further details such as a form with all recorded hours, they can tap the card and access the information there.
Users can access review written by other volunteers on the page with placement details.. They also have the option of writing their own reviews under their active initiatives on their volunteer tab.
In my research, I conducted 4 interviews online and over-the-phone with adolescents aged between 15-18 to examine their process from discovery to execution when it comes to finding the right volunteer placement. I hoped to discover answers to the following questions:
1. What today's youth understands by the term 'volunteering' and what it means to them
2. How their volunteering experiences have shaped their attitudes towards volunteering
3. What are some ways they look for volunteer placements and how they feel about their process
To gain reliable insights, I made sure all interviewees owned a smartphone and were Ontario GED hopefuls currently enrolled in a secondary school. Each participant was either in the process of completing their hours (currently volunteering) or was searching for the right fit (motivated to volunteer).
I created a primary and a secondary persona to represent user groups that exhibit similar behaviours. This gave me a clearer idea about how either user group would engage with a solution product.
I designed a real life scenario a student would go through in their attempts to collect their volunteer hours. By reducing their overall experience to bite-sized chunks (smaller actions and thoughts), I was able to identify opportunity gaps that could serve as a starting point for solving larger problems.
By exploring the journey Jacob takes to find and participate in initiatives, I was able to construct user stories from his perspective keeping in mind his pain points. I then used these pain points to group the user stories into three distinct categories called epics:
Once I had narrowed down the user's journey to three main tasks, I combined them into task flows to explore how they relate to one another. The task flow below is broken into two chains to only focus on tasks occurring within the solution product and not externally.
Once the volunteer application is accepted and the user is enrolled in the program, the user can check their hours digitally using the product
I began the ideation process by sketching out some screens to help me visualize and structure logical design components prior to digital wireframing.
Using the 'need to have' list and task flow, I created low fidelity wireframes to build the first prototype for user testing early on. Through rapid iterations, I intended to receive feedback on design components in the early stages to prevent issues later on in the design process.
I conducted 2 rounds of usability tests with 3 users per round. Each user was asked to onboard, interact with suggested placements on screen and check records. This activity helped me measure the ease with which a user can engage with the interface so I could more accurately gauge user expectations.
I used the qualitative feedback I received to make important design changes to improve usability, focus on the shortcomings of my user task flow and came up with solutions that I then tested to validate. Here's how I incorporated changes to my initial few prototypes:
The on-boarding process allows the user to personalize the app before using the interface. With their details in, the app transforms the use's experience by suggesting volunteer placements based on the user's unique interests, giving them access to their personal volunteer history as well as the ability to reference and share their community involvement records digitally.
I used a style guide to provide a design standard when I worked on high fidelity wireframes.
During this project, I had the valuable opportunity to empathize with Ontario's largest volunteer population and develop a better understanding of their needs through the interview process. I realized that giving back to the community can displace itself in our personal priority list if there are barriers to find out how we can do it. Being human means we want to connect with others and make an impact and when we feel selfish it's not our proudest moment.
Future considerations from an organizational perspective
Being able to communicate with volunteers directly using an application, schedule their hours, and digitally record their contribution can make the volunteer process easier on organizations from an administrative perspective. If I were given the opportunity to build this app, I would definitely consider exploring the needs of volunteer organizations and designing for their pain points.