HelpHub: Democratizing Basic Access for Homeless Communities
Team: Steven Pratama (UX/UI), Thomas Hildebrand (UI)

My Role: UX Researcher, UX/UI Designer

Methods: Research, Personas, Context Scenario, Concept Testing, Journey Mapping, Task Flows, Prototyping, Usability Testing, Iteration, UI Design
Tools: Figma, Google Suite, Zoom

Hi-Fidelity Prototype Walkthrough 
Final Presentation

How might we improve the everyday experience of the homeless community?
Our design team of three explored common issues faced by the homeless population located in California. Through literature review and competitive analysis, we identified common pain points across varied homeless populations. We observed that currently, no existing product attempts to solve for all these pain points or provides a singular touchpoint for homeless populations to access geographical resources.
Through a process of discovery, ideation, iteration, testing, and refinement -- HelpHub was designed to achieve a highly accessible way to provide basic needs assistance to the homeless community. HelpHub is a single access point for a homeless person to refer to, for all the information and assistance they may need based on their current geographical location. As a byproduct, we believe that the HelpHub platform will create a sense of empowerment to aid in the holistic betterment of the life of a homeless person.
We began by collecting and compiling research exploring: homeless and refugee organizations, current tech & policy, and California-related homeless issues. ​​​​​​​
Sources: National Alliance to End Homelessness; Invisbile People TV
We set our intention to solve for as many users within the target demographic as possible. Our demographic data research highlighted that the majority of homeless people in the U.S. were adult, white, males. 

While we aimed to solve for this majority we also took an inclusive approach throughout our process. We asked inclusive and ethical questions such as, "How might the solution provide for women in different ways than men?" "What needs do women face that men do not and vice versa?" "Are there common needs, health considerations, and language variations that exist across demographics?"
Sources: National Alliance to End Homelessness
Next, we identified themes from our research data that we included in our problem set. While there were many, we honed in on the three largest issues facing homeless persons in California.

These themes include:
1. Access to food or food insecurity
2. Housing or shelters
3. Relocation out of cities or the state
Source: Move for Hunger
Sources: National Alliance to End Homelessness
While our team expected to uncover pain points regarding food insecurity and housing, we were surprised to discover that a relocation program called Homeward Bound existed in San Francisco that bused homeless populations out of the city and across the country to live with relatives. While this program improved the resources available in San Francisco and helped many individuals have better access to familial support, food, and shelter; it did not solve for all. Awareness of this program led us to discover the transient nature of homeless life for the majority, leading our team in a new direction for ideation. 

The Homeward Bound program operated in San Francisco from 2005 to 2017.
Source: The Guardian
The Problem
“Technology by itself will not solve homelessness. Getting people housing they can afford will solve homelessness. Technology can be used in service of that goal.”
- Kendra Froshman, Impact Labs Community Fellow and Director of Impact and Learning for Compass Family Services
Access to reliable information and resources is an ever-pressing need for vulnerable populations, especially populations that are moving locations regularly like many homeless persons in the state of California. 

Reliable information and resources include an understanding of basic rights, location, and details of food and housing access, health-related resources, employment opportunities, education, and social inclusion. 

Barriers to entry for the target user include:
1. Access to both technology and connectivity
2. Siloed organizations and therefore disjointed information and resources in a given location
3. A lack of trust in certain resources due to previous experiences of hindrance to access.

An example of this would be a homeless person being turned away from resources due to not having access to their social security card or proof of identification, which is a common problem among homeless populations for various reasons. 
The Process
Our team had already identified the vastness of the problem (range of needs) for the target user. 

Due to time constraints and practicality, we could not solve for all needs at the onset. Instead, we would need to prioritize pain points to solve with our MVP.
Solving for a wide range of user pain points during ideation.
Following the double-diamond process, we 'diverged' in our discovery process to learn as much as we could about the problem and were now ready to 'converge' or narrow down our problem set. 

We collaboratively fleshed out concepts that would each address 1-3 identified pain points. Then we cross-reviewed our ideas, identifying gaps by sourcing research data. 

This process approved 7 viable concepts to solve 10 identified pain points, yet we'd need to refine them further.
Seven viable concepts were identified, yet we'd need to refine further.
At this point in our process, we began to redefine the purpose of the product, the features we created that would solve identified pain points, and the top three goals we had for any given user. 
We were also converging channel options or the type of digital touchpoint the user would be accessing to meet their goals. 

We narrowed our channel options down to three options: a kiosk to be located in public spaces, a mobile app available to any homeless person who had a phone with app capabilities, or a web application such as a website or account system. 
Discussing and weighing the options alongside our research findings, confirmed the best channel for the MVP with the least barrier to entry would be a mobile application.
Channel Options & Potential Drawbacks:
1. Kiosk (Target-user focus)
    - Public experience
Cons: emotional response, negative social interactions, safety
    - Physical location required
Cons: travel, 24/7 access availability
    - Prints receipt
      Cons: cost, required maintenance, staffing, operations
    - Touch Interaction
Cons: potential health risk due to spread of germs, possible 
      damage from use > maintenance
2.  Mobile App (User owned and target-user focus)
    - Private & personalized account experience
Cons: user access to ownership and connectivity
    - Not restricted to location
    - Mapping capabilities are always available
    - Real-time feedback, notifications, and email accessibility
    - Scannable QR codes for reservations
      Pros: No access to printer needed
    - Touch Interaction
Pros: Ease of use for users who have issues typing or physical
     handicaps. Less potential for the spread of germs.

3. Web Application 
(Secondary User focus)
    - Public experience
Cons: emotional impact on the user, negative social interactions
    - Physical location required
Cons: limited access to travel, 24/7 access availability
    - Non-touch interface
      Cons: Potential barrier to access for some users due to physical 
      ability, language, digital knowledge

    - Touch Interaction
Cons: potential health risk, damage from use > maintenance

A 2017 NIH study found that "nearly every homeless adult in a performed study had a cell phone." And that "the results suggest homeless adults are using cell phones in ways similar to the general population, indicating tech-based interventions are viable for this population."
After confirming the type of channel for service delivery, we then tackled the process of selecting which one or two user pain points we would solve in the MVP. We ultimately decided that basic human needs of shelter and food were a priority and that our MVP would need to ideate for both with a focus on aiding the user in finding shelter. 
Persona Development
Returning to our research data, we chose to move forward with the identified majority, target-user—a middle-aged, white, male—to guide us in the design phase of the MVP.  We used factual data to develop our persona and applied the persona in the development of the journey map, context scenarios, and task flows.

Note: Future iterations of the product will take into consideration new personas that will include BIPOC women and homeless college students
a growing demographic.

User Goals:
- To find/use all resources available to them in their new location
- To be able to access these resources in the easiest way possible
- To improve his life overall and acquire permanent housing
High-Fidelity Prototyping
Design Iteration
The Solution

Additional Projects

Back to Top