In the Fall of 2018 I took a Human Computer Interaction course which was my first introduction to performing the end-to-end UX process complete with research, design and testing. I got the chance to play with tools like Axure RP and build interactive prototypes, and had so much fun doing so that I've never looked back since.
Although maternity leave is often regarded as a beautiful time where a mother gets the chance to focus all her energy on caring for her newborn child, research has revealed that this period off from work can also be emotionally and financially taxing on a woman. Through literature reviews, ethnographic research, interviews, surveys and questionnaires, our team discovered that maternity leave can in fact be one of the hardest parts of motherhood for professional women.
Interacting directly with women on maternity leave, working moms, and HR representatives led our team to discover the four different stress factors that impact women’s peace of mind while they are on mat leave.
After organizing and compiling the data that was collected through user interviews and surveys, it was used to develop a focused experience map of a mother on maternity leave as well as user personas, which enabled the team to view the problem as a journey and understand the challenges that our target audience was experiencing during each stage of maternity leave.
Ultimately, taking all of the aspects of the problem space into consideration, our team decided to develop an online platform that would enable women on maternity leave to potentially generate an income and simultaneously feel productive and keep their skills sharp, by facilitating the development of at-home businesses.
The overarching purpose of this platform would be to help women leverage their pre-existing skills and turn their entrepreneurial dreams into realities by helping them crowdsource funds, resources, mentorship, and business partners in order to kickstart temporary (and perhaps long-term) businesses out of the sanctuaries of their own homes.
The first stage in developing the web application was to define all the possible interaction paths users may take when navigating through the platform. This was done by constructing hierarchical task analyses for each of the major functionalities of the website. The functionalities we decided to map out included:
1. Registering for an account
2. Creating a profile
3. Pitching a project/business
4. Selecting a project/business to contribute to
5. Completing a transaction when donating funds to a project/business
The HTA seen below corresponds to the fourth function and shows how a user who wishes to support/contribute to a project/business might navigate through the platform. This was the function that I was responsible for mapping out.
Using the task flows defined in the HTAs, the team began developing a low-fidelity paper prototype of the system to see how intuitive the concept and flow was for users. The low-fi prototype sample seen below was the one that I worked on, and itdemonstrates how the HTA for the function of “Selecting a project/business to contribute to” was translated into an actual platform.
After developing the complete low-fidelity prototype of the system, it was tested with peers and industry professionals via a usability test. The usability test resulted in a number of important findings regarding details that the team had overlooked while developing the low-fi prototype. For instance, when it came to the function that I worked on (Selecting a project/business to contribute to) many users struggled to understand what set Atmomsphere apart from platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They had a hard time understanding that Atmomsphere was more than just a crowdfunding platform, but instead a crowdsourcing platform, which enabled users to gather resources, mentors, and partners in addition to funds.
Taking all the feedback from the usability test into consideration, the team worked together to redesign and redevelop various functionalities to make them more intuitive for users, and created a mid-fidelity prototype of the website using Axure RP. The following slides show a few of the pages that I was responsible for designing.
In this iteration of the design, I focused on making the features that set Atmosphere apart more visible and accessible by adding separate buttons for each of our unique functionalities (donating funds, donating resources, becoming a mentor, and becoming a partner). In doing so I aimed to resolve the issue of a lack of differentiation from others in the industry, but unintentionally designed a website that looked like it had come straight out of the 2000s, which our users did not hesitate to point out.
Further improvements were finally made following a cognitive walkthrough, heuristic evaluation, and usability testing with users from the target audience (mothers who had been on maternity leave), during which additional usability issues were found such as the abundance of clutter on the homepage and the lack of help guides to ease new users into the world of entrepreneurship.
Taking all of this into consideration, a teammate and I finally moved on to designing the high-fidelity prototype. We changed the entire branding of the platform in the process to give it a more engaging and modern look, and bring it out of the 2000s right into 2018. This was the final interactive version that we worked on, and can be viewed here. You can check out a few sample screens below as well!
Many iterations of the prototype have been completed, but the team is focused on continually improving the platform and will be working on adding new features to the wesbite to enhance its capabilities even further. One main area for future focus would be implementing functionalities that enhance the information and learning side of the website. For instance, adding webinars, tutorials and perhaps step-by-step manuals that demonstrate how to start and grow a successful business could be very helpful for the new users.
Another possible addition would be forums and chat rooms for parental advice, professional consulting or other relevant information, in order to have material available for new moms who aren’t ready or interested in pitching a new business right now, but still wish to keep their professional skills sharp and be part of a community.
Furthermore, to build more trust with and within our user base, the team will work towards connecting the system with social media platforms such as LinkedIn so that the momtrepreneurs can learn more about each other, verify information found on the website, and make beautiful friendships easier than ever.