A Cure for Homelessness
How can I help homeless individuals integrate back into society?
Brief: Develop an app that eliminates the pressures associated with homelessness.
The proposal should support and educate users on relevant information that will allow a homeless person to successfully integrate into the community.
What is homelessness?
"A state of being unhoused or unsheltered – the condition of lacking stable, safe, and adequate housing." - Wikipedia
UX Designer, UI Designer, UX Researcher
The Double Diamond Method
1 week of research + 2 weeks of design
Figma, Canva, Freehand
3 mobile apps pages
"Hidden" Homeless Individuals who are:
Staying with family and friends
Have just left hospital
Have just left prison
Have just left social care
The Process: The Double Diamond Method
What is the problem?
What are all the needs of my user?
How many options can I think of to solve this problem?
What is my final solution?
"Homeless individuals don't have support to successfully integrate into their local communities."
What is the problem?
Finding problems by researching the needs of homeless individuals
Step One: Research
As homelessness is a sensitive topic, I used secondary data for my research. I aimed to find the issues homeless individuals faced whilst trying to integrate back into society.
One of the key reasons was poor health issues due to “tri-morbidity.” This suggests that most homeless people experience an issue with physical and mental health in addition to addiction.
When comparing people who are homeless with the rest of the population, they " ... are over twice as likely to report a physical health issue then the general public“
Suicide rates are nine times higher in comparison with the general public.
Homelessness Kills, 2012
Two thirds of homeless people cite drug or alcohol use as a reason for first becoming homeless. Those who use drugs are seven times more likely to be homeless.
Crisis Skylight Final Report of the University of York evaluation
Aside from these issues, homeless individuals also have issues finding food, shelter and clothing.
As my target audience was the hidden homeless I wanted to create an app which focused on health and wellbeing. Whilst also providing features which support the many issues these individuals face.
What features do my competitor use which is benefical for my user ?
Step Two: Competitor Analysis
I began by researching mobile apps that supported homeless people. Although I was met with difficulty as most apps were designed to support homeless rough sleepers.
I wanted to design an app targeted towards the "hidden homeless". These individuals had a place to stay and a place to eat, although weren't able to find their way in society. The hidden homeless was an ignored group within homeless apps.
With this in mind, I sought to find features which I could adapt to support my target audience.
I chose Homeless Resources and Streetlink as my direct competitors as their focus was supporting homeless individuals to find food, shelter and health resources.
While I chose Talk life as an indirect competitor due to its focus on community and well-being. Below is my competitor analysis chart, where I found the strengths, weaknesses and features of each app.
All of the apps were easy to navigate due to their simple design. The information was presently clearly without jargon or patronising terminology.
All of the apps also use a hamburger menu, which allows for a cleaner look as tabs were stored away. Within these menus you'd find profile information, FAQs, setting options and internal app help, such as the chatbot
All of the competitors presented a range of resources ranging from food banks to shelters.
Although I think one feature missed was the importance of mental health. Talk life incorporated a "diary" system in which people can log their thoughts and feelings. Although neither of the apps provides any alternative methods to support mental health.
The colour schemes on STREET LINK were muted greens and greys which didn't create a welcoming environment.
While TALKLIFE and HOMELESS SHELTER APP RESOURCES themes were dark blues and purples which conveyed a warm, cosy and inviting feel to the app.
Streetlink was the weakest app as it had the least amount of information when compared to Homelessness Shelter App and Talklife.
Its interface looked dated, therefore it didn't have an inviting feel. This is reflected in its customer feedback as it has an overall 2.4-star rating out of 5 on APPLE STORE
STREETLINK user review
HOMELESS SHELTER APP user review
I created a user persona to represent my target users."Micah" possesses the needs of my target audience.
click to enlarge
He is suffering from depression as well as social anxiety. He also has a lack of confidence due to the stigma of leaving prison.
Knee injury due to altercations whilst serving his time.
Micah is a chain smoker.
I used "Micah" to help me make better decisions throughout the ideation stage. I wanted to ensure I had features which supported the needs of my targetted audience.
I mind-mapped my ideas with the help of the persona and the results of my research.
click to enlarge
I was able to map out all the aspects I would incorporate into the app, such as the signup questionnaire, mood tracking and a forum page.
I was also able to visualise which features would be beneficial to support the user's needs. For example, if the user's wished to enrol on education, there would be many avenues to support this decision.
I also ensured mental health and well-being features were incorporated as they were ignored on most homeless apps.
"This app will focus on the health and wellbeing of the individual."
How many ideas can I think of to solve the problem?
I started my initial ideation on pen and paper.
I sketched 4 unique designs for each page I was creating in 30-second intervals.
At this stage, I played with the different features I wanted to incorporate such as:
Bottom menu bar
Direct messaging service
I was focused on exploring simplicity. As my target audience was vulnerable people, I didn't want the app to cause any further stress or worry.
I then decided to digitise my initial sketches. Theses are the homepage, chatrooms and event pages.
At this stage, I was able to drag and drop elements of the design to bridge between my crazy eight and mid-fidelity wireframes.
I was also able to play around with grid spacing, fonts and placements of the icons.
I chose my favourite elements of each design from the low-fidelity stage and then combined them to create a final outline.
At this stage, I played around with types, shapes, colours and icons.
As stated before, my focus was to create a clean and tidy app for easy use.
One major change from the low- fidelity stage was the profile picture.
I initially gave the choice to import a photo to use on the chatroom page.
Although I removed this option. Users would only be able to change the background colour of their profile circle.
This was to allow anonymity and comfort whilst posting about sensitive topics.
I decided the "home page" would double up as an "account page" to empahsise that the users needs are whats most important.
"Was I able to design an app which helps homeless individuals integrate back into society?"
ID and important documents can be put onto the app to elevate the pressure of keeping files safe.
Serial position effect
The concept dictates that people usually remember items at the beginning or the end of a list with greater accuracy than those in the middle.
The homepage is the first icon on the menu bar to promote the focus of the user. The last icon is the maps which direct the user to where they can get help locally.
What is my final solution?
+ the problems I solved
The logo is a visual reminder of the brand identity.
"Helping the homeless with the next step in their lives.
This was used to
communicate the different areas of the homepage. Using photos was distracting due to the unnecessary ‘exact-ness’ of detail. While using icons did not offer the visual complexity needed to communicate the message.
The message notification links the users to the community aspect of the app.
A chatroom forum where homeless individuals can seek help from one another. Homeless people can often feel lonely so connecting with others can boost their sense of companionship.
"Mood Tracker" emphasises the user's feelings, emotions and moods. A digital diary to elevate mental tension.
Users can either view the events by list (which is displayed) or map view. Depending on how the individual prefers information to be displayed.
Laws of common region
Events are grouped to show they target the same area of needs.
Events which are ending soon are larger to emphaise urgency.
I removed the "like" features from the mid-fidelity. This was to alleviate the pressure of posting content in hopes of being liked.
I removed the name of the users, opting for initials of their name instead.
Most homeless apps focus on food and shelter. This app focuses on wellbeing, health and social integration.
Below is the style guide I created for "Next Step". I aimed to ensure complete uniformity in style and formatting. A guide to be used by all members of the design team if this project was to be launched.
Blue was chosen as the primary colour to fall in line with social media's use of the colour. It promotes comfort, safety and trustworthiness.
I opted to use #2B2E3D" and "#FAFAFB" instead off Pure white and pure black in order to decrease eye strain
I chose a Flouride Turquoise"#45D3C2" as a accent colour to compliment the dark navy blue
Wild Blue Yonder #6F7CB3 was chosen as a text colour for subtitles and subheadings.
Wild Watermelon"#FC4A71" was used when hovering to indicate the area to be clicked on.
Type and Buttons
I opted to use two san serif fonts to promote the modern and minimalist aspects of the brand.
Unfortunately, I was only able to gain "Mustica Pro" in the Semibold weight as the alternate weights come with a fee.
For this reason, most of the app's type was in "Be Vietnam" as I had access to its range of weights.
If this project came with a budget I would opt to solely use Mustica Pro.
Icons are in colour #FAFAFB (off white). For display purposes they are coloured in #2B3566 (blue)
Throughout the design process, I was careful to keep accessibility guidelines in mind.
I ensured I had a good contrast between colours so that they were accessible to users with visual disabilities.
I used Colourcontrast. cc to check the contrast.
I was able to experience what colourblind users would see if they were to navigate the website.
For this project, I wanted to create a homeless app aimed at the "hidden homeless". These are the individuals who have a place to sleep and eat but not a place to call their own.
My focus was on health, well-being and social integration.
I enjoyed working on this case study, as I was able to design for a demographic who are ignored by society.
I think my research stage went well as I had a large amount of secondary data. Although I would have liked to conduct face-to-face interviews to get first-hand insight into how it feels to be homeless.
In terms of testing, I would use unmoderated remote usability testing if I could launch this project. Individuals will anonymously trial the app within the confines of their own homes, which leads to the app being used naturally. I therefore would be able to find issues before the launch.