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A Cure for Homelessness

How can I help homeless individuals integrate back into society?

Overview

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

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ROLE:

UX Designer, UI Designer, UX Researcher

METHOD:

The Double Diamond Method

  • DISCOVER - What is the problem?

  • DEFINE - What are all the needs of my user?

  • DEVELOP - How many options can I think of to solve this problem?

  • DELIVER - What is my final solution?

PROJECT DURATION:

3 Weeks. 

1 week of research + 2 weeks of design

TOOLS:

Figma, Canva, Freehand

DELIVERABLES:

3 mobile apps pages

TARGET AUDIENCE:

"Hidden" Homeless Individuals who are:

  • Staying with family and friends

  • Have just left hospital, prison or social care

Discover : What is the problem? 

"Homeless individuals don't have support to successfully integrate into their local communities." 

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Research

Finding problems by researching the needs of homeless individuals

Due to the sensitivity of homelessness, I relied on secondary data for research. I focused on the challenges faced by homeless individuals reintegrating into society.

 

"Tri-morbidity" emerged as a key issue, indicating that most homeless individuals struggle with physical and mental health along with addiction.

 

In addition, homeless individuals struggle to find food, shelter, and clothing. By targeting the hidden homeless, my app prioritises health and wellbeing while addressing their various challenges.

Suicide rates are nine times higher in comparison with the general public.Homelessness Kills, 2012 ​

[ Homeless individuals] are over twice as likely to report a physical health issue then the general public - Health Needs Audit, 2016  Homeless Link

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​

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What features do my competitor use which is benefical for my user ?

Competitor Analysis

Initially, I researched mobile apps for homeless people, but they mainly targeted those who slept on the streets, leaving the "hidden homeless" neglected. 

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To bridge this gap, I identified adaptable features for the hidden homeless.Competitor apps like Homeless Resources and Streetlink, focused on providing shelter, food, and healthcare resources, were analysed. Additionally, I examined Talklife, an indirect competitor promoting community and wellbeing. Through a competitor analysis chart, I identified strengths, weaknesses, and features of each app, gaining insights into creating an effective hidden homeless app.

Findings

The apps' simple design made navigation easy, and information was presented without confusing language or patronising terminology.

 

They all featured a hamburger menu for a streamlined appearance, allowing access to profile information, FAQs, settings, and internal help features.

 

However, while the competitors provided a range of resources such as food banks and shelters, mental health support was overlooked. Talk Life's diary feature allowed users to record their thoughts and feelings, but both apps lacked alternative ways to support mental wellbeing.

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Streetlink was the weakest app with limited information compared to Homelessness Shelter App and Talklife. 

Define: What are all the needs of my user?

"The app will focus on the health and wellbeing of the user."

Mind-mapping and User Personas

During the planning phase, I mapped out the app's features, including the signup questionnaire, mood tracking, and forum page.

 

I envisioned ways to support users, such as providing resources for education, basic needs and social support. Mental health features were also included as they were often overlooked in other homeless apps.

Homeless App Mindmap

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To represent my target audience, I created a user persona named "Micah". He faces depression, social anxiety, and low confidence after leaving prison. He has a knee injury from altercations during his time there and he also he struggles with smoking addiction. Considering Micah's situation, I incorporated features in the ideation stage to cater to the needs of my target audience.

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Develop: How many ideas can I think of to solve this problem?

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Ideation methods
How many ideas can I think of to solve the problem?

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.

Crazy Eights

 

The goal was to create an app that helped homeless people reintegrate into society. Using the "crazy eight" technique, I quickly sketched several unique ideas to generate various solutions. After considering all the options, I selected a design for my low fidelity wireframes.

Event pages

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Account pages

Low Fidelity

Next, I chose to convert my initial sketches into digital form, which included the account page, chatrooms, and event pages. During this process, I utilised the drag and drop feature to connect the elements of my design from the "crazy eight" phase to the mid-fidelity wireframes. Additionally, I experimented with grid spacing, fonts, and icon placements.

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Event Page

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Account Page

Chatroom Page

Mid-fidelity

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.

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The "home page" doubled up as an "account page" to empahsise that the users needs are whats most important.

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Initially, users could import profile photos, but I removed that option for anonymity. Instead, users can only change the background color of their profile circle

Event Page

Account Page

Chatroom Page

Deliver: What is my final solution?

High Fidelity

"Was I able to design an app which helps homeless individuals integrate back into society?"

H O M E P A G E

Mental Health

"Mood Tracker" emphasises the user's feelings, emotions and moods. A digital diary to elevate mental tension.

Digitise world

ID and important documents can be put onto the app to elevate the pressure of keeping files safe.

Serial position effect

(Individual usually remember items at the beginning or the end of a list.)

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.

Features linked

The message notification on the inbox icon links the homepage to the community aspect of the app. 

E V E N T S

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Principle of Multiple Perspectives

Users can either view the events by list (which is displayed) or map view. Depending on how the individual prefers information to be displayed.

Visual Hierarchy and Urgency cues

Events which are ending soon are larger to emphasise urgency.

The copy which iverlay theses events are also a different colour indicate the time sensitivity of the event.

 

Laws of common region

Events are grouped to show they target the same area of needs.

Users need

Most homeless apps focus on food and shelter. This app focuses on wellbeing, health and social integration. 

C O M M U N I T Y

Well-being

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.

Threaded Conversations

Allow users to create and participate in threaded conversations to keep discussions organised and make it easier to follow specific topics within the chatroom.

Users need: Anonymity due to sensitivity 

I removed the "like"  features from the mid-fidelity stage. This was to alleviate the pressure of posting content in hopes of being liked. I also removed the name of the users, opting for the initials of their names instead.

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Reflection

In this project, my primary objective was to develop a homeless app specifically tailored for the "hidden homeless" population.  I enjoyed working on this case study as I had the opportunity to design for a demographic that often goes unnoticed and marginalised in society.

My main focus throughout the app design process revolved around promoting health, well-being, and social integration for the user. I wanted to provide them with resources, support, and connections to help improve their overall quality of life.

During the research stage, I gathered a substantial amount of secondary data. However, I acknowledge that conducting face-to-face interviews would have added a deeper layer of understanding and empathy. First-hand accounts and personal stories would have provided a more nuanced perspective, enabling me to better empathise with their experiences and design a more impactful solution.

In terms of testing, if given the opportunity to launch the app, I would employ unmoderated remote usability testing. This approach would allow individuals to anonymously test the app within the comfort of their own homes, mimicking a natural usage environment.

 

By observing how users interact with the app in their daily lives, I would be able to identify potential issues, gather feedback, and make necessary improvements prior to the official launch. This method ensures that the app is thoroughly tested and optimized for the needs and preferences of the hidden homeless population.

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