Sharing Volunteer Experiences Study
Unself’s built a volunteer hour tracker platform so that nonprofits could use volunteer data to increase their access to grant funding. After the launch of our MVP, we needed to scale our user base beyond our small core user base of super volunteers in order to meet this goal.
The next largest target user segment was less frequent, socially-motivated volunteers. They need personal recommendations to volunteer, which Unself could provide via the tracked experiences on our app. However, our core user case was hesitant to “humble brag” on our platform by sharing service opportunities.
My task as a researcher and interaction designer was to define and design a qualitative study to learn what would both encourage our core user base to share their experiences on Unself and inspire new volunteers to get involved.
As a result I was able to design a new workflow for sharing in our app, with the right tone to encourage and support both user segments. Our final prototype allowed us not only to scale with a new user segment, but also with the National Parks Foundation.
Through our analytics and user research, Unself identified that our core user segment is Self-Motivated Volunteers: millennials who have intrinsic motivation to further a personal cause. (Check out the validated persona here)
While this group tracks hours frequently, these users are not the vast majority of the volunteering community nor the population at large. Our next challenge was to expand our user base and product offering for the next segment of volunteers: those who are externally and socially motivated.
One major risk we identified is potentially alienating our core: Self-Motivated volunteers aren’t inclined to “humble-brag” about their volunteerism. I interviewed a handful of these users to figure out the pitfalls we could avoid while adding more social features to our hour tracker.
As we began to start working on new features for sharing your tracked hours with other volunteers, we quickly realized there were a mix of strong ideas around new navigation, flows and copy.
So, unsure of the exact next design step, we opted to test our two most promising concepts with an even mix of Self-Motivated (core user base) and Community-Motivated (new user target) volunteers.
Beyond excited to run our first real research study, I put together a Notion repo of all our test documentation for the rest of the company and began recruiting users who fit into our personas from our opt-in test pool via Calendly.
Once we had the goal and structure of the test set, the design team moved into production. We began with text-based wireframes to indicate content modules the flows we would need to design. I designed one flow and my team mate Will Justice created the other. This also became the foundation of my test script.
Our team uses Figma, which allowed us to all collaborate on the same prototypes via browser. This made dividing up high fidelity visual design and linking screens a snap!
Once we completed Proto A and Proto B, I put together documentation for our team to visually list the new enhancements we added to both prototypes (test controls) versus the variable navigation pathways we were testing.
After our week-long study with nine users was complete, I began to sift through commonalities in the raw data, capturing different lenses in a Notion board.
The most interesting finding out of this data set was not whether a majority of users preferred prototype A to B. Rather, it was that Unself was not meeting their core driver to use the app (regardless of persona).
While we were meeting volunteers’ tracking needs, we discovered the number one reason people were using our app was to find vetted volunteer opportunities.
By this time we had the ability to host volunteer events on our app (see my Volunteer Events project). But this data told us we needed to invest in a scaleable events system in order to also scale our users.
We now knew users’ primary motivation to use Unself was to discover new vetted opportunities (and then track them later, creating a cycle).
In order to dig into how and why people move through Unself, I re-listened to screencap video and scribed soundbites (check out one test user’s raw notes).
As trends emerged, I began to capture them as digital insight cards. The color coding related to whether I felt the insight was a product strength, weakness, or a totally unexpected new learning for us.
The cards were grouped so that from any edge entry point, you could follow related chains of insights, which was very helpful when leading a team exercise to ensure everyone empathized with our users.
Our insights ranged from actionable copy changes to larger features sets, like a Community homepage where users could see shared tracked experiences and promoted volunteering events.
The design team took this essentially new backlog and compared it with our upcoming stories, and I wrote out a UX flow script that contained the improvements we decided to make throughout the app.
Right after our study we got a meeting to discuss a partnership with the National Parks Foundation – the most exciting pitch opportunity I’ve ever had!
I had a ton of fun incorporating the design changes from our insights so soon – all of which can be seen in our National Parks Foundation pitch prototype.
Through this process, the Community landing page began to crystalize as a true jumping off point to other volunteers’ profiles, organizations that volunteers serve, as well as opportunities vetted by Unself.
The volunteer profile and tracking experiences also became enriched as we understood more about how people think about their impact on Unself.
We learned that volunteers think about their tracked experiences by time, by nonprofit organization, and by cause. This led to us redesign the Track and Profile screens to have split views according to what volunteers wanted to see personally (in Track) vs. what they wanted others to see (on their Profile).
We gained incredible insights into peoples’ thought processes while they are tracking hours too. One of the most valuable insights was that volunteers consider writing their descriptions as an act of journaling and want to track how they feel at the same time, so we added emotion tracking specific to volunteering. The controls for sharing experiences needed to be on the same page so that volunteers could confirm/revise what they wrote if need be.
This study taught us more than we could possibly imagine about our core users and our next target group. We didn’t walk away with a clear answer which prototype was “better” than another. Instead, we walked away with a new iteration of our app that answers our users’ most important drivers – which is all I could hope for, and then some!
(Want to know more about how our tracker got to this point? Check out the full story of our hour tracker.)