your morning on using UX Principles to create a better volunteer experience. I am Jenn Downs, I’m the Director of User Experience Design at Points of Light. I joined our newly formed in house digital products team in November of 2016. I also co-organize my local Ladies that UX Chapter, I’m a mentor for Code for America, and before I was at Points of Light I spent most of my tech career at MailChimp and other startups in Atlanta. I’m living for civic tech right now. Most recently I worked on a redesign of our volunteer posting and searching hub at allforgood.org for which there is a workshop and panel discussion at 1:30 today if you want to learn more about the new site and the future of all for good.
we use has a user experience. The way someone interacts with a site, or a product, the way it makes them feel. My job as a UX professional is to make that experience a good one. When people say UX or UX design, that is generally the abbreviation for the field of user experience design. Don’t over think that part of it. Keep it simple - it’s a field of study that encompasses design and research about that design. As the Director of UX for Points of Light I do everything from conducting research to understand our user’s needs, motivations, and behaviors to usability testing to make sure our websites work to visual design and digital and program strategy. There are so many bits and pieces to what a UX person does, but what it boils down to is I try to make everything we produce and design meet the combination of the users needs mixed with Points of Light’s needs and our partners.
what you do is creating better experiences for your volunteers That may be through improvements to your website if you have that capability or access. Or maybe we can apply it to improvements to your volunteer posts, or registration - basically any interaction your volunteer has with your organization. I’ve seen the term Volunteer Experience pop up a lot since I started with POL, so I think you’re heading in a good place through empathy, curiosity, and a desire to make your volunteer’s experience amazing. So I want to give you some UX basic tools to get started making your volunteer’s experience even better.
Now stay with me. I know this is a little different for us. We volunteer, we’ve probably volunteered for the organization we’re organizing for before we were the organizer. But in the end, my needs as a researcher and a designer are different from my volunteer’s needs. Your needs, motivations, and behaviors as a volunteer coordinator are different from your volunteer’s motivations and behaviors. We definitely know a thing or two about creating a good volunteer experience, just like I know some great design tricks and principles if I need to design something in a pinch. But to provide a really excellent experience, we can’t just rely on what we think we know. For instance, I was doing some research with one of our teams who insisted that their users didn’t want to track individual’s volunteer hours. They’d been working with them for years, they had a handle on it. But when I started interviewing their users, every single user brought up hours tracking and how they needed it, but thought maybe they were the only ones who needed hours tracking because we at POL didn’t provide it, so it must not be that important. Totally a yikes moment there. Maybe years ago they didn’t, but as people use more and more tech tools to accomplish volunteer managing tasks, things are changing.
you are not your user - you must talk to your users. Some people are doing this already through surveys, regular conversations, talking to volunteer leaders and that is great! Some people aren’t, and need to be!
Recruiting One of the things we talk about in UX - How to find the right people, the representative user. One of the good things about recruiting for y’all is that as volunteer coordinators you are are likely to be around your users/volunteers pretty frequently, So stopping them in person to ask them for a few minutes of their time for some feedback may not be that hard. You can also reach out to your volunteer mailing lists, or on social media to ask people to share some feedback. I know we ask a LOT of our volunteers already, but getting to help the experience and share feedback and really be a part of what you’re doing offers a little more for them. Don’t be afraid to ask. People are excited to participate.
Power of Silence Now in UX research, what we’re doing in user interviews is less conversation, more interview style. That is, as the interviewer I am actively listening, solely focused on the experience of the interviewee and what they are telling me. I as the interviewer should be doing very little talking, other than following up on points with phrases like “tell me more about that”, “you can talk to me about that experience” and “what I’m hearing you say is, X, can you talk a little more about that”. Silence is a powerful tool for an interviewer. A friend of mine who is a body language expert, told me that on average, introverts take 8 seconds to answer a question and that extroverts will answer before you’re done. Let’s pause for 8 seconds and get used to what that feels like, and used to not filling an uncomfortable silence with words of our own. How was that? It’s tempting to use that space to rephrase the question thinking if someone doesn’t answer right away that they might not know what they are asking. If they don’t understand the question, they’ll ask or you’ll be able to see it in their body language, it will be ok.
to Talk About and How aka Your new Mantra is “Tell me more about that.” Talk a little about the kind of questions. What the interview you’re going to have is going to sound like. Example - this is going to sound ridiculous. That’s ok. User Research is unnatural, and you just have to embrace that. It’s not a regular convo. “What did you have for breakfast”. Toast. Oh really? How was the toast? Oh it was burnt, it was awful. Burnt, you say? Tell me more about that. The little slide, the settings were too high. Oh, how did it get that way? My husband cooks bagels and likes them dark and forgets to turn the slider back down. Ah - you’ve uncovered a usability problem. There are multiple users of this toaster and different use cases that overlap to cause problems. Probing deeper into why things are happening, is a great way to uncover problems that you can solve to make experiences better. And to get to that, just remember you can always say “tell me more about that”.
Tips Interview Tips Try not to ask yes or no questions, if you find yourself doing that or tell me more about that. Don’t ask leading questions. You: Was the volunteer experience yesterday fun? = wrong (you’re implying it should have been fun). You: Right = How was your time at the volunteer event yesterday? Volunteer: Oh it was good it was good. You: tell me more about that. Another Tip People want to please you, so you need to be aware of that and keep focusing on hearing about them and their experiences for interviewing to be effective. Nonprofits, no one wants to complain, so you should foster a culture of openness so they know they can come to you. How many people were in Rohit’s session on building innovative communities yesterday? This is some of that trust he was talking about - showing up and getting people involved in building something. And one last interview tip, which should probably be a rule itself - remember that what someone asks for might not be what they really need, so this is why we study needs, motivations, and behaviors instead of just making features based on requests made with no research behind them.
Practicing Interviews Icebreaker - So for today, you all will practice interviewing each other. In a moment, I’m going to ask you to pair up with someone at your table that you don’t know please - you’re going to be asking questions about each other’s organizations. You don’t want to practice this where you already know answers. What is your organization? | What is your role with the organization? And don’t just tell each other, each one of you should be asking each question and letting your partner answer. It’s good to practice asking these questions out loud as a practice, before you start interviewing users.
Interviews The next two slides will have questions on them, that you will ask each other. And as you are interviewing each other, go through the exercise of digging deeper, So if someone tells you they had toast for breakfast, ask them about their experience with the toast to learn about them and what they are dealing with, toastwise. :) And there are going to be a couple of things you do while you’re interviewing each other. When someone is answering, jot down the answers (Legibly - we’re going to analyze these eventually, other people are going to have to read them) on jot down the answers on post-its, with one issue per post- it. So if for instance you asked someone about their breakfast experience you’d use one post-it for comments about breakfast proteins another for comments about their experience with making fresh orange juice and yet another for a quick note about problems they experienced spreading butter on toast When you’re asking and listening, try not to think of your own answer, but really focus on what your partner is telling you. And to take something off of your plate, as you’re answering, don’t feel like you have to solve the problem right away, we’ll get into analysis a little later.
volunteer program? For the first question, I want you to dig into what problems your partner is facing with their volunteer program. After you ask them the question (and yes, ask the question out loud to them to practice, don’t rely on that they already know the question from this slide). Remember to write notes on the post-its, actively listen, and don’t try to solve the problems as you’re digging deeper using “tell me more” type phrases. Really dig into their experience. I’m going to give you each 5 minutes to ask and answer and I’ll set a timer to keep us on track. Alright ready go.
make your job easier? Ok now, the person in your group who just answered the first question, you’ll go first with this question. Try and find out what would make your partner’s job easier. Again you’ll have 5 minutes each to interview each other. Alright, great - so you’ve conducted some user interviews, now it’s time to analyze…
Now you’re going to work with your whole table as a group. I want you to take the post-its you’ve written notes on pile them up in the center of the table. It doesn’t have to be neat, messy is fine right now. Then I want you to grab a few of someone else’s notes and start grouping these notes together around similar problems and comments. You can lay them out on the table in groups. The idea is to start seeing relationships in the information you gathered so you can see the patterns and insights from in your research. Once you have the post-its grouped, start talking about these trends amongst yourselves, talk about stories that illustrate them, share with each other things you’ve seen in your own work. Don’t be afraid to just start grouping - the beautiful thing about post-its is they can easily be moved or reorganized.
about how we are not our users, and we’ve learned a little about how to talk to our users and analyze their issues. Now, let’s talk about words. Words are also a part of user experience. We in the nonprofit world like to share. And share we do on our websites and communications. In the tech world, when we learn content strategy, we are reminded that people don’t read everything on the web. They skim for what they think is important. So it’s our goal to not only write content, but to design it in such a way that makes it easy to consume. We need to practice the art of giving the users only the information at a particular time. And really consider what it is they need to know right now, vs all the things you want to share with them.
is our PVSA site. In the paragraph we’re saying important things like Hours are measured over a 12-month period and awards are designated based on cumulative hours. Ok good, that’s important. The awards are offered in multiple levels and are designed to recognize each milestone of your service achievement. Great. But then we start to say Levels include bronze, silver, gold and the highest honor, the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for those who contribute more than 4,000 hours of service in their lifetime. We didn’t need to repeat that there are multiple levels, those are in the chart. What would be more effective here is to have two bullet points about how it works and then design a better chart.
describing who can become a certifying organization to present the award to their volunteers. This is page 1 with all of the requirements and details and legal stuff. This is relevant information you need to know before you start the application process. There are better ways to present it, but let’s say all of this is relevant.
organization is. We’re asking the user to leave the site and go add an email address to their address book. That will be important down the line, but it’s not important here and honestly the first time I even saw that note was when I was putting this slide together…so people are going to skip this important info because there is so much and it’s not relevant right now. This entire page could be scrapped for
words, now it’s Give away time! I have here a book about writing for the web, using plain language, and knowing when to say what needs to be said, and how to be a little more human in the way we write for the web it’s call Nicely Said by my friend Kate Keifer Lee, Director of Communications at MailChimp and Nicole Fenton, Content Design Manager at 18F, a civic tech start up inside the federal government. So you’ve got start up and behemoth points of view coming together to talk about great writing for the web. Can someone come pull a biz card out of this box to see who wins? Name, Organization.
pro. Code for America Brigades Ladies that UX Post on Catchafire One final rule I’m going to share with you today. Sometimes to fix things, you really have to call a pro. Expensive - it’s true a good UX person comes at a cost, but we also have the biggest hearts in the design world. You can find people who understand your budget. Where can people find UX people to help? You can also post on catchafire.org and allforgood.org and find volunteers who want to give tech help. Code for America Brigades will help you find devs - when is their session. Ladies that UX in your city can point you to design resources
a volunteer manager told me she wasn't sure if ANY of her volunteers actually like the award ceremony they have at the end of each year. They literally never asked anyone about their experience. When I think about all the money they might spend on the ceremony, and that it might not even be something people enjoy was hard for me to hear. I hope that this has helped you see the possibilities of what these UX rules and tools can do for your Volunteer Experience. I hope you feel empowered to try them out and maybe get interested in learning a little more about UX). Feel free to follow me on twitter @beparticular. I tend to tweet a lot about the problems in the tech industry in between tweeting about service, but feel free to connect with me there or on LinkedIn if you have any follow up questions or want to learn more about UX. Thanks!
for learning about usability. https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Think-Revisited-Usability/dp/0321965515/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RV65NJ29D0BZN0ASZB5M Just Enough Research Discover your competitive advantages, spot your own blind spots and biases, and learn how to distill and harness your findings. https://www.amazon.com/Just-Enough-Research-Erika-Hall/dp/1937557103/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1498069433&sr=1-1&keywords=just+enough+research Coming Later this Year Technically Wrong: Why Digital Products Are Designed to Fail You Wachter-Boettcher demystifies the tech industry, leaving those of us on the other side of the screen better prepared to make informed choices about the services we use-and demand more from the companies behind them. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1681688611/_encoding=UTF8?coliid=I34VYSWCXSRVZQ&colid=2KGOL76VZLXP9