UX Designer
square_dsc.png

Delphi Social Clubs

Community building website designed for autistic young adults

Delphi Social Clubs

A community-building website accessibly designed for autistic young adults.

10 weeks, Spring 2017, capstone project, team of four

Sponsored by Ryther • Awarded for excellence in design at the 2017 HCDE Open House

 

Many young adults on the autism spectrum or who have autism-adjacent conditions face social obstacles and find solace in online relationships. However, there are important benefits to building offline or "in real life" relationships. Delphi Social Clubs is the first online/offline community building website designed for the diverse needs of young adults on the autism spectrum or autism adjacent in the Pacific Northwest.

Over the course of ten weeks, our team researched, designed, and tested our concept for Delphi Social Clubs. Our highly principled user-centered design process led us to a final design that is accessible, engaging, and exciting.

In this project, I was the Visual Design Co-Lead and Usability Lead.

 
 
 

 

Process

Our team chose the following design process in order to deliver final high-fidelity mockups at the end of the project, but spend enough time researching and testing them as well. We spent 2-3 weeks on each phase.

 

Investigation

Focus Groups

 

Reading about autism in articles in journals was not enough to understand it. In order to gain a deeper understanding of this community, we needed to meet some of its members and interact with them. Our method was extremely successful because it fostered conversation and taught us about what this community cares about in a social website. We ran two focus groups for a total of eight participants, all on the autism spectrum. Focus groups revolved around an activity where participants shared their favorite website.

From our focus groups, we learned that:

  • Our users value staying connected with friends and family
  • Our users value both contributing and consuming content
  • Our users value linear, clear, and visually prioritized content

 

Implications for Design

 
capstone_implications.jpg

Ideation

In this phase, our team began translating our user research into wireframes through a series of activities and exercises.

For a more detailed recount of this highly principled process, please contact me or or request my full process book here.

 

Personas

 
 

 

2x2 Matrices

Select Wireframes

 
 

 

Evaluation

In this phase, I led our team in testing the usability and fit of our wireframes for our target users through a series of tests. We ran seven usability tests each with an autistic or autism-adjacent member of the Ryther community. We asked participants to complete three tasks as well as a short interview and survey. These tests were instrumental in making informed design decisions in our next design phase.

Usability Tests: Key Findings

  • Search function: Many participants said they would use a search bar to complete tasks, but no search bar was available on the homepage of our wireframes. Some participants wanted a search bar within Interest Groups to navigate to a specific one more quickly, however, a search bar was already designed in Interest Groups but was not prominent enough.
    • Design Recommendation: Include a search bar on the homepage and make it more prominent on other pages.
  • Interest Groups vs. Forums: Content: We were interested in learning if the content distinction between Interest Groups and Forums was clear enough. Would participants know which to go to for each task? While some participants guessed correctly, many commented on the unclear distinction and asked for higher clarity between the two. For example, P7 wasn’t sure if he should look for Anime on Forums or Interest Groups.
    • Design Recommendation: Remove content distinction between Interest Groups and Forums.
  • Interest Groups vs. Forums: Thread Style: We designed thread styles in Interest Groups and Forums, where the former is chatroom-style and the latter is traditional forum thread-style. We did this to promote social engagement in a variety of ways, but also to learn which style participants preferred. We found that some participants valued both styles, while some preferred Forums.
    • Design Recommendation: Keep both thread styles to allow users to engage socially in whichever way they prefer
       

Final Designs

After investigating, ideating, and evaluating, our team created final screen designs based on our three main features: Events, Forums, and Interest groups.

One of the major changes that needed to happen following usability tests was differentiating Interest Groups and Forums. Originally, the idea behind the two was not just thread style differences, but content differences as well. Members of the Ryther community originally wanted Interest Groups to be more club-like, where people with similar interests could chat and interests would be defined by the community. Forums, on the other hand, were envisioned as a space where people of all interests could discuss important topics, like transitioning to life in college or getting feedback on a resume. However, we learned through usability tests that this difference was not intuitive and not worth teaching because the difference is so slight.

As we moved into high-fidelity designs, we decided that there is no content differentiation between Interest Groups and Forums, but only thread style differences. Instead, users can search any term they like, using the new search bar on every page, and find relevant Interest Groups, Forums, and Events as results. This makes more sense for this community because users can decide which type of social engagement they prefer at a given time, but are presented with relevant opportunities to explore if they would like.