AsylumConnect

Enhancing the Experience of Service Providers with a Mobile App for LGBTQ+ Affirming Services

AsylumConnect App Mockup

AsylumConnect

AsylumConnect App Mockup

Enhancing the Experience of Service Providers with a Mobile App for LGBTQ+ Affirming Services​

Moderated Usability Testing 
LGBTQ+ mission-driven research

February 2020 – April 2021

UX Research
ResearchOps

UserTesting, Slack, Excel, Miro, Power Point, Calendly, Google Drive

Executive Summary

AsylumConect is the first nonprofit scale-up to address the holistic needs of persecuted LGBTQ+ people for safe and verified legal, medical, mental health, and other social services in North America. To help the organization improve the user experience of version 1.0 of its native mobile apps, together with 3 other UX researchers, I designed, moderated, and analyzed remote usability tests with 5 service providers who used the app to gather verified services for their clients.

5 Priorities

The usability tests with 5 service providers lead to 5 product development priorities.

Vetting Process

Adding a hyperlink about the vetting process (new page opens) to verified info badges and ensuring the information/hyperlink is accessible on desktop and mobile might help users gain more trust in the resources they found.

Additional Filters

“Apply filters” button is needed for the mobile view because service providers were not confident additional filters were properly applied when they searched for resources for their clients.

Language

Ensure the language icon is clear and stands out. A dropdown with country flags and country names in alphabetical order might help.

Share Resources

Redesigning the share icon by adding clarifying text might help users better recognize the purpose of the symbol. Adding at least one sharing option like sharing via email for users without a user account might keep the retention high.

Search by Org Name

Adding a search by name of the organization (in addition to the ability to search by location) might quickly aid service providers to refer clients more efficiently to organizations they already know.

Task Experience

We asked all service providers about their perceived confidence and difficulty after each usability task. I summarized the results in two tables. The lower scores motivated us to seek qualitative interpretations. This approach helped us derive 5 priorities.

Confidence Average

Table 1. Single Tasks Confidence Average

Ease of Use Average

Table 2. Single Tasks Ease of Use Average

Legend

Legend

Product Experience

After completing all tasks, service providers filled out System Usability Scale (SUS), which I provided in Google Forms. I calculated the SUS score, which gave us an immediate insight into the overall usability of the app and a benchmark for future studies.  Our score of 78.13 fell above the average SUS score of 68 and it was within the acceptable usability level.

System Usability Score

Figure 1. System Usability Score is not a percentage, but a total score out of 100

Background

The problem within the LGBTQ+ community

80+
It remains illegal or unsafe to live as an LGBTQ+ person in more than 80 countries
1.7M
Cases backlogged in the U.S. immigration court system
300+
Bills have been introduced across the U.S. targeting the trans community
22%
Of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. live in poverty vs 16% of cisgender heterosexual people

Photo by Mary Saxaroz on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ asylum seekers face unique obstacles. They must navigate through discrimination from social services and prejudices from fellow asylum seekers in their new home due to their LGBTQ+ identity.

About AsylumConnect

Free app

Co-founded in 2016 by a gay asylum seeker and American trans-man, AsylumConnect is a New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit scale-up providing the world’s first free tech platform matching LGBTQ+ people with safe, verified services in North America.

AsylumConnect Desktop and Mobile App

The  AsylumConect App is available on web, mobile web, and native iOS and Android.

where

 The App contains LGBTQ+ affirming services in the USA, Mexico, and Canada

services

The AsylumConnect App is the first free tech platform to address the holistic needs of persecuted LGBTQ+ people.

Legal Support

Medical Care

Mental Health

Food & Shelter

Education & Employment

Other Social Services

audience

resource seeker

Resource Seeker

With the app every LGBTQ+ person regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, immigration status and/or income level can find verified and safe legal, medical, mental health, and other services.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

service provider

Service Provider

Immigration attorneys, resettlement agencies, state and local governments, and other service providers also use the free app to gather verified information for their clients.

Photo by Mary Saxaroz on Unsplash

 Every direct service provider listed on AsylumConnect undergoes a unique and rigorous vetting process designed to ensure they are immigrant friendly and welcoming to the diverse LGBTQ+ members.

features

Video 1. AsylumConnect Mobile App Demo

Objectives

In November 2019 AsylumConnect launched version 1.0 mobile app for iOS and Android.

In 2020 I joined the first-ever UX research team of 4 researchers. The Executive Director asked us to test the major user flows with service providers and share insights with key stakeholders: UX Design Lead, Tech Lead, and Executive Director.

In addition, my team had to lay the foundations of the research operations.

AsylumConnect search mockup

Summary of main research objectives

1. Evaluate major user flows with the mobile app

2. Discover concerning issues

3. Understand how service providers scrutinize resources for their clients

4. Gather feedback on task and product level

Methods

We recruited 5 service providers from 5 legal nonprofits that signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with AsylumConnect. They took part in 1-hour long remote usability tests via the UserTesting platform between 2020 and 2021. Thanks to a grant from UserTesting, which I extend every year, we were able to conduct and record the interviews. I moderated 2 interviews and took notes during other 2 interviews. 

Figure 1. Remote Moderated Usability Test with UserTesting

Process

These were the steps my team and I took to establish the research practice and operations at AsylumConnect for the first-ever usability testing of the mobile app. As volunteers on two continents with limited resources and scattered availability in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and political turmoil during the U.S. presidential elections, the project took us about one year.

Step 1
February 2020
Stakeholder Interviews

My team and I talked to the Executive Director, UX Design Lead, and Tech Lead to learn about previous research, see the product roadmap and gather new research requirements.

Step 2
Desk Research

We conducted a heuristic evaluation of the app and competitor analysis to scrutinize all user flows, suggest easy fixes, and learn about the industry and asylum process.

Step 3
Discussion Guide

My research team prioritized major user flows and created scenarios to test them with participants.

Step 4
Participant Recruitment

We used warm contacts to recruit service providers from organizations we had signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

Step 5
Usability Testing

As winners of the One World grant, we could use the UserTesting platform to conduct and record pilots with interns and interview sessions with service providers. Colleagues could observe the live interviews through a link we shared with the whole organization.

Step 6
Synthesis

We designed a spreadsheet to take notes and mark scores (ease of use, confidence, and success rate), as well as, we created a Miro board to organize findings.

Step 7
April 2021
Presentation

The UX research lead at the time and I created a Google slide presentation, which we presented to the UX design team, Tech Lead and Executive Director. I helped the product team implement 3 solutions by clarifying their follow-up questions after the end of the study.

Key Findings

1. Vetting Process

When was the organization vetted?

None of the participants could easily find when an organization, that offered services to LGBTQ+ resource seekers, was vetted without a prompt from the moderator.

“I had to click and hold down, which I don’t think I would think to do on a mobile device.”

Participant 1

“I would not ever think to do that!”– 

Participant 5

Recommendations:

  • Immediate fix (engineering):

Update hover mouse text to: “The information on this page was last updated on DATE. AsylumConnect prioritizes accuracy and user safety, and updates all information at least once every 6 months. For more information on our vetting process, please click here. [link to vetting process website page]“

  • More permanent fix (UX design):

Improving the accessibility of the hover text description and ensuring the information is reachable on both desktop and mobile should help service providers discover and understand the vetting process so that they could trust an organization and eventually refer a client to it.

2. “Apply Filters” Button

Was my choice saved?

Most participants were not confident that the additional filters were applied correctly.

Video 2. Service provider confused if “Additional Filters” were applied  (0:20)

Recommendation:

“Apply Filters” button is needed for mobile view and desktop to ensure users know that their selected choices are active.

3. Switching Language

What if my client didn’t speak English?

Most service providers were concerned that their clients may not be able to switch languages if their clients didn’t speak English.

“If my preferred language wasn’t English maybe I wouldn’t understand it.”

Participant 3

Recommendation:

  • Ensure the language icon is clear and stands out. A dropdown with country flags and country names in alphabetical order might help.

4. Sharing Resources

How can I share a resource with my client?

All participants were confident that they knew how to share a resource, but they got confused about why a login was required. They looked for alternative ways like twitting or emailing.

Some service providers were concerned that their clients would not recognize the share symbol.

AsylumConnect share mockup

Recommendations:

  • Redesigning the share icon by adding a clarifying text might help users better recognize the purpose of the symbol.
  • Adding at least one sharing option like sharing via email for users without a user account might keep the retention high.

5. Search by Organization Name

What if I didn’t know the location of an organization?

Finding their own organization troubled majority of service providers.

Video 3. Service provider struggling to find an organization (0:30)

Recommendation:

  • Creating a separate column under “Join Challenge Request” with request status next to the Action column might help participants understand that they took the correct step to join a challenge (visibility of system status heuristic).

Impact

The UX research team delivered 3 quick fixes to the November 2020 product release following heuristic and competitor analysis:

Updated Footer and Call to Action

Added labels for service icons on Search Results and Organization Profile Pages

Added “Verified Information” and “Claimed” badges to organizations’ profile page

Following the usability tests, the product team adopted 3 recommendations in 2021:

Added a hyperlink with the vetting processes to verified info badges

Added the ability to search by organization name (in addition to by location) to enable users to easily identify whether a direct service provider has been certified as affirming by the AsylumConnect team

Added drop shadow and clarifying icon to the language dropdown menu

Reflections

Thanks to tools such as Slack, Google Drive, Google Meet, Zoom, Miro, and UserTesting, I could collaborate with 3 UX researchers and other stakeholders synchronously and asynchronously.

With the help of the cross-functional team, I supplied our research operations with a recruitment flyer, participant referral form, CRM with service providers, and consent forms.

The biggest challenge with the project was recruiting participants. Initially, we wanted to talk to migrant resource seekers, but the pandemic, the closed US-Mexico border, and political events during the U.S. elections prevented us from researching this target group. Once community centers and legal nonprofits opened their offices, we could connect with them and ask service providers to participate in remote usability testing. The UX Research lead and I emailed 30+ organizations from a list provided by the Executive Director. I managed a participant recruitment form.

Testing the mobile app was a hurdle. As a nonprofit without a budget for a commercial testing platform, we considered implementing the so-called “hug the laptop” procedure. However, this required our participants to have a laptop and a mobile device. Luckily, one team member found out about the One World program with UserTesting. When one teammate dropped in 2021 I continued managing the relationship with UserTesting as well as granting platform access to new teammates.

Because most of the activities at our tech nonprofit were carried out by volunteers, not everyone had the possibility to invest an equal amount of time in the project. Towards the end, the UX research lead, one UX designer, and I finalized the user interviews.

Our research findings could not immediately be implemented because the engineering backlog was full of items. Donations could help us hire full-time staff members to speed up product development. We hired a full-time engineering lead in September 2022.

I kept the continuity of the research project in times when 3 Tech Leads and 2 UX Design Leads changed. After the end of this research project, the UX Research lead left and the Executive Director appointed me as the new UX research lead in 2021.

In 2022 AsylumConnect became InReach to offer a tech platform for the wider LGBTQ+ community in need of safe and verified resources. I am preparing a round of research to test the brand perception and learn from LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, and the wider trans community.