The mission of the Employment Security Department of Washington is to assist those who are recently unemployed — in finding new opportunities and providing a weekly stipend for up to six months, as long as the recipient consistently looks for work and keeps a record of their search. Claims are filed weekly, and detailed job search logs are required to be kept each week as well. The ESD has a website, but does not currently have a mobile application (or mobile version of the site).
Client: Washington State ESD
Challenge: Weekly unemployment claims are difficult to file on mobile devices, and job search logs can’t be done online at all.
Team: Myself, Rachel Matthews, Christopher Lewis
My Role: UX Designer, interview screener, interviews, assisting with proto-persona development, storyboards & sketches, prototyping, visual design, testing
My team and I developed a screener survey that resulted in several interviews with potential users; our interview script then gave us critical data on the interests, needs, frustrations, and goals of those who had filed claims with the WA ESD in the last three years. Additionally, I spoke with a representative of the ESD, and several common key focal points became evident.
Claims are filed by phone or online; phone filing generally involves a long wait, and the website doesn’t work well on mobile, so claimants are limited in where and how they can file. Also, maintaining the job search logs is an antiquated, labor-intensive paper process that creates extra effort and anxiety for claimants, who are constantly in fear of an audit and potential penalties. A digital job search log could enable claimants to link it to their searches and job application tracking, for time-stamped proof of their required activities. A mobile app could offer online, on-the-go claim filing, plus incorporate a greatly improved log feature to elegantly address the needs of both the ESD and claimants.
From our data we did some affinity diagramming, and developed some proto-personas and a few different user scenarios based on what we had learned from aggregating the gathered information. I sketched out rough storyboards to visually illustrate the scenarios, each representing a day in the life of our primary persona with and without our mobile app. In attempting to inhabit the world of our users, we discovered the main source of their frustrations was the systemic approach of the ESD. In its attempt to avoid fraudulent claims, the organization was seeing all claimants as potential fraudsters, and its requirements involved monitoring them and otherwise treating them with suspicion. This sets up an adversarial relationship from the start, that is completely counter-productive and unnecessary, based on the existing antiquated system.
Since a digital/online job search trail could (theoretically) dramatically reduce the threat of fraudulent claims, the potential for a more claimant-friendly approach becomes realistic. This could have a powerful ripple effect throughout the organization, and change the agency-claimant relationship for the better. Therefore the app should be simple, clean, and have a welcoming, helpful voice to reflect that potential new reality.
Since our data indicated that the largest percentage of our users were in possession of Android devices, we opted to design initially for that platform. We got to work building some quick, rough sketches, and iterating on some concept-mapping and task analysis in order to begin prioritizing functionalities for a minimum viable product.
We then built a basic sitemap based on what we had established thus far. After some refinement, our sketches were comprehensive enough to serve as a paper prototype that we subsequently tested with several people, and kept simplifying in the process. We were ready to begin building our high-fidelity prototype; this was to be our first exposure to Axure software, and thus with a looming deadline we needed to get up to speed quickly. So we opted to skip wireframing and focus on duplicating the paper prototype in hi-fi.
While all three of us learned Axure on the fly and began laying out screens and applying actions, I simultaneously focused on the visual design. With my background in graphics and identity, I was the natural choice to conceptualize and design the look and feel and the logo; I also came up with the name of the app. 'MoJo' is a multilayered play on words, stemming partly from joining the words 'mobile' and 'jobs', but also based on the colloquial meaning of the word 'mojo', which seemed appropriate for a friendly app that aims to help you get back to work. Once the visuals were established, the entire team set about building and refining the prototype, as shown in a few sample screenshots above.
We learned a great deal about our users and our client in this process. We realized that an app like this is long overdue for the agency, and has the potential to change its relationship to claimants in a dramatic and positive way. We discovered pain points for both that are completely unnecessary, and ways to not only help users but also to save costs for the client.
The benefits to the ESD of a successful app launch could be: decreased phone line staffing; decreased audit department staffing; metadata analysis of unemployment patterns; decreased need for data digitization; much less costly physical mailing to claimants; and potentially a major positive shift in overall perception of the organization. The benefits to users could be: convenience; more time devoted to job searching and less to documentation; more freedom, via the ability to file claims and record job searches digitally from anywhere; and less stress and anxiety, via not having to worry as much about being audited (or merely viewed with suspicion by default).
The success metrics we identified for this application would be:
OBJECTIVE: Number of app downloads; significant reduction in claims made via phonecall
SUBJECTIVE: Overall user satisfaction (determined by user surveys and app ratings).