CMU CMLH Internship

Research,  Experience Design,  Front-end Development
One in seven Americans rely on food pantries to feed their families. But here's the catch — food drives are a naïve solution to fighting hunger, despite their good intentions. Not only do they require paid workers to sort out expired items and deliver to warehouses, half of the donations fail to meet basic nutritional needs and are thrown away. Socius is a web application that aims to leverage these problems by better translating the needs of food insecure population to donors; while at the same time, empowering donors to make a direct impact by uplifting those needs.
Project Socius is a research project led by lead researcher Min Kyung Lee and is being designed and implemented in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team. Visit here to learn more about the abstract. Below are the team members involved in the research project.

Team members:
Ryan Park
Jessica Cheng
Catherine Chiodo
Michael James
Kate Carey
Hilary Lai
Vincent Kang
Lisa Otto
Voices Platform 
Socius Platform

Conducting In-depth Research

I carried out interviews with various stakeholders to understand the domain of community service in Pittsburgh. In depth interviews began to reveal the values and concerns that each stakeholder had regarding community service and donations. To visualize the intricate relationships and breakdowns in the system, we created the information architecture and I created a value flow map to outline where all the stakeholders fit into our product.
Getting an idea of the environment and inventory
Stakeholder maps to understand pain points in the system
Service landscape of the domain
User flow diagram
Early white board ideations of solution
Information Architecture
Pantry Value Flow Map

Interview Findings

There seemed to be disconnect between the people who manage the pantries and the people who utilize the food pantry to maximize their limited income. Below were few of the most memorable quotes from the interviews.
"
I have alot of special needs as far as my diets goes I have allergies and money does not go very far. There are days when I come and I can fit everything in one little bag but you know it’s what ever is received is such a blessing.
"
— Food Pantry Client (Retired Senior)
"
When people talk about these starving masses what we only talk about are success stories and I’m sick of that. Never mind the success stories, this is the best they can do, this is it.
"
— Food Pantry Manager
"
Beggars aren’t choosers.
I’m just glad to have this safety net
"
— Food Pantry Client (Retired Senior)

Voices, a channel to voice a need

Voices was the first essential product that was launched as a nested service to Socius. It empowers food pantry clients to voice their input on what they can't find in their pantries. This feedback ultimately helps donors to better understand the food-related needs of the food insecure population. Voices was designed and implemented in collaboration with Jessica Cheng, who helped implement and link voices to our database.

Voices V2

After user testing Voices in the food pantries, we realized pantry clients needed a simpler user interface due to clients' eyesights or unfamiliarity with digital interfaces.

Some modifications I made were,
1. Clear call to action buttons
2. Easier navigations
3. Implementation of progress bar
4. Switching to more conventional form inputs
5. Larger photos/font and brighter colors

Competitive Analysis

Socius was designed after comparing similar services that consist of a dual-hierarchy navigation user interface. Yelp, Foursqure, Zillow, and Trulia were a few examples we drew inspiration from when formulating the mirrored interactions between the map and list navigation.  

The analysis can be found here.

Socius, a channel for donation

Socius is a website that represents data collected from the food pantries to better inform about the problem of food insecurity to everyday citizens and empowers donors to donate to a cause they are passionate for. Socius was designed and implemented in collaboration with Ryan Park and Jessica Cheng who developed the backend and front end coding of the product.

On Socius, a user is able to donate to a cause through

Map Navigation: encouraging users to freely navigate through hundreds of request and donate to a cause based on ones proximity.
Filters: helping users to find a cause they can relate to.
Wireframe sketches to ideate card layouts
Wireframe sketches to ideate card layouts
Iterate. Iterate. Iterate.
First iteration of the user interface 
Most recent iteration of navigation and filters.
Most recent iteration of navigation and filters.