Virtual Phone Bank Connect
About the Project
Normally, our users utilize our MiniVAN Mobile App to canvass for political or organizing goals. However, with the pandemic and social distancing, there was no safe way to canvass door-to-door. People still needed to build relationships with voters and volunteers but could only do so from the their homes on a desktop or mobile app.
What did our users need? What problems were they facing? How could we help? Within the constraint of our phone banking tool and the idea that people were calling voters from their homes, I set out to design a click-to-dial tool that felt safe, secure, and maybe even delightful.
A New Context
Our users were accustomed to using our OpenVPB program - a tool where volunteers can go through a public link to call voters with a script. In this new context, however, people were calling from their homes, with plenty of distractions. There were now children, dogs, stress, and internet explorer tabs, among other things. At the same time, this new context also allowed for opportunities like additional calls.
When deciding what would go into the MVP, I first conducted competitive research to see what users were expecting in this type of feature. From a business perspective, we really needed our tool to be more ‘usable’ than other competitors. After all, this was a landscape where people were generally using one tool for all of their canvassing needs.
We wanted to offer a tool that lets callers click-to-dial on our phone bank tool from within any browser. The best voter and volunteer outreach tool during the pandemic was something that would allow for flexibility and clarity.
VPB Connect, as it became named, would allow users to call voters easily from the click of a button. While we had settled on a general concept for this tool, I focused my design process around the principles of flexibility and ease of use. I wondered how we could present information in a way that would allow people to grasp intuitively where to click in a fast-paced, often stressful calling experience. I wondered how we could reduce the amount of clicks that it took someone to call a target.
It turned out that user testing would be invaluable for fine-tuning the buttons and UI functionality. After all, when you are working with something as critical as a voter calling feature, small affordances take on vast importance. The UI indicating that the feature is calling a voter, for instance, needs to blend with the mental model that users already have in place while also being differentiated from the other buttons. There was a lot to explore and then narrow down in both the mobile and desktop experience.
Usability Test Takeaways ...
I was able to do about 4 hour long usability tests with people who didn't know much about this voter contact tool. Their fresh perspective allowed me to gain valuable feedback on where users were getting "stuck" on the mobile and desktop interfaces. These tests allowed me to implement small changes in the UI that clarified the interface considerably.
The usability tests confirmed there was confusion around where to start, how to call, and how to end the call. The “connected” and “connecting” pips were misleading at first, and certain buttons were deemed unnecessary. Ultimately, for a tool that would take place in a high-stress situation of calling voters who may not want to be called -- we needed every button to be explicitly clear.
After a lot of fine tuning with people I tested, and collaboration with product managers and other designers, I arrived at a clear final version. This version addressed the need to include "About" information with progressive disclosure, a clear "on" and "off" function for calling folks, and a script to carefully guide the caller through the process.
The mobile version of VPB Connect involved careful consideration of responsive stacking and placement of buttons which were easily accessed by thumbs for the most crucial actions.
With millions of calls a day and extensive positive client feedback, we deemed this tool a success!
VPB Connect Wins Bronze in Best Use of New Field Technology in 2021 Pollie Awards
My exploration next steps: Visioning for a Gamified Progress Bar
As you know, a feature is never complete after the first iteration. I'm continuing to work on a progress bar and gamification feature to add to VPB Connect. In the often stale process of calling people, this addition could offer a rewarding push to motivate folks to move forward in the calling process.
© 2021 Carolyn Burnham. All rights reserved.
© 2021 Carolyn Burnham. All rights reserved.