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2020 Senior Capstone Project



In my last quarter of college, my life, like many others', changed due to the spread of COVID-19. In the first few weeks of the pandemic's entrance into the US, many of my friends and family members found themselves without a job & seeking unemployment for the first time. I couldn't help but realize how frustrating the system made them feel in a time where they were already experiencing tremendous loss. As a designer, I saw these moments as opportunities to create a better way. 

TLDR; This project is a human-centered designed unemployment system. 

Exploratory Research

I began with exploratory research that was centered around talking with newly unemployed people about their experiences in order to gain better understanding and empathy. I asked open-ending questions & formed questions that would evoke stories from the users. 

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  • Take me back to the moment your job ended, what was that like? How did it happen?

  • What were some of the next steps you took? Where did you find information? What was going through your head?

  • Can you walk me through the process of filing for unemployment? Try to speak aloud your thoughts as much as possible.

  • How does this process make you feel? Can you tell me more about that?

Since this research was conducted in the COVID-19 pandemic, I met with all participants in a remote setting. Through these real and raw conversations, I learned about what led them to seek unemployment benefits. I listened to stories of loss, anger, frustration, and panic.

Here's what I heard:

"It's like having a rug suddenly swept out from under you. I'm scared & anxious about the future."

"I've never had to do this before, I don't know where to start [...] I feel very, very anxious right now."

"I feel panicked."

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The interviews helped me understand and better empathize with newly unemployed people. These findings were summarized in a user journey map of the current, “as-is” state.

  • For many, this was the first time filing for government aid, and they did not know where to start or where to find the answers to their questions

  • Some of the common questions users had were, “how do I know if I’m eligible?” & “how much money will unemployment offer me?”

  • Unlike other online experiences, users come to the website feeling a sense of urgency, panic, and sometimes even shame.

Main Take-Aways:

Evaluative Research

Moderated Usability Testing

I conducted moderated usability testing on current unemployment sites with different users who were recently unemployed. They were tasked with performing actions such as, finding eligibility information and filing an unemployment application. This allowed me to assess how well the unemployment sites were designed to meet the needs of the target user group. For instance, first time users often did not know how unemployment worked. There was confusion if they should file online or call in person to the unemployment line along with vocabulary used on the site. Once the application was filed, they were not sure how much money they were going to receive and the status of their application was unclear. 

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Moderated Usability

Test via Zoom

Heuristic Review

I used Jakob Nielsen's Heuristics to evaluate the overall user experience. Many of the problems I discovered were directly related to the outcomes of the moderated usability testing.

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Visibility of System Status

  • The unemployment website clearly discouraged users from calling in for help, but did not provide a status of wait time or number of callers.

  • Once the unemployment application was filed, the status of the application was unclear.

User Control and Freedom

  • The application process offered little control and freedom to users and prevented users from freely navigating through the application.

  • Users are not able to save their application
    and return at a later time.

Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

  • The application portal does not offer users flexibility or efficiency of use in navigation. Users are not able to freely skip ahead and go back within the application.

Recognition Rather than Recall

  • The unemployment website clearly discouraged users from calling in for help, but did not provide a status of wait time or number of callers.

  • Once the unemployment application was filed, the status of the application was unclear.

Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

  • Overall, the site is cluttered with lots of information that makes it overwhelming for users to find what they need.

Redesigning the User Flow

Personal Information

Unemployment Status

Card Sorting

There is a lack of content organization within the unemployment application, and it was clear this needed to be redesigned.

I conducted a card-sorting study with users in order to understand their mental models and categorization of content.

The categories that emerged were:

Employment History

Payment Information

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Proposed User Flow

The new user flow created a streamlined process for users to file for unemployment. In this user flow, I eliminated unnecessary steps that currently existed in the site.

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Using the proposed user flow, I quickly created wireframes to test with users. Most of the feedback I received was positive. The main feedback I received was in regards to the call to action on the home page. In the wireframes, it brought users to a screen that helped users identify if they were eligible for unemployment. While users liked the idea of this tool, most expected the main call to action to lead to the application portal. 

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Design Solutions

Landing Page

Visibility of System Status

Users were frustrated about the amount of time they needed to wait to talk to someone. Visibility into the call wait time removed this frustration for users. 

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Help for First Time Users

Visibility into the process of receiving unemployment benefits eases the anxiety for first-time users.

Help for First Time Users

One of the most common questions users asked during the research phase was "how do I know if I'm eligible?" 

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Empathetic Tone & Voice

When people file for unemployment, they are usually experiencing a loss of job or work. The tone & voice of the site empathizes with the situation of the user.

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Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

The application portal allows users to freely skip between steps unlike the current system. It also minimizes the amount of steps the users has to take. 

High Fidelity Prototyping

After a few iterations of wireframes from user feedback, I created a high fidelity prototype of the proposed new website for unemployment. 

Below is the interactive prototype:

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