Aktion Mensch is a leading funding agency committed to promote inclusion which means reducing barriers in the everyday life of people with disabilities through providing financial support for social projects and campaigns.
We were tasked with designing an easy to use online assistant for both novice and expert users that bundles exisiting informational data associated with complex discovery processes of funding terms and opportunities.
As the quantity of aid programs gradually increased over time thus somewhat outgrowing the IA (which simply wasn't intended to handle a large amount of data), research became more and more difficult. Users were forced to gather informational data up by themselves without being able to save their discoveries for later inspection. In addition, it was unclear whom they should address when having questions about specifics that weren't covererd by existing content. All this summed up to an UX in great need of improvement with usually very frustrated users complaing to a customer support which wasn't intended to handle such inquiries.
This is where Foerderfinder kicks in. Its main purpose is to assist both professional fundraisers repectively (small) nonprofit organisations while being in the stage of research for a suitable aid program, seamlessly redirecting them to Aktion Mensch's application system upon discovery. I was commissioned with further elaborating conceptional data provided by the client through creating an intuitive user guidance, developing a prototype and complete set of wireframes while being in a close cross-functional collaboration with front and backend developers ensuring to meet technical parameters.
We moved on and dove deeper into the process by creating a digital prototype in Axure to grasp how the approach would feel on mobile and desktop devices. To be honest this was a rather fiddly part of the project because it remained subject to negotiation whether the assistant should generally consist of elements from the standard pattern library. This would not only affect the entire page structure, but also the usability of the assistant itself.
We opted for creating a prototype using standard patterns on the one hand and some sketch-based high fidelity wireframes on the other to circumvent this conflict. In fact, this hybrid strategy turned out to be a little gold mine: it allowed us to explore diverse approaches in parallel and test them against each other instead of insisting on the initial approval. Sometimes conflicting approaches are helpful to meet a desired objective.
After we handed the prototype over to the client, I immediately started to visualize the initial and less fragmented approach in Omnigraffle emphasizing its core purpose: to quickly find a suitable aid program by answering a linear sequence of questions while avoiding overextension. Through a minimalistic look and feel we ensured clarity as well as legibility on the somewhat text-heavy pages. With revised editorial content approved and available by that time, I luckily could pursue an effective content-first approach for the best possible UX.
We were able to identify content-related constraints especially on detail pages and how to improve them by using anchor links to live up to a satisfiable usability and navigation experience. I strongly aimed for a sticky navigation on mobile devices in order to constantly keep key functionalities within the viewport. With the results page being an essential part of the search experience, its card-based UI is designed for quick data gathering containing key facts and a recurring "visual language" utilizing icons to solely communicate informations that are valuable at this stage.
Realizing this project during summer and fall of 2015 was an intense experience. Not only was it fun to work collaboratively with both our in-house and Aktion Mensch's own developers, but it also enriched me personally. Sometimes accepting proposals from a technical mindset simply nails it while being faster to build and not affecting the overall outcome.
That said, starting broad and exploring multiple directions while constantly involving and communicating with stakeholders, enabled us to extract and capture the essence of the assistant experience for both users and the brand itself. This strengthened the relationship with our client and helped to develop a clear vision of the tonal expectations of end users.