The personalized experience for the homeless to find work

In the light of our ongoing epidemic with homelessness we were challenged to come up with new ways on how we could help to alleviate this issue.

UC Davis & HOPE
UX Design / Research
Web App

The OVerview

About The Project

University of California, Davis has partnered with a nonprofit called HOPE in Northern California. They have reached out to the UC Davis design department to collaborate on building a web interface that addresses the key issue that many homeless students are facing, which is job insecurity.

While this issue is a massive one to tackle it was important to think about the decisions I made in phases. This made the process much more agile, and allowed for bigger steps towards the final product.

The OVerview


UX Designer
User Research, Interaction, Visual design, Prototyping & Testing

Feb '21 - Mar '21

The Problem

In light of public health concerns, homelessness has become prevalent in our society today. Job insecurity has become a threat to their physical health and living situations. UC Davis homeless students have ever since struggled to find stable jobs that will hire them and give them a chance. 

Over 500,000 people in the United States face homelessness, especially in the current times of COVID-19

The rising rate of homelessness in America till 2019

The Challenge

The design challenge concerns an interface that will bring the job market and the homeless closer to employment. The pain point for the user is facing harsh criticism that people might not give them a second chance. Rework has become a web interface that addresses this; our problem statement revolves around:

How might we give homeless students at UC Davis enough resources so they can find new opportunities to decrease job insecurity?

The Solution

I elected to implement a homeless job application service dashboard. Users could enter this site from the public library, community centers, or other school access points. From there they could find real work opportunities and easily apply without going through third parties. We will partner with local non profits, and business to help supply jobs without needing a physical address.

The Kickoff

Interviewing stakeholders

Before diving into initial research, I interviewed the project stakeholders in Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center to better understand project goals, constraints, and scope. I received the following quote about user trust and mindfulness.

“Consider how a homeless student would feel confident and comfortable using the website. Remember that it impacts users' trust and UC Davis as well.”

Secondary Research

With the help from Basic Needs Center I had acquired enough resources to begin the project's secondary research. I began by focusing on resources that current homeless students use. This helped me to understand how each organization successfully incorporated its user. 

While it provides some resources there isn't much help except for linking them to external links

This is already a distance away for homeless students, they are only a resource based platform where you have to go through steps to get help.

However, after doing much of this research I learned from our data that:

No way of taking real action to applying for job
Many information site that requires them to play telephone to get through

Across the platforms, it was difficult for the user to take an action to securing a job; many were just informational sites with a phone numbers. This decreases the motivation for homeless students to feel they can easily reach out. 

Understanding User’s Needs

From this point, I had gathered enough data where we can start to narrow our focus to pin point their potential pain points and what they need to succeed.

I wanted to truly understand what these students were going through on a daily basis. One thing I didn't account for is how hard it would be to get in contact with homeless student due to the sensitivity of the issue. This was tricky!

I reached back out to the Basic Needs Center to see if they might have any students that would like to talk about their current struggles with homelessness, and to my surprise they got back to me a week later with 2 homeless students who had some ideas on ways to improve the homeless network.

One student told me:

“I sleep in my car, and I can sometimes get a shower at the fitness center... the hardest part about being in this situation is not having a physical address. It's near impossible to work without one.”

The other student talked about their current situational struggles:

“Even though there’s financial aid, and (some) school supplies offered for my situation, I would really like to have a bit of extra money to enjoy my college years.”

From this I learned:

They felt there was no space on campus that catered to their job insecurities.

They will take any type of job roles if there are availability that catered for them.

which suggest a "gig" network platform could be better over a full time job since it's easier for the business end to secure partnerships, while also not needing a physical address for the user.

Ideation, ideation, ideation!

Narrowing the Focus

After honing in the main point I wanted to solve, I met with stakeholders from UC Davis team to discuss what direction to pursue. My primary ideas to help users address job insecurity were providing a platform dedicated to easy gig searching, easy apply, and establishing trust through collaborating with local nonprofits, the community as a whole, and of course the university. I decided to hone in on the easy application process to address the need. It was practical and could increase motivation for work.


After that, I created a user persona which helped me to keep our users in mind throughout the entire design process.

These were the existing key players I narrowed down to based on users' data

Dissecting the User Journey 

At this step I put myself in a user’s shoes, begin to think back to interviews, and pinpoint where the struggle is after multiple user interactions. As you can see below, it was a challenge for users to trust and feel motivated to keep going because the system that had never really provided them any support.

Whiteboarding the persona journey line


Putting It On Paper

My iterative process revolved around how to help the homeless through various resources, trust-building, and interactive experiences. I wanted to encapsulate my thought process through this mind map.

Creating The Wireframes

I drew up a few sketches of what the onboarding process would look like that instill trust. This helped me visualize my design decisions before wireframing and testing.

Utilizing crazy 8s and other sketching methods to rapidly ideate

A more refined take on my discoveries in earlier sketches

An iteration that REWORK working alongside the school, public officials, and the community to spread the word about the product.

A few features to note that were included in the designs:

Creating a feature where our users would be able to apply to these jobs online, without playing telephone with third-party organizations

Creating a User Flow

Before jumping into the mid-fidelity wireframes, I created a user flow to help me visualize the different use cases which were the user posting the jobs, and the user applying to the roles.

Creating Mid-Fidelity Screens

Once I had a key idea of user needs and personalized needs, I created a few wireframes. This helped me visualize on  the onboarding process and decide on the look and feel of the prototype for testing.

Homepage where the user would be invited to find work

Gigs would be posted here and users could also search for jobs they wanted

when a user clicks into a gig they could see the details

Testing the Prototype

Using sketches and wireframes, I designed the initial prototype for testing. I used Figma to design and prototype because of the ease of making changes and sharing the prototype when testing.

One challenge here was it was very hard to get contact with homeless students.pivoted to test this with students on UC Davis' campus that were specifically looking for jobs due to time constraints on this project.

I received the following feedback from them:

"This is really easy to use. It would be great if there is a way to find specific work that I like to do."

"I would use this, and I like the options provided, but it feels like I have a lack of options with job choices"

Creating a Style Guide

Before making the necessary improvements due to the feedback on the mid fidelity, I wanted to make sure the design was correctly styled. This was important because we wanted to create an experience where it motivates homeless student to use the platform.

How could we make this platform more inviting for homeless students, but also people who were posting the gigs? I had to start from scratch to create a design system and brand messaging. I designed the typography, hierarchy, components and color theory to match consistency on the product. 

The color was chosen to create a calming effect while also being warm and inviting

The font was meant to be bold and exciting, but also slightly playful

The Finale

Time for High Fidelity

After receiving feedback I knew that the design needed some work. I understood what helped the users and what hindered their experience, which helped me easily refine the design. I iterated on a new option before the landing page which allowed users to easily choose what purpose they were coming on to the site for. My addition was meant to provide users a visual cue as to how to navigate the site properly. 

Onboarding screen for when the user first enters

moving the user onto the necessary home screen for their needs

Once the user searches they can find the jobs they want. Included was a map view to find the location easier.

The job application screen for users to go through

What I learned

Working with UC Davis on a solo project was an incredible experience. I learned firsthand what it is like to work on each part of the design process while translating data into a real product. The project was a success, and it provided me with great learning experience.

As a sole designer, I was responsible for every part of the project. I learned about the importance of asking the right questions, working in a scrappy environment, development handoff and the entire design process. When interviewing the users, I learned that there might be specific key usability issues that might not appear on the surface. 

Running my final user tests on students

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