The design brief- design a product, application, technology, or service that enable people who are a new and completely unexplored user group in any country to appropriate things and technologies around them

Our target population was the homeless in US. More than half a million people in the United States were homeless in 2013. The cost of care for a single homeless person is $40K a year, totaling up to $24Billion per year. Many homeless people want to get out of homelessness. Compass is an online community that can enable them to do that. Mentors, people who have gone through homelessness themselves, advise those who are currently homeless.

Project Details

Competition: CHI Student design challenge 2015

Duration: 1 month

Role: UX Designer


Cindy Saroha
Letícia Patrício
Mohammed Abid
Thidanun Saensuksopa


Research &  Synthesis

We brainstormed a few ideas and questions before we conducted the user research. For the user interviews, we visited the East end cooperative ministry and the Light of life shelters in Pittsburgh. We recruited about 8 users across various age groups and backgrounds. No photographs were taken to protect their identity. During the interviews we tried to focus mainly on the reason for their homelessness and how they used technology. From the user interviews and a comprehensive research online, we found out that "substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, and mental illnesses" are the top 3 causes of homelessness among individuals.

For many homelessness was just a stage in their life. Almost all of them were trying to get out of homelessness but there was no one to guide them. The shelters could provide them with the necessary information, but not everyone has access to the shelters. They said most of them have a smartphone and if not they have access to the internet at the shelters.

Prototype &  Design

We took all the research data and came up with bunch of ideas. Keeping in mind the user demographic and their access to technology, we eliminated ideas till we were left with the online story sharing community. Each of us then came up with our own prototypes and tested them on the users. The results from that round of user testing helped us to identify the shortcomings of the prototypes we had and it also gave us a better understanding of the users' mental model. We then came up with a single prototype in Balsamiq and user tested it again. We used the results to come up with the high fidelity prototype.

Project outcome

We prepared a 6 page paper based on our research and the product we came up with. We also submitted a poster detailing the project. Compass was one among the top 12 submissions in the competition.

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