Bed of Roses
Overview
My team and I conducted research to find out how we could create a product to address the challenges faced by creatives and artists from underrepresented groups, and developed a tool that allows users to conduct targeted searches for funding within a comprehensive database of opportunities. 
Client        General Assembly UX Immersive
Timeline   2.5 weeks
Team        Jasmine Poteat, Vanessa Bowen
Role          UX Research, Wireframing, Prototyping
The Challenge
We set out to learn how artists and creatives connect with resources to both fund their work, and support their personal well-being—with a focus on those who identify with a minority group. 
The Result
Bed of Roses—a tool that connects artists and creatives from underrepresented communities with a comprehensive database where they can easily discover, find and save funding opportunities tailored to their unique preferences
The Process
​​​​​​​01—Research
02—Identify Opportunities
03—Ideation
04—Developing the Prototype
05—User Testing & Iteration
06—Delivery & Reflection
Research Goals
Our goals included understanding the end-to-end process of how users are currently connecting with funding opportunities, uncovering the tools they use to discover opportunities, and identifying the problems or barriers they encounter when trying to locate opportunities.
Methods
To investigate, we designed and distributed a screener survey, wrote a discussion guide, conducted in-depth 1:1 interviews, and performed market research to assess opportunities. 
Research 
Questions
»   What types of resources are users searching for?
»  Where do users look for resources?
»  What are the challenges users face when locating resources to:
      1.  support their creative endeavors? 
      2.  support
their well-being?
Interview
Findings
Users...
»   primarily use desktop devices when searching for resources
»  want to find relevant opportunities tailored to their individual needs and identities
»  feel stuck by the Catch-22 of the cycle of paying application fees for funding opportunities
»   create their own systems to keep track of opportunities 
»  resort to social media because:
        1. it gives them a place to start 
        2. they have difficulty generating search terms
        3. they value connecting with and supporting their communities 

Market Research
Our competitive matrix revealed a clear need for dedicated resources for underrepresented folks in the wellness space, but based on user interviews, financial issues are more pressing for those communities.
Users described their ability to afford (financially) to pursue their artistic practices as linked to their well-being.
Competitive Matrix
Must Have
After cross referencing competitors' prominent features with key findings from user research, we found top features to include: a search bar with search filters, user profiles, ability to bookmark, and customizable notifications.
Should Have
Based on our users' heavy reliance on social networking apps, we saw the opportunity to incorporate a social or community component to the tool by allowing users to connect with other users on the platform, and view a feed of posts other users had shared. 
Could Have
We considered pursuing a feature for users to build/host their portfolios on the platform, but weren't sure that would solve the problem of different organizations requiring portfolios in different formats. 
Won't Have
One feature we found across competitors and comparator sites that we didn't find evidence in our research to support the necessity of was a 'blog.'
Key Takeaways
Two observations that resounded across the board in our research were that: users primarily seek funding in order to cover costs of basic needs because that is their most pressing need, and users want to find relevant opportunities tailored to their individual needs, but don’t have a way to conduct a targeted search

  
Synthesizing the Data
In order to visualize the input we collected from our interviews, we established a user persona—included below in summary. The persona summarizes the insights we drew from our research, and the journey map we created to outline her experience allowed us to identify key areas of opportunity to improve the user's experience. 
User Persona
User Journey Map
After assessing the areas where the journey map dips into unhappy territory, we decided to pursue solutions that could improve the experience in those areas. 
Opportunities
The key need we identified and ultimately worked to address with our product was the need for an improved search experience that allows the user to easily find relevant resources.
Based on our findings, we saw an opportunity to create a product focused on the full spectrum of support: creative, financial, and well-being. However, we prioritized a focus on the financial component to begin. 
Pivot
Based on the insights we gleaned from speaking to artists in our research, we decided to shift our focus from the full spectrum of support, to narrow our scope and really hone in on connecting users with funding opportunities. 
We made this decision because users reported that their well-being is intertwined with their ability to pursue their creative practice. One user describes that their “wellness and career as an artist are so the same.”

Design Studio: Sharing and compiling our ideas as sketches

Ideas
We explored a number of ideas surrounding different types of advanced search features and filtering systems, coupled with a social networking component. Ultimately, we pursued a search feature with a tagging system, with the community component on the back-burner. We chose this direction based on our research, and based on the users we vetted the concept with, who indicated enthusiasm for the idea.
Proposal
A search tool utilizing tags, keywords, and categories to allow artists to conduct targeted searches and connect with the resources they need to support their creativity. 

Mid-fi wireframe of the search tool on the landing page 

Mid-fi wireframe of the search results page

Concept Vetting
To vet our concept, we developed a mid-fi prototype and ran usability testing. Overall, users responded with enthusiasm for the concept of the product, and were able to navigate the interface and complete the tasks with relative ease. In the next phase, we incorporated feedback regarding the search keywords and tags, required search fields, and UI copy to minimize user confusion and friction.
Key Features
»   Search bar with filters
»   Search categories and tags 
»   A bookmarking system
Usability Testing
We conducted usability testing with 3 users, who were given the following task: 
"Show me how you would find an opportunity to finance a $5,000 project, and bookmark it to view later."
Findings  
»   All users were able to successfully compete the task
»   2/3 users reported wanting to conduct a general search to view all funding opportunities before setting parameters
»   2 users were confused by how to proceed after selecting ‘Grants’ from the keyword options
3/3 
Users completed the task on the first attempt

4/5
Average Satisfaction Score
Results 
Overall, we were thrilled that users responded with enthusiasm for the concept. Users noted that they found the product to be useful by giving them the ability to find opportunities relevant to them, and were delighted by the ability to view when opportunities were posted and when they are due. 

We also found a number of ways to improve based on user feedback. Specifically, users indicated an interest in conducting a general/broad search, or viewing all funding opportunities, before setting parameters. The process of selecting keywords was also confusing to users, which we decided to make an optional parameter in future iterations.
Final Design
Our final proposal, below, incorporates feedback we received from users by giving them an easier entry to the site, with more context, so they can views what types of opportunities are available before narrowing their search.
Takeaways
We had so many additional ideas and points of user feedback we're excited to consider in the future, including: 
»   Provide a clearer path from the search bar to the results page
»   Provide more context about the site’s purpose on the landing page.
»   Review the ‘Sort By’ and display (grid view/list view) options on the results page for clarity and accessibility
»   Test the option to conduct a global search in the next iteration of testing.
»   ​​​​​​​ Explore and design the “Saved” page so users can provide feedback on the functionality.

Later down the line, we’d also love to explore building out a “Community” page to draw from the ideas and research we previously tabled, and in response to the curiosity about the feature that our users shared with us. 

Questions? Get in touch—michellenmiles@gmail.com

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