June 2020: this page is being built.

A new website for a key subset of users creates the space for a modern back end

Creating a small website scoped for a specific audience made sense for users, but also for the organization. The group of users, team leaders, had long been making do with limited website functionality. And the organization needed a scoped project to try new code.

The high level problem:

Limited functionality and poor user experience was hindering user tasks that are vital to the organization.


Team leaders are crucial to the nonprofit New York Cares. They recruit, supervise and track 50,000 volunteers a year through the organization’s website. After projects happen, team leaders feed the organization vital data from the field: attendance and impact numbers. This data helps the organization track and describe the outcomes of its work.


1. Qualitative research, external

I researched with seasoned veterans and newbies, leaders for both intimate one-to-one tutoring, and fast-paced well-attended food pantries. This surfaced a variety of perspectives.
Many leaders had implemented workarounds for the balky website. They were using external tools to recruit volunteers, schedule themselves, and track attendance. These workarounds became wish paths for the design of a new experience.

Why target this problem, now?

The problem had firm boundaries. It affected an essential and tightly defined group of users.
• A new website for this group of users could be turned on alongside the current website.
• We could build and test run a new code base in a focused arena.

2. Quantitative and qualitative research, internal to the organization

Data revealed that submission of attendance and impact numbers was highly erratic among team leaders, particularly on on-going projects. It turned out that staff were spending significant time chasing down both sets of numbers after projects took place. These numbers are crucial for the organization. They shine a lens on whether nonprofits are getting the help they need, as well as specifics such as the number of coats distributed, meals packed, or students tutored. All of this data is used to understand outcomes as well as to fund raise.

3. A few key design decisions:

4. A Team for a summer soft launch

The project had kicked off with two developers on board. Their work to implement a new back end for this project had been ongoing since day one. As wire frames evolved a UI designer was added to the team. He used the team leader dashboard project as the seed for a budding design system.
I created three short goals-based personas to convey to the group just how busy and task-focused team leaders are, knowing that it might impact their design decisions.
-Upcoming project display highlights address and the time, important data for a leader trying to get to the project on time.
-Submitting attendance and impact numbers happened simultaneously in the flow. Previously both tasks were separate flows. This probably contributed to low submissions of impact numbers. Note that attendees are listed alphabetically by first name. This mirrors the on site familiarity of projects. (Previously attendees were listed in order of their sign up, and by first and last name.
-A high level snapshot of attendance was a major request by users. This is important so the team leader can match clients to volunteers, or recruit more volunteers if needed.