Background

Social workers are nurturers. However, they spend their days so focused on taking care of others that they often forget about their own mental and emotional health. They also work many late nights and have one of the highest burn-out rates due to their high-stress jobs.

C [ A I ] R E is an app designed to help social workers improve self-care. Through scheduling, community, and mindfulness activities, social workers are encouraged to integrate more self-care into their everyday lives.

Research

We each interviewed workers in and around the social work industry. Our questions focused on their typical work days and helped us better understand our user by comparing and contrasting details like tasks, pain points, and current use of technology. Some of our most insightful findings include:

  • Workers are incredibly motivated by giving back to their community and helping clients receive justice
  • Workers manage their own schedules and keep track of their own duties, which creates a tendency of being overworked and causes high burn-out rates
  • Handling sensitive cases inflicts emotional burden on workers
  • An unpredictable schedule is not uncommon as emergent referrals pop up frequently
  • With these insights, we were able to create the following tools to help inform our project:

    PERSONA

    After researching our user, we created personas to evoke empathy throughout the rest of the design process. We created these personas by drawing information directly from our interviews (attached above), making sure to include both joys and pains that interviewees expressed. We iterated on these documents to create as close to a realistic interpretation of our user group as possible.




    JOURNEY MAP

    To get a better understanding of a user's day, we used information from interviews and our personas to create a user journey map. We created this map in order to reveal pleasures and pain points, and consequently reveal design opportunities. Our map of a child social worker's day highlights the fluctuation of motivations and stressors that result from their busy and dynamic day.


    Design

    Based on our research, we had to make some critical decisions on how we wanted our solution to behave, operate, and feel. This is an important step because with each design requirement we need to understand when, where, how, and why the user will complete it. If we find that we are missing any of these parts, the design requirement might not be as crucial to our user as we first believed. Some key requirements include allowing users to keep track of emergent cases, receive notifications about completing mindfulness activities, and allowing the AI system to give schedule suggestions. Below is the Information Architecture we drafted based on our insights and goals for our user.

    PAPER PROTOTYPE

    All of our research-- from interviews to journey maps-- had led us to make our design decisions for our low fidelity mockups. We chose three key paths to represent the most important parts of our service:

    Task 1: Update schedule with an emergent case
    Social workers often receive emergent cases and rearrange their day's schedule to accommodate. This feature uses AI to determine which tasks are most important and which can be moved to another day.

    Task 2: Complete an activity to improve self-care
    Taking even a few minutes out of the day to reflect and recenter can have positive effects on mental health and productivity. This feature allows the user to engage in mindfulness activities and watch personal progress over time.

    Task 3: Arrange an appointment with a coworker and add appointment to calendar

    Although social work is highly independent, it also involves teamwork within the workplace. This feature builds the workplace community and encourages coworkers to use each other as resources for mental wellness.

    QUICK EVALUATIONS

    We tested our paper prototype with four participants to see what could be improved when creating wireframes. Although they had no experience with social work, the testing was still valuable because it revealed design and functionality issues. ​​ One main issue was with our use of icons. While some were conventional (such as a home button), the icons associated with the more unique functions of our app - such as a workplace - were often misinterpreted. However for most of the screens, users expressed a high level of comfort or familiarity because the placement of buttons and prompts were similar to other apps.

    ANNOTATED WIREFRAMES

    Using participant feedback on our paper prototype, we proceeded to wireframe our entire system. This was the culmination of our entire process, and it was exciting to bring our ideas to life! Along the way, we discovered it was hard to limit which features to include, but learned that the user should be at the forefront of our priorities, not ourselves. We found it helpful to refer back to documents from our research stage when considering users' needs.




    HIGH FIDELITY MOCK UPS For the final step of our project, we made high-fidelity mockups of three screens that show the app's core functions. Each of these screens demonstrates how C [ A I ] R E promotes self-care:

    The first is the home page where the user can add an emergent case and receive AI scheduling suggestions; the second is a calendar with AI scheduling suggestions; and the last is the user's health dashboard where they complete mindfulness activities and view their progress.


    Reflection

    Something we learned was that small decisions add up and can greatly impact the design process later on. An instance of this occurred early on in our project right after user interviews. As we progressed through the user-centered process, some of us found that we needed to ask our users more questions about issues not covered in our first (and only) round of interview questions. This may have been a problem due to the context in which this project was created - a ten-week class in an undergraduate program. Perhaps in the real industry, we could conduct several rounds of user research and even different kinds of research aside from interviews.

    WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY?
    Although we conducted user research at the beginning of our project, real social workers saw no other part of our design process. Their feedback would have been helpful at many times in the project, such as during paper prototyping/evaluation. This was again due to the fact that the project was created in a mere ten-week college course. If we did this project again, we would want to get more input from social workers throughout our design process, not just during research. This would encourage our project to be highly empathetic and user-centered, as it should be.