Future Connect
Helping high school students discover and apply for volunteer opportunities to fulfill their community service hours through a  mobile app service.
Interaction Design
User Research
Adobe XD
Adobe Illustrator
2 weeks
(Nov 2021)
Miranda (Duo) Xu
the challenge
How can aspiring high school students find new volunteer opportunities that fit their interests during a pandemic?
Research has shown that while over 90% of Americans want to volunteer, only 1 out of 4 actually does. If most of us want to volunteer and believe it is good for us, why aren't all of us volunteering?

My teammate and I wanted to address the problem, starting with high schoolers which individuals are in the critical stage of shaping one's values and identity. We designed an app that gamified the volunteering process. We gave personalized volunteer recommendations that best matched high schoolers' interests based on their onboarding application and refined results through the search filter. Moreover, to ensure students are willing to participate in volunteer experiences later on in life, we focused on connecting individual volunteers with their community.

The mandatory volunteer process in high school was already fraught with requirements even before the pandemic. Now, with limited in-person opportunities and mask protocols, high school students find volunteer experience unfavorable.
JUMP TO Interactive Demo
Pitch of Key Features
View and filter recommended opportunities
Get personalized volunteer recommendations that best match you based on your profile application and location, and refine your results through the search filter. All of the opportunities listed on Future Connect have their information updated regularly and are available for application!
Provides Immersive educational experience
Connect organizations with volunteers and help users understand the benefit and betterment of community services, develop leadership, and learn skill acquisition.
Review past meetups and Track your hours
View your past meetups to review the volunteers' details. You can also contact the volunteer workers, reset the number of volunteer hours, or invite your friends to volunteer together.

Collect achievement badges in the app as you keep accomplishing each volunteer work and educational program, which can be seen on your profile.
Understanding Volunteerism
01|researching our audience
Much of the process of identity development is assumed during adolescence. Psychologists defined the primary psychosocial task of adolescence as establishing an identity. We choose 12-18 year-olds as my target audience because they are in the most critical phase for developing goals, values, and beliefs to which a person is committed. To let more people actively participate in volunteering and enjoy the experience in their adulthood, later on, we need to educate and guide them during adolescence. 
02 | interviewing high schoolers
To verify or refute our research, we interviewed 8 different high school and middle school students. We reached out to a mixture of people who had volunteered prior to and during the pandemic to see if there were any significant similarities or differences between the circumstances.
03 | user insights
Many of our participants initially planned to find volunteer work that fits their interests but ultimately chose to work at the organization closest to their school or home due to the following insights:
Students are surprised by the complicated requirements for school volunteering.
Depending on the types of school and students' year of classes, students' choices are limited by restrictions, like the various ways of identifying nonprofit organizations and requirements and course syllabus. Often time they have to stick with the opportunities provided by the school, which do not have much variety.
Finding fittable opportunities is stressful.
Besides meeting the requirements of schools, transportation and schedule are other crucial factors in choosing volunteer opportunities. Most interviewees had to give up on opportunities they were interested in in the past because the long-distance commutes or available timeslot did not fit in the schedule.
Organizations don’t update their website information in real-time.
After confirming with program coordinators and parents' about possibility to involve in a volunteer program, there were times that the opportunities are not available anymore but the information was not updated on websites. Students have to start over the hunting process all over.
04 | user journey
Based on these insights, we created our persona Jade, a recent high school Freshmen looking to volunteer during the pandemic.
When presenting our journey map, we were recommended to narrow our scope and focus on a specific part of volunteer process. Based on our user research, we decided it would be best to focus on the experience of in-person volunteering and updated our journey map to reflect this.
Finalizing our solution’s goals
After analyzing our user research and feedback, we ultimately decided that our solution needed to meet the following 3 goals:
Help high school students looking for opportunities best fit their interests quickly and easily.
Searching for the right opportunities was very time-consuming because the information is spread on various platforms.
Very few platforms are available on the market, assisting high school students in finding volunteer opportunities.
Motivate students to fulfill community service hours and learn community service values.
Often time students end up doing volunteer work that they are not interested in and end up not actively engaging with their work.
To make high school students more engaged in the work that they are doing, it is crucial that they value their work not only simply on their own interests but also the values behind.
Being accessible to people with color blindness.
Among our interviewees, there are 2 high school students troubled with color blindness.  By understanding the inconveniences that they meet with websites while volunteer-hunting, we decide to make our design friendly to students with color blindness.
Designing our solution
05 | brainstorm
With the persona of our audience in mind, we started to brainstorm. We first used the Crazy 8 activity to generate some ideas. Then, we further explored the ideas and related some features with implemented UX designs that are accessible to users with color blindness and encourage users to achieve something as inspiration.
To help our team visualize what screens we needed to make and how our users would navigate the application, we created user flow and information architecture maps of our app's pages. Through this process, we decided to narrow our solution's scope to focus on finding in-person volunteer opportunities that fit students' interests, as this was a significant pain point in our user insights.
04 | "paper" prototype
To verify our user flow and app's usability, we created a lo-fi prototype based on our proposed screens and conducted a series of think-aloud tests. We focused on a personalized homepage to let users discover and apply different opportunities. We asked our participants to imagine themselves as high schoolers wanting to find a volunteer opportunity that fits their interests on the application.
Sample screens from our prototype
04 | finalizing our style guide
To establish trust and a sense of reliability within our service, we opted for a single font and an emphasis on navy blue with accent colors against a white backdrop. We wanted to ensure our service's UI was consistent across the app and desktop site.
Future Connect is a mobile app for all high-school students to search and apply for volunteer opportunities to fulfill their community service hours.

With the use of colors and hierarchy, our app opens to the diverse community, especially friendly to the audience with colorblindness.
Final thoughts
Community Service strengthens a sense of community and gives people hope for a post-pandemic future.

This project helped my teammates and I realize the inherent value of community service and the importance of the color blindness community among young people, an often overlooked part of high school culture. It was eye-opening to interview other high schoolers who wanted to explore a deeper sense of volunteer work- community service reminded them of a future when we can help each other and get through the pandemic together.

By conducting research, we found that lacking community service knowledge is one of the key reasons high schoolers don't actively volunteer outside of required hours. We foresee that the educational aspects could be more immersive in our app. For example, during the application process, we could help users learn topics related to their preferred categories by recommending them some workshops in the application detail page or notification page. Also, we could use pop-ups to provide a single piece of volunteer knowledge. Thus, users could passively learn more about volunteering.