Sarah Teng   about  selected 
   



Welcome Home is a mobile health app designed to help formerly incarcerated individuals with managing chronic illness, patient advocacy, and resources navigation as they transition back into community.


    Ten million people who are released from prisons and jails each year are at high risk for poor health outcomes. Due to lack of healthcare access, housing opportunities, and support systems, they face greater risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that individuals have limited access to technology during incarceration, and depending on the length of their sentence, may have little to no experience navigating digital resources – online job searches, healthcare portals, online benefits applications — upon release. 

Created by a team of public health researchers, medical professionals, and social workers, Welcome Home centralizes digital healthcare and social service resources in an easy-to-navigate platform to make healthcare moreaccessible during the re-entry process. 


Created by a team of  public health researchers, medical professionals, and social workers, Welcome Home is a mobile health app designed to make healthcare more accessible during the re-entry process.


Ten million people who are released from prisons and jails each year are at high risk for poor health outcomes. Due to lack of healthcare access, housing opportunities, and support systems, they face greater risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that individuals have limited access to technology during incarceration, and depending on the length of their sentence, they may have little to no experience navigating digital resources – online job searches, healthcare portals, online benefits applications — upon release. 

Welcome Home centralizes these digital healthcare and social service resources in an easy-to-navigate platform to help formerly incarcerated individuals navigate resource networks, manage chronic illness, and advocate for themselves as they transition back into community .




MY ROLE
    
    I played multiple roles in this project, including working with a team to analyze user interviews and translate them into UX insights, designing a (preliminary) visual identity for the app, and building a website to introduce potential users to our app. This page focuses on my process for designing the website and visual identity of the app (please reach out for more details about the UX research if interested).


TIMELINE

Website - Ongoing  (Jan 2023) App - Ongoing (Aug 2022)



SKILLS

Web Design, Mobile App Design, UX Research, Copywriting



TOOLS

Figma, SquareSpace

 


DESIGN CHALLENGES



Crafting with Care

Potential users may have little to no tech fluency after a long period of incarceration with no devices. How can I design the site layout and visuals to be easy, intuitive, and accessible while not feeling overly simplistic?



Professional yet Community Centered Design

How do I make this site look professional so people are more likely to trust the app, while not making it feel corporate. There should be clear visual communication that this app was developed with the community in mind, with direct input from community members.




BACKGROUND

    WelcomeHome is being developed under a National Library of Medicine funded research study that explores how digital personal health “libraries” might improve health outcomes for people who were formerly incarcerated. I work as a research assistant at the ERIC Lab @ Yale that’s leading this study and developing the app in partnership with formerly incarcerated New Haven residents. 

    It was important to us to build the app in partnership with the community it is meant to serve, so we began our research by interviewing formerly incarcerated community members and those that assist them in reentry (halfway house officers, probation officers, discharge planners) to better understand common struggles with the reentry process. Through these interviews, we identified structural, personal, and technological barriers to accessing healthcare resources on reentry. Then, our research team and development team worked together in 1-hr rapid interpretation sessions to transform high-level themes into UIUX insights and design the app prototype. The app is currently in development and will start usability testing March 2024.

As a research assistant, I assisted with these sessions by thematically coding transcripts ahead of time. A major theme that came up was trust, both in technology and people/services associated with the University. 

While individuals emphasized the benefits of app and device usage, including reconnecting with family and friends, accessing services, applying for jobs, and engaging in leisure or rest, they also cited security concerns around sharing and storing personal information.


I brought up the idea of creating a website to introduce potential users to our app and research in order to build trust. It could also be a good way to help re-entry organizations learn about our work, and share our research beyond the often inaccessible academic sphere. Later on, the website could also serve as a place to share community stories and have testimonies from interviews exist beyond the academic papers. I wanted to make a website the community could see themselves in, and know this app was made for them in partnership with them.

Given that I had the most web design experience on the team, I took the initiative to build the website in addition to my work with the app team. I’ll walk you through my process below.


STEP 1.


UNDERSTANDING FORMERLY INCARCERATED USERS


To make the website as approachable as possible for formerly incarcerated users, I revisited the 20+ interviews I had coded and analyzed with my team and highlighted some important considerations about our user demographic that would inform my design



It also became clear from these interviews that people wanted an app focused on wellness that holistically addressed both physical and mental health needs, so I analyzed successful wellness app websites to better understand their design language.



From this analysis, I came up with some goals to guide my design of the website







STEP 2.


Initial sketch, site map, and presentation


My research team did not have a specific idea of what they wanted the website to look like or what content to put on it, so I made a presentation to help us define goals and use cases for the website before starting to design the site. I treated the presentation like a pitch deck, so I came up with some guiding questions for my team, a list of potential pages, and mockups of the app page + wireframes to help visualize what content *could* go on the website.


My goal was to figure out what information would be important to share with a broader audience (other researchers, potential users, general community members) and get some feedback on basic design and layout. The site map was particularly helpful; we decided to prioritize making an app page and an about page for the time being, and focus on the other pages after usability testing had been completed and the app was live. We also decided to build the site using Squarespace, so it can be easily edited by team members with less coding experience after I graduate.






STEP 3.

Working visual identity


At this point, not much attention had been paid to the visual design of the app because it was only in its MVP stage. Working off an onboarding mockup screen the app team had made and my research on similar wellness apps, I made a working visual identity for Welcome Home and did a mockup of the home page before starting to design the website.



Color palette: I chose warm greens and teals to signal growth and wellness. I would later make the light green even lighter/near white to increase contrast for accessibility.



Font: A simple, highly readable sans serif font. I liked the rounded edges in the light version, I had seen rounded fonts used in a couple other app’s websites to make text feel more approachable.

Copywriting
I worked with members of the research team and  PI’s to write the copy for the website,  following my principles of  accessible, to-the-point language. We tried to avoid ambiguous language like “our findings” or overly academic jargon in order to make our research understandable for a general audience.  




WEBSITE

Version 1


A first pass at website, focused on showcasing both the Welcome Home app and our broader research study (PERHL). Site layout was a bit confusing and we didn’t have a logo or graphics from the app team yet, but the hard work of copywriting was done. Next iteration improves on navigation and removing some unnecessary information.



Version 2 (Current)

After receiving some feedback from my team, I changed the layout of the site to have the app page be the home page so that potential users do not have to take the extra step of searching for it in the navigation bar. I removed the home page as it was more confusing than helpful, but integrated the summary of our study and findings originally on it with the about page, and added a link to the app page so that interested users can navigate there easily. I also added a “Re-Entry Resources” and “Contact” page, and published the site! 
Though these changes seem small, it was important to redefine the primary audience of the site as formerly incarcerated individuals and community members, and prioritize information about the app rather than our broader research study. 

Next Steps: Establish a real design system to unify the app and website designs, and replace the stock images as we update the app prototype


APP
Under IRB, reach out for details on UX Research process :)

Lessons Learned So Far


I’ve learned so much from working as both a researcher and designer on this project, especially about the reward/struggles of wearing many hats on a multidisciplinary team. stay tuned for more updates!







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