Moving From Ideation to Evaluation

The first steps of the home stretch have been taken. We have been talking our idea into existence; it has been focused, and become more explicit. It exists, but it’s still got a way to go. Moving from our prior model from the end of the prior quarter, Kelsey and I have come from the complicated desktop interface and moved towards something simple. We haven’t completely decided on a name quite yet, but it exists, and for now at least, it’s called Quarters. More importantly, focused to ensure our product would actually be usable, instead of a multi-tool. Tackling a multitude of problems is not realistic, so we have focused to trying to help find stable, affordable housing for our population.

After last quarter, Kelsey and I realized we needed to make a change. But we felt pretty lost in all of the ideas, all of the things we wanted to do. Focusing on just one thing is probably the most difficult part for me thus far. We argued, and we talked, and we tried to focus. There are so many things we could do, but what should we do? We have been working on our wireframes and our testing plan to confirm we have made the right choice.

The ideal state of our product is to make use of, and potentially cultivate, a group of private renters in the local area, as well as other inexpensive housing options, who will work with individuals coming from the street for housing. Right now there is no way for people to directly connect with these renters, and the supportive organizations normally work with case management referrals. Our product would allow someone to connect with a housing organization or private renter they would be applicable for.

To do this, we want to use a natural flowing dialogue system, with simple answers, mostly yes or no to begin with, age and gender. We want to gather information and make it feel like we aren’t probing or being intrusive. Setting the tone of the messages becomes incredibly important, it has to be respectful and well thought out. Some of the screens are shown below, as I stated above, they are rough, but we’re working towards something simple and effective. 3screen

Ultimately, our goal from all of this is to decrease the amount of time people spend on the street. We have our sights set high, we’re working on figuring out if this would even help. We’re trying to answer questions on whether there is infrastructure to support this, whether we could tap into the network of landlords willing to rent to individuals experiencing homelessness, or if we would have to try to make our own. As we make the wireframes more real, questions just keep popping up, what if this, what if that, what happens here? It feels like it will be endless, but it’s also exciting.

I kind of get lost in the making and working something into existence. It’s akin to making pottery, you poke holes, push it all the way back down to a ball of clay again, pull it up, see something to change, make a ball, repeat, only once it’s well made do you allow it to dry for polish. It seems like I have been thinking about design in too theoretical of a way to this point. I spent too much time thinking and talking, and not enough time making a thing. It’s easier to work when there is something to work off of, and it has taken entirely too long to come to this conclusion. Feedback and conversations around a thing are always better (they tell us this all the time).

As we move forward to testing our idea, we move cautiously. Working with the population we want to target, it’s difficult to not want to over-promise a capability, or paint an inaccurate picture of what will happen. Deciding how to introduce our idea has been difficult. What to say about what we are testing, and how to ensure we aren’t making promises we cannot keep. It makes me feel like a bad person, but false hope is worse than none at all. Our test consists of to texts or emails our participants and talk to them about their past, and find out some basic information about their history. Using that info, we will contact housing programs in the city to see if they have availability if our participants are eligible or would be a good fit for a transitional property or something low-rent. We hope to assist with renters assistance, but this is all contingent on our participants trusting us and keeping in contact, as well as our rigor in research.

We have been setting expectations low, explaining who we are, and what we are doing, very simply. We started research, thought of this thing, and want to see if it will help. A barrier we seem to have hit here as well is narrowing our focus of participants. Our target group has been difficult to pin down, so we have participants over a range of demographics, but all sharing a few of the most key qualities.

Our pilot begins Monday, we have a few participants scheduled for the first week. As we round out the third week of this final quarter, anxiety is high. I want this to work, I hope it does, and if it does not work, I hope we know why and can make the necessary changes to make this a viable and useful product. Because ultimately our goal is to help people live stable lives.