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Update for Housing Assist

Last week’s focus for Housing Assist was focused on developing the high level vision for the project. You can read more about that work  in this blog post. This week, I shifted gears and worked on mapping out what to prioritize in the last few weeks and also started on the biggest task remaining – creating all the screens for the first stage for of the online application, the initial intake.


What’s left

Given the full system for housing assist could consist of more than 1,000 wireframes, one question I wrestled with this past week was how many of them to develop with only three weeks left and one person to do the work.

My goal is to both illustrate the application concept in the big picture and also test the online application’s design paradigms through in-depth usability testing. To that end, I plan to illustrate the process broadly by creating wireframes from select points throughout the application. Those vignettes will include illustrations of wireframes from the Initial Intake, Detailed Intake, Document Collection and Certification stages.

Housing Assist Screens to Create
A broad selection of screens will illustrate the overall Housing Assist process concept, and the full variety of screens for just the first stage will allow for effective usability testing of design paradigms

To validate and revise the design concepts such as wireframe layout, information architecture, interactions, language choice, and conversational paradigms, I will create every wireframe necessary for the Initial Intake stage of the application. I will use those wireframes to complete usability testing over the next three weeks.

Initial Intake

To create the Initial Intake wireframes, I first chose to map it out in-depth. Fortunately, I had done a good deal of the work when analyzing the housing repair program applications.

Analysis of all housing repair applications
An analysis of all housing repair applications helped identify overlaps and distinctions between them.

One of the key design principles guiding the Initial Intake development is to require as little information input as necessary from the applicant in order to encourage completion of the form. If the applicant doesn’t know information off-hand while completing the form, it becomes more likely that he or she will need to stop and will not continue or complete the form. In order to determine which questions influenced the likelihood of a person’s eligibility the most,  I reviewed my application data with John Lyons, a Housing Repair Program Manager at Meals on Wheels. I then developed an Initial Intake with only a fraction of the required questions of the original forms.

Initial Intake Spreadsheet
I used a spreadsheet to track how each initial intake question mapped to different program eligibility requirements.

To cut down the number of questions further, I designed workflows that will automatically pull information from existing data sets such as the Travis County Assessor’s District and from the Austin Housing Repair Coalition’s list of previously served clients. I have been assured that both of these data sets are existing and would be simple enough to keep updated.

You can see examples of the workflow diagram below. Data in red boxes are required of the applicant.

Full Initial Intake
The full initial intake logical workflow.


Household member information
A sample of questions from the full intake logical workflow. For each household member in addition to the applicant, key information is necessary to collect

Next Steps

Now that the list of questions and their logical flow is complete, we will be able to begin creating all the wireframes to represent them in the application. After that’s set, I will begin usability testing early next week with individuals through Meals on Wheels programs.

Stay tuned for test results and wireframe updates next week!