LGBTQ+ Writes

Collaborative storytelling platform providing LGBTQ+ Georgia Tech students with a safe and inclusive place to share stories of resilience.


8 Months


Taylor Scavo, Ruvinee Senadheera, Haley Dabbs

My Role

UX Designer


Cultural Probe, Storyboarding, Wireframing, Prototyping, User Journey Maps, Personas, User Flows, Usability Testing




LGBTQ+ Writes is an expansion of data collected during Georgia Tech's LGBTQ+Rise Up. LGBTQ+Rise Up was a long-term diary study investigating experiences of strength, coping, and resilience of LGBTQ+ people in the Southeast during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We worked with LGBTQ+Rise Up Researchers to determine three key ways that our project can expand on the data that they collected.

Continued data collection

Continued collection of stories of strength, coping, and resilience.

Sharing stories with the community

Create a community-facing display of LGBTQ+ stories.

Young adult buy in

LGBTQ+Rise Up lacked participation from younger adults, so our project needed to encourage their participation.

problem statement

How might we help LGBTQ+ Atlanta students share stories and connect with others’ stories through an interactive experience?



LGbtq+ Writes

LGBTQ+ Writes is a mobile friendly website that provides a safe platform for students to share stories and experiences and connect with others in the community. No matter where they are in their queer journey, LGBTQ+ Writes provides an anonymous way to reflect on identity, engage in challenging conversations, and better understand the school's queer culture and community in a secure environment.

explore stories

Site visitors can browse featured and trending topics, browse posts by mood, and view staff-picked content that connects the community back to the Georgia Tech LGBTQ+ Center.

other notable features

Safety features such as anonymity control and school verified SSO protect the community.

During onboarding, users select interests to curate the stories they see.

Users earn points for engaging with other posts and writing stories using topic tags.

Trending and featured topics are shown to encourage discussion.




Desk Research
Cultural Probe


Pivoting mediums
Low-Fidelity Sketches
User & Stakeholder Feedback
Personas & Journey Maps


Mid-Fi Prototyping
Expert & User Testing
Hi-Fi Prototyping


Usability Testing
Key Findings



desk research

We started by familiarizing ourselves with the project space and the existing data collected from LGBTQ+Rise Up. We also explored different existing approaches to interactive experiences, including physical installations.

Rise-Up Resources

Public facing diary entries

Researchers’ affinity mapping and analysis

Physical Installation Experiences

Exploring physical interactive installations

Exploring digital components of interactive exhibits

cultural probe

After desk research, we designed and conducted a cultural probe to learn more about LGBTQ+ college students' cultural context and framework. In addition, this activity served as a ground-zero prototype to investigate interactive storytelling activities.

The probe was run remotely and consisted of three self-reflection prompts followed by group discussion and a collaborative mind-mapping activity. We had 6 total participants from our target audience.

our users

Our cultural probe demonstrated that LGBTQ+ college students share similar approaches to storytelling:

  1. Self exploration. Students often reflect on isolating experiences as moments of positive change, self-growth, and introspection relating to their queer identity.
  2. Connections to others. Students often reference their queer friends, support networks, and online spaces. Community is crucial for overcoming adversity, and students want to give back.
  3. Flexible Expression. Students want multimedia options for self-expression. They often rely on humor (such as memes) to share relatable stories. They require a safe setting to share in.

Using these findings, we drafted some initial user needs and characteristics:

user needs

  1. Balance of lighthearted and serious stories
  2. Flexibility in self-expression
  3. Connect through shared experiences

user characteristics

  1. Funny and tapped into online humor
  2. Understand and embrace queer identity
  3. Caring and connected to community


pivoting mediums

Earlier in the project, we were set on designing a physical, interactive installation for storytelling. However, we decided to focus on developing a digital solution due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns and timeline constraints.

ideation & low-fidelity sketches

With our project scope, user needs, and user characteristics defined, we jumped into some initial brainstorming. We spent 10 minutes individually brainstorming before collaborating to narrow our concepts. Then, we elaborated on three potential concepts that we wanted user feedback on.


Next, we needed to evaluate these concepts. We used a survey to gather concept feedback from 16 LGBTQ+ Atlanta college students, and conducted 4 interviews with separate stakeholders including:

  1. a LGBTQ+Rise Up Principal Investigator
  2. a Georgia Tech LGBTQIA Resource Center Coordinator
  3. 2 PhD students specializing in queer online communities

We evaluated our feedback data using affinity maps, and used our findings to further define design requirements:

Need to have

Added benefit
Low barrier of entry

Want to have

Collaborative community building
Different levels of engagement
Identify shared experiences

Nice to have

Invite creativity
Memes and humorous content
Quick, easy interactions

Personas & journey maps

At this point, we had a much better understanding of our users than we did after our initial cultural probe. We stopped to draft personas and journey maps for two key user groups:

  1. Community Newcomers. These are students that are new to the Georgia Tech community and their queer identity. They are interested in learning more about the community and expressing themselves safely.
  2. Experienced Community Members. These students have an established close-knit group of peers and are confident in their identity. They want a quick, easy touchpoint for lighthearted content.


Concept revisions

Our findings so far indicated that while students actively wanted to engage in collaborative story sharing, they needed to do so in a way that didn't require hours of story-crafting expertise. Students enjoyed the flexibility of the zine idea, but not the effort required. They enjoyed the humor and prompts of the LGBTQ+ Memes concept, but would prefer to share memes using their existing social platforms.

We now had to think of a new concept, and ask ourselves what can we do to create a meaningful, fun, and engaging experience with low barrier of entry that provides added benefit over existing social media?

mid-fidelity concept

Mobile app that prompts users to share stories by using 3 randomized keywords related to LGBTQ+ identities, interests, and experiences (like reverse mad-libs).

We started prototyping by creating a series of user-flows outlining the features of each page. We referenced the user-flows to create a clickable, mid-fidelity prototype that our users could interact with to give us concept feedback.

discount testing and concept changes

We conducted 3 think-aloud interviews, 3 heuristic interviews, and a Stakeholder interview with the LGBTQ+ Resource Center Coordinator to evaluate our concept's feasibility and usability. Our research helped us to make some concept changes, and narrow down on key features that should be included in the final prototype:

  1. students prefer a solution that is available on web (with options for accessing on mobile)
  2. content organization should be simplified
  3. keywords are a useful and enjoyable way to sort stories, but shouldn't be required to write posts
  4. there needs to be clear documentation during onboarding
  5. the content students want to see may depend on their mood
  6. the system should provide shortcuts where possible (auto-filling search, suggesting keywords)

high-fidelity prototyping

Finally, we moved into high-fidelity prototyping. We analyzed the features and aesthetics several existing applications and websites designed for journaling or anonymous story sharing. From our research and this analysis, we knew that our solution should be:

  1. aesthetically unique compared to other social media
  2. a calming experience that evokes curiosity and playfulness

Aesthetically, we referenced a physical message board with retro digital components. We wanted to emulate the feel of a small-group discussion (such as a message board in an office) while retaining the safe, anonymous protections afforded by technology.



Usability testing

To evaluate our system, we conducted a series of think-aloud interviews followed by Likert and SUS questions. We had a total of 8 participants, including 6 LGBTQ+ Georgia Tech students, and 2 LGBTQ+ students from other Georgia schools. We expanded our population to test whether LGBTQ+ Writes would be useful for a broader audience. Our findings included:

positive feedback

  1. High interest
  2. Enjoyed sorting by mood
  3. Multimedia content options

mixed feedback

  1. Aesthetics
  2. School email sign-on
  3. Reception varied by school

negative feedback

  1. Not enough guidance
  2. UI consistency
  3. Too little profile customization


lessons learned

  1. Design into what makes your population unique (for us, the balance of humor, being chronically online, and heartfelt connection)
  2. It can be challenging to balance creativity and novelty with familiarity. It's important to utilize existing design paradigms when possible for usability's sake, and explore new design approaches when supported by unique research findings and user needs.