Collaborative storytelling platform providing LGBTQ+ Georgia Tech students with a safe and inclusive place to share stories of resilience.
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.
How might we help LGBTQ+ Atlanta students share stories and connect with others’ stories through an interactive experience?
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.
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.
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.
Physical Installation Experiences
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 cultural probe demonstrated that LGBTQ+ college students share similar approaches to storytelling:
Using these findings, we drafted some initial user needs and characteristics:
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.
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:
We evaluated our feedback data using affinity maps, and used our findings to further define design requirements:
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:
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?
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.
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:
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:
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.
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: