Inside Trumin: Designing for Everyone
In this post, we look at how we are building inclusion into our designs. We’ve chosen event volunteers as our case study here, as they’re a great example of the varying needs of users and how we can respond to those needs with technology.
Volunteers are key to the smooth functioning of many events. Often in exchange for a free race or festival, they will give their time to check in participants, manage the start line or control queues. There is no ‘one’ volunteer; as not-for-profit advice website knowhownonprofit.org explains:
The term ‘volunteer’ applies to all sorts of people giving their time for free. They will come with different skills and experiences and educational achievements. They will come from different backgrounds, with different motivations for volunteering.
This diverse range of people makes an event more exciting and dynamic, but it can also present a number of unique challenges. Event organisers therefore need software that can be used effectively and with minimal complexity by the maximum number of people, so they can focus on running the event and can trust their volunteers - whoever they are - to take the reins.
Digital Inclusion - the idea that technology (particularly the internet) should be something everyone can confidently access - is really important when it comes to volunteers, who have varying levels of computer literacy. Imagine: if a volunteer is friendly, capable and enthusiastic, but they only have working knowledge of a computer, it is going to put them at a significant disadvantage if they have to use complex technology. And friendly, capable and enthusiastic people who are willing to work for free are not the ones you want to turn away.
Lower levels of computer literacy are significantly correlated with certain demographic characteristics. For instance, a recent study by Age UK found that over two thirds of all digital exclusion is among those aged 65 and over (66.79%) and over 82 per cent are aged 55+. It also found that that people with the lowest monthly income (£0-249) were over five times less likely to be using the internet than those with a monthly income of £3,000 or more. As events become more reliant on technology, it is therefore more important than ever that the technology used includes as many people as possible. So, whilst the bigger aim is to improve internet and computer access for all (you can read more about this on our previous post), we can also do our bit by designing for users with little familiarity with hardware and software.
In 2016, we said goodbye computers in favour of our tablet-only check-in. Using a mouse, typing on a keyboard, and navigating file systems and menus are some of the biggest challenges people with minimal computer experience face. With a tablet, these are sidestepped, in favour of a single screen.
Our tablet check-in app is simple to use, so that no experience is needed for the volunteers; they just need to look for the ‘big green tick’. Once they have scanned participants’ tickets and tags, they can tell they have made a successful check-in, as a big green tick will appear on screen. As we have avoided language, and instead used the colour green and the tick symbol, it is a clear signal that the volunteer has succeeded. This makes the process more accessible for many volunteers, although we still want to think about how we could push this further. For instance, for the visually impaired, adding speech support would be a good option.
At check-in, we dynamically allocate anything that the participant needs, whether it's a timing chip and bib number for a race or an RFID wristband for a festival or conference. The flow for the interaction between participant and volunteer typically goes something like this:
As you can see, this simple flow limits the chance for errors to be made, as it requires minimal software interaction. The above is an ‘ideal’ interaction, but if there are any issues, the volunteer can send the participant to the Help Desk, where they can be assisted by technology nerds, such as ourselves (or the 6-year-old who turned up at the help desk and ran it better than us. Kids are scary these days).
Feel the Benefits
Not only does easy-to-use software and hardware make technology more accessible to volunteers of any demographic, but when you have happy and confident volunteers, the benefits multiply and make life easier for event organisers in other ways:
Training is at its best when it is experiential, practical, and hands-on. We give volunteers any equipment needed, explain what needs to be scanned, and then they’re free to do it for real. As demonstrated above, the process is so intuitive that minimal training is needed. Event organisers usually allow for around a 10% volunteer dropout rate, so if they have to provide complex training, 10% of this could potentially be wasted - when the training is straightforward, it’s easy to use last-minute volunteers to plug any gaps.
Frees up event organisers
Confident that the technology is taken care of, event organisers can spend more time explaining logistics, such as who volunteers can go to if they have any questions, where they will be sitting, and when they will take breaks. This reduces the time spent on explaining at a crucial moment in any event (just before it starts!), so organisers can get to work elsewhere.
When volunteers are confident with the technology in front of them, they won’t hesitate. They can work independently, and zoom through participants til’ the cows come home.
Where do we go from here?
At the moment, we’re still learning from both event organisers and volunteers - we can see what’s working and what’s not and if our technology is excluding anyone, and if so, why? We’re also working towards self-service, so our design will be intuitive enough that it can be used as a regular app, with no training required. You can read more about our self-service #goals here, and we’ll be writing in the near future about an exciting new app development.