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Safe Haven

#AppDesign #CaseStudy


Decades of conflict in Afghanistan, including the recent political takeover of the country and the evacuation of American troops in 2021, have contributed to a growing global refugee crisis. With tens of thousands of displaced Afghans arriving in the United States this year, there exists a major opportunity for communities to work alongside local refugee relief organizations to support and welcome resettled individuals and families.

We wanted to help them and we were also hesitant to pursue this project because of the potential difficulty of engaging stakeholders and the uncertainty over what a possible design solution might look like. But when it came time to choose, we were unanimous: we all wanted to pursue a purposeful, impact-driven project.


10 weeks (Sep-Dec 2021)

Project Type

Course Project
Team: Tomomi Matsuzaki, Connie Yang, Kevin Glatt, Warisha Soomro


UX Design Lead
Major contributions - user flow, sketching, wireframe, lo-fi/hi-fi prototyping, usability test, visual design, video prototyping


Figma, Illustrator, Premirer Pro

Initial Design Question

Our project started with this simple design question:

How might we help Afghan refugee resettlement
in Washington state?

Design Thinking Process

To tackle complex problems, we applied the iterative design thinking process.

Design Thinking


Initial Target Users

Due to proximity, lack of a language barrier, and ease of access within our 10-week timeline, we decided against targeting the refugees themselves and opted to target people who want to help incoming refugees.

Afghan Refugee Relief Organizations Community Individuals

Afghan refugee relief organizations

Individuals in the Seattle Communities

User Survey
with Community Individuals

We sent out an online survey to the individuals in Seattle communities to gather data quickly and flexibly from a large population of users through remote-friendly convenience sampling. We collected 30 responses.


  • Understand individuals' awareness levels
  • Assess individuals' interest in volunteering
  • Identify barriers to volunteering

Key Findings

1. Motivations - High Interest Level

88% of survey respondents are interested in volunteering or offering support for refugees.

empathy personal reward & value social responsibility


Personal Reward or Value

Social Responsibility

“Because I'm an immigrant and I can empathize with the pain of leaving your country and going to a foreign one.”

“Gives me Happiness.” “Feel good knowing I contributed to helping someone.”

“Social justice and general sense of responsibility for humanity.”

2. Pain Points - Low Awareness & Barriers

66% of respondents have low to moderate familarity of the Afghan refugee crisis.

Major concerns & obstacles

Pain Point Pain Point Pain Point Pain Point


Don't know where to start

Language barrier

Cultural awareness / knowledge of the Afghan refugee crisis

User Interviews
with Refugee Relief Organizations

We recruited administrative staff and volunteer program coordinators from local refugee relief organizations in Seattle, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Jewish Family Services (JFS), to participate in discovery interviews. These individuals have first-hand experiences interacting and working with the Afghan refugee population and the Seattle community.


  • Organizations’ Needs and goals in supporting the refugee resettlement process
  • Organizational pain points and challenges with providing support and services
  • Opportunities to volunteer or help that is available to community members

Key Findings

Needs & Goals Pain Points

Organizational Context

1. The first 90 days when Afghan refugees arrive in Seattle are characterized by intensive case management.

2. Organizations leans heavily on their community partners and donors for financial and resources support

Volunteer Opportunities

1. The types of opportunities to help Afghan refugee resettlement were mainly monetary donations, resources donation, and volunteering.

2. Some volunteering opportunities require a minimum time commitment, qualifications, and experience.

1. Given how sudden the Afghanistan evacuation was, refugee relief organizations and government agencies are overwhelmed capacity-wise.

2. Administrative capacity at the organization is also limited. There is a small amount of staff to handle volunteer intake and training.

3. Only receives around 24 hours notice before a refugee arrives at Sea-Tac

4. Many volunteers get by with the minimal amount of training necessary to do the job.

Competitive Analysis

Given the early stage in our design process and challenges accessing Afghan refugees and refugee relief organizational staff as end users, the competitive analysis was a preferred, low-cost secondary research method for gathering more context into our problem space. We reviewed and walked through the online volunteer application processes of resettlement agencies and general social service organizations.


  • Learn the process by which refugee relief organizations and other non-profits accept, onboard, and coordinate volunteers
  • Identify strengths and areas of friction in the process

Key Findings

  • Organizations have variable quality UI for exposing volunteer opportunities and contextual volunteer program information.
  • Most organizations’ application processes are more likely to be traditional (online form, email, etc.)
  • Volunteer applications can be fairly burdensome to complete with multiple sections and requirements
  • Most organizations are working individually to collect volunteer applicants.


User Personas
Who are we designing for?

To specify our targeted users, our team created user personas that represent different user archetypes.

  • I revised the first draft to make it more aligned with our user research findings.
  • I created the persona template.
Persona 1
Primary User - David is a community member in Seattle who's interested in volunteering to support Afghan refugee resettlement.
Persona 2
Secondary User - Sarah works at a refugee relief orabanization as a director outreach.

Defined core problems.
Refined our design questions.

We analyzed user research findings and synthesized them to define the core problems we need to solve. Here is how we refined our initial design question:

  • How might we help the Afghan refugee resettlement in Washington state?
  • 1. How might we increase awareness of the Afghan refugee crisis?
  • 2. How might we enable interested individuals to access opportunities?
  • 3. How might we reduce barriers to volunteering?
  • 4. How might we increase administrative efficiency of organizations?


From brainstorming
to decision making.

Rapid Sketch Session

We generated 24 design ideas through the team sketching session and discussed each idea's strengths and weaknesses.

Ideation Sketches
Sketch session with the team

Design Concept

Digital Volunteer Board at a Bus Stop

While this idea could be implemented in a wide range of settings, the team identified a bus stop as a quintessential public space that many people pass in their daily routine. Our design aims to turn the time spent waiting at a bus stop into an opportunity to learn about the Afghan refugee crisis and get involved in addressing it.

Bus stop kiosk sample image
Sample image from steem KR

Let's embody our idea by specifying more details.


Design Goals Storyboard User Flow

Design Goals


User Flow

Clarify what our design solution needs to offer to meet users' needs

Visually imagine and explore a user's experience in specific scenario

Map out each and every step the users take to complete tasks

Design Goals

We found that the average amount of time people wait at a bus stop in the Seattle area on a weekday was 15 mins. We set the following design requirements by ensuring that we meet users' needs and goals in time.

High Visibility

Draw attention in a highly trafficked space for impact reach

Digestible Educational Information

Information-rich but minimalistic to prioritize the most important content to educate bystanders

Flexibile Opportunity Search

Make it easy to find volunteer opportunities that meet users' preference from a wide range of types of support

Seamless Activation

Facilitates easy access to additional resources and clear, specific next steps to take action


User Case - David finds potential opportunities to help Afghan refugee resettlement in his community while waiting for his bus at the bus stop.

* My storyboard sketch

User Flow Diagram

Mapping out each step to take in two main pathways, “Learn” and “Get Involved.”

Learn: Users learn about the cultural background of Afghanistan and the story of the recent Afghan refugee crisis.

Action: Users explore available opportunities to support the Afghan refugee resettlement by using 4 filters: time, stuff, skills, and money.

I created the diagrams below.

User Flow (Learn)
Learn Pathway
User Flow (Learn)
Action Pathway


Lo-Fi Prototype

We have now a better understanding of how users interact with the digital board in real-world scenarios and how we navigate users to complete their tasks. With that in mind, I started off with sketching wireframes and then built a lo-fi prototype using Figma.

Wireframe sketch
* My wireframe sketch
Lo-Fi Prototype
* I created the lo-fi prototype except "Action(Map)"

Test & Evaluate

Concept Testing


  • Learn users' screen-to-screen experience from the Home page to the Learn and Action page
  • Collect impressions and feedback on each page

Major change in the information architecture


Monetary donation should be a simpler and easier action instead of placing under the ‘action’ pathway

Some participants didn't feel comfortable with clicking the "Money" filter in a public place

Design Changes

Removed the 'Money' filter from the "Action" flow and added the ‘Donate’ CTA on the home screen as its own pathway.

The Home screen will have three main pathways, which we renamed ‘Learn,’ ‘Get Involved’ and ‘Donate’ now

Information Architecture - begore Information Architecture - after

Usability Test & Improvement


  • Evaluate the ease of use of the touch screen navigation and controls
  • Understand the learnability and understandability of the interface
  • Learn users' satisfaction with the content

1. A little more context built trust and improved learnability

  • All participants preferred to start with the ‘Learn’ pathway to get some basic knowledge before searching for opportunities in the ‘Get involved’ pathway.
  • Some titles and phrases weren't immediately clear to many participants. (ex; Story of the first 90 days)
Design Changes
  • Adjusted header text and added learning content to the Home screen to provide context for users and draw them into both ‘Learn’ and ‘Get Involved’ pathways with some basis of information.
  • Adding brief descriptions to some pages gave more context and increased users' confidence in the interaction
Usability Test Findings

2. Simple and intuitive one-click filter design

  • Filters and their function were unclear to some users, and some users may not want to use them at all.
  • The search function in the filter was not useful during a short interaction.
Design Changes
  • Removed the search bar to reduce the complexity of the filter feature
  • Made icons more descriptive to help users visually and quickly understand what each label refers to
  • Limiting users to choose one filter at a time instead of selecting multiple filters reduced the complexity
Iterative design progress for the filters

3. Better cross device interactions and information exchange

  • "Not sure what ‘Share with phone’ means, I think that would bring the page to phone…"
  • “I really like that there’s a QR code in the description of each opportunity. I wonder if that could be a more direct thing."
Design Changes

Safe Haven Design Changes

4. Increased consistency & reduced destructions

Our initial idea was to incorporate images or videos into our design to get people's attention and increase user engagement. However, I realized that the way we combined images and texts was causing some accesibility issues and making it hard for users to quickly digest information. After this project was done, I made the following design changes.

Safe Haven Design Changes

Hi-Fi Prototype

My Contributions

  • I was responsible for creating the visual design including icons and graphics
  • I was responsible for building the interactive prototype with Figma
Home Screen

Home Screen

Presents the user with three calls to action - Learn, Get Involved, and Donate - over a soft background with rotating images that gently capture attention.

Learn Screen Learn Screen

Learn Pathway

Provides two educational paths to increase their understanding of the issue locally and globally.

10 Facts About the Afghan Refugee Crisis

Help users gain basic knowledge of the Afghan culture and the Afghan refugee crisis

Story of the First 90 Days

Create emotional connections with users to drive their actions by leverage the power of storytelling focusing on single character.

Get Involved Screen Get Involved Screen

Get Involved Pathway

Users can easily discover available opportunities to support Afghan refugee resettlement that match their preferences, time commitment and experience using the one-click filters.

Expanded Opportunity Card

The expanded card allows users find more information about the opportunity details. Users can scan QR code to get more information and complete the application process on their phone.

Get Involved Screen

Get Involved Pathway
Map View

Users can switch to the map view to find location-oriented information.

Bus Notification $ QR Code

Bus Notification

A bus Notification allows users to have enough time to scan QR code.

Accessible Menu bar

Considering the accessibility of the digital board, we placed the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. We also avoided placing any buttons on the upper side of the screen.

QR Code

The QR code is exposed on every screen to allow users to quickly scan the code to continue information exploration when they have to leave.

UI Style Guide

UI Design System Image

Experience Mockup

Lo-Fi Prototype

Figma Prototype

Video Prototype

I was responsible for creating the video prototype with Adobe Premiere Pro except for the narrations.


Although it was an academic case study project, we saw the potential that Safe Haven could increase a sense of community and drive individuals' action towards volunteering from feedback we received.

  • "Kudos to this team for pushing us towards new designed interactions that foster community."
  • "Love how you took the initiatives to put thoughts into action in an easier way."

We saw the possibilities to turn people's spair time into the opportunity to learn about social problems and discover ways to make a positive impact in their community.

  • "Love working in those micro moment."
  • "For me, QR code works great since I don’t have much time here at the bus stop."
  • "I also like that there's a 'Learn' button there because I don't know much about the Afghan Refugee Crisis."

Next Step

If I had more time...

  • I would conduct further usability testing on the map view to understand how users would interact with the application to collect location-oriented information and see how useful the filter feature is to help users find opportunities that meet their preferences.
  • I would explore how we can craft story-driven content for the Learn pathway that successfully grabs users’ emotions and drives their actions toward volunteering. I’d examine how we can incorporate CTA in the stories to lead them to the Get Involved pathway.
  • In the concept testing, we found some people might hesitate to give monetary donations using their credit cards at a public bus station. However, since donations are vital for the refugee relief organizations, I’d like to further explore how we can achieve safer and easier donation process design to solve this challenge.


  • While not without challenges, choosing this path was immensely rewarding, both in the experiences it led to and the lessons learned from those experiences. Among those lessons, the most important was that the value of human-centered design is not just in the creation of more appropriate and usable design solutions that result from the involvement of users but in bringing together diverse stakeholders in pursuit of more inspiring and inclusive futures.
  • Designing an application for a kiosk requires different perspectives and considerations than designing a mobile app (Context, environment, accessibility, etc.)
  • Iterative tests and evaluations are critical for designers to continuously developed our understanding of what works the best for the users.
  • Always having clear design goals and requirements was key to keep ourselves aligned with what we need to achieve while making design changes through the iterative design process.