Abstract.

In 2018, going to the super market and using an Electronic Benefit (EBT) card can be an uncomfortable experience due to the stigma behind it. To make matters worse, this benefit cannot be fully appreciated because not all food services permit this kind of  payment. But, what if we changed that? I was part of an ambitious startup who’s mission was to redesign the experience of an EBT card holder by turning it into a smart wallet.

To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted and obfuscated confidential information in this case study. All information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of All_ebt.

Context.

There has always been a stigma towards people who use food stamps. One in seven Americans receive food stamps. That’s about 46.5 million Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has sky rocketed in the past years (38.8% in the last five years, according to Food Research and Action Center). Hunger is a very real necessity that Americans are facing.

And one of the biggest misconceptions about food stamps is that people who use them do not work and abuse the system. Most people who are eligible for the benefits do not want to be associated with the system abusers to the point where they feel uncomfortable going in a store and using their electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card.

While working at the startup accelerator based off of Puerto Rico, Parallel18 as their Lead Creative Designer, I was tapped by one of the startups whom was interested in dealing with this stigma. The startup, All_ebt, breaks this stigma by turning the physical ebt card into a digital one. Basically a smart wallet for the ebt. I was curious about the project, but even more so, the fact that they hadn’t built much, so it was a chance to create from scratch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Early sketches of the All_ebt app. August 2018.

The Problem

Building something for a potential 73 million client base is ambitious to say the least. But I knew that there was “something” worth defining. For the purposes of the course, I interviewed several millennials and led a focus group around the topic of travel in order to build 2 personas, used affinity mapping to group the similarities in the interviews to draw out patterns and formalize my findings in these two “people”.

Where to? North.

Building something for a potential 46.5 million client base is not an easy feat. But from the get go, we were sure we didn’t want it to be something that felt outdated or harsh for use.

Our High level goals were to:

1. Make it fast and simple to use
2. Appealing to a universal pool of
   potential users
3. Make it clean and appealing


Fast & Simple


Universal


Clean

My Role.

I led the design experience between August 2018 and November 2018. As the sole designer, I designed every aspect of the user’s experience and user interface in this project.

In addition I worked with fellow team members in order to create content, visual guidelines and iterations based off of the data synthesis found in the lo-fi prototype phase.  

The app is currently in development.
September 20th, 2018.

Mid-fi All_ebt prototype. Late September, 2018.

Constrains.

Having such a huge client base and absolutely almost no budget to develop the app, user personas were built on a very small population of interviews. Although it has been proven that a small population with the correct discussion being led can/will produce an efficient UX base model on which future users can/will use.

By being in an accelerator program, at times deadlines felt rushed and deeper exploration couldn’t be done. We would tell ourselves “Done is better than perfect.”

The Process.

After a debriefing of the personas built for the project, my role was a bit more defined. Initial sketches were drawn, and user flow was determined.

Current User Flow. Mid September, 2018.

Prototypes.

A lo-fi prototype (paper model) was built and tested on a pool of users in order to validate the design choices/user flow before proceeding to a more complex line of design (which would take a bit more of time to develop considering I was the sole designer in the project).

Low-fidelity prototype. Early September, 2018.

What we found.

The users were uncomfortable having to create a user login/having to share their email/phone number/having a text message sent to confirm their login.


4 out of 10
users were a bit confused with the experience and 2 out
of those 4
suggested having a facebook login button to streamline
the process.


5 out of 10
users expressed interest in wanting to refer the application
to other people due to the convenience it offered them.
1 out of those 5
asked if we could implement a
referral system/cash reward for said
referral.

Designing the UI.

We implemented the changes that the users asked for and began building a more stylized version of the product based off of some of the CEO’s preferred visual preferences.

This was a tough negotiation process due to the seriousness of the app and his desire to make it more “hip”. A compromise was made in order to please both sides. A clean/modern feel was built around a banking app model. Maintaining the “young colors” he wished to implement, while having a professional atmosphere to it.

Also implemented a bitcoin feature that allowed you to monitor the BTC market. This would allow the users to buy bitcoin if so they wished with the portion of the EBT that could be used for any purpose.

App Mockup. Late September, 2018.

Reflections.

Being the only designer can be a very fun experience, specially for a project that plans on tackling such a big market. Exciting to say the least.

However, deadlines can become stressful when there is so much work to be done by one designer. Meeting deadlines, in order to keep stakeholders and development on schedule takes a tole on a person. Recommendation for next project: Have realistic expectations of goals with team members.

Lack of communication can strain the design process. Potentially working with a second ux/ui designer in order to bounce off ideas, divide tasks and have a second opinion/voice backing up the work that has been done.


More Importance to Communication


Realistic
Timelines


Bigger Team