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  • Chad Zollinger

UX Case Study: Single Mothers Jobs and Career Training

Updated: Jan 4

11 min read


I’m not going to lie — I knew nothing about the difficulty of the lives of single mothers before this project.


Designing for an unknown audience was daunting and made the research phase of this project especially vital. I needed the insight of face-to-face interviews and the data from an in-depth survey.


I found that when it comes to employment for single mothers, the story is grim. In fact, 26.8% of single mother families were jobless for the entire year of 2018 (Single Mother Guide).


Many single mothers who do have jobs are underpayed, untrained, and unprepared for long-term careers.


Here’s a sneak peek to our solution for providing an adequate job search resource for single mothers.


I ended up tossing out about half of the features that were planned. Through the design process, user testing, and group design reviews it was clear that the site was heavy.


The rest of this case study will examine how the finished product developed in the following order:


1. The Stakes

2. Discovery

3. Goals

4. Design Process

5. Design Learnings




The Stakes

Currently, there are no job search websites dedicated to providing quality job search and job training to single mothers.


Beyond half-hearted blog posts like 7 Best Jobs for Single Moms Starting Over, single mothers must filter through larger job sites, research, and stumble upon relevant jobs and then discover whether each job offers the required flexibility for a single mom.


Discovery

I decided to interview two different persona types in my discovery phase: single mothers and job recruiters. The majority of the one-on-one interviews were with single mothers.


However, it was also beneficial to interview job professionals as well to determine which skills, training, and resources a single mother might need to find a job.


From the one-on-one interviews conducted and the many poll responses I received, three things became immediately clear:


1. Single mothers need job training.

2. Single mothers need jobs with flexible schedules.

3. Single mothers are willing to invest time and money in higher education and specialized job training.


Being highly motivated by their circumstances, single mothers are strong and make dedicated employees (according to the job recruiters I interviewed).


That said, their pain points are many:



Fortunately, single mothers are extremely resilient.


Because single mothers typically hold the entire burden of raising and providing for their children, we found that they are more willing to make sacrifices, work hard, and learn new skills.



From a recruiter’s standpoint, single mothers will make good employees.


From an job candidate’s standpoint, being a single mother and searching for a job can be a painful and time-consuming process.


Any solution we come up with will seek to resolve the following pain points:

From this initial research data, we were able to create a user persona:





This user persona specifically helped me to identify certain pathways through the site that would be more important to an actual user.


That pathway ended up involving a career assessment feature (questionnaire) to find which jobs they’d be best at, picking a education course, and a personalized job search geared toward each user’s unique aptitudes.


Goals

The ideal user of the site has pain points that extend beyond the scope of a simple job search website — this made goal setting a bit difficult.


For example, though single mothers may need childcare options, it isn’t an immediate concern for a job site.


These goals were meant to anchor me to one excellent solution, instead of spreading myself thin across ten mediocre solutions.


Here are my goals:

1. To help single mothers find flexible and fulfilling jobs.

2. Create a community for single mothers to connect with like-minded individuals.

3. Simplify and personalize the job search process.


These goals will be examined at the end of the case study, to determine how well the solutions aided my goals.


Team and Role

Just as complementary colors balance each other out by being opposites, the members of our teams shared a common goal from completely different perspectives.


Our team was made up of three members: Steven Warren, Natalie Isaacson, and myself.

Because it became too difficult to make individual designs and then update and re-update a master Sketch document, I took the role of keeping the master Sketch document where all changes would be made.


This happened more as a result of being the only one with a mouse rather than having more design experience.


Regardless, organization of documents and low-fidelity design became my focus.


Natalie’s insights into the user proved to be extremely valuable. Because she invested a lot of energy into the research section with a personal interest in the users, she came away with an empathy for the proposed users that would help her make design decisions for the group.

Steven has a naturally creative mind. He thrives on pushing the boundaries of design, a skill that every team needs.


The fact that we had differing perspectives would have been a problem if each member of our team had not individually been willing to listen, work with, and learn from each other.


My Process

I found that design thinking was a thought process that I had to remember to iterate throughout the design process.


Although imperfect, I believe my process worked. Here’s my own version of design thinking.


Research

At first, our team came together to discuss and note our assumptions about single mothers and job search.



Next we drafted a list of questions we would use to survey and interview our target audience.



After compiling all of the data received from user interviews and surveys, I divided the valuable answers into sections we could use to ideate features for our site.


Planning

After organizing our research data into sections, our team came together to establish our more definitive user story map.


Though ideas like legal help and dating were a little too far off the mark to include even in the initial site structure, those ideas came as a result of pain points observed in one-on-one interviews.


In the end, I decided that emotional and financial wellness were a ‘two birds, one stone’ situation. By helping single mothers find fulfilling careers, we ease their emotional stress.

As a team, we were then able to come together to perform card sorts to reinforce our strengths and identify the weaknesses of our site structure.



Once I identified “the core” of my site, I could design the most efficient navigation through the site to emphasize the path most traveled by my user persona.


Of course, user testing and design reviews revealed certain pages and features that needed to be deleted, shown below.




After cutting the unnecessary pages from the site, it resembled something much more lean and user-friendly.



During this phase, the user persona also helped me to identify features that either weren’t helpful or were inconsistent with the rest of the site.


I found that as we added additional features and solutions, our site began to lose impact, becoming less helpful as the site became bloated.


Design

The transition from planning to low- and high-fidelity wireframing was made easier by the effort our team dedicated to our sitemap.


Using the sitemap above, I began creating low-fidelity wireframes.



Going from Low-Fidelity wireframes to High-Fidelity wireframes required another round of card sorts and design reviews.


Our team came together one final team before we split into individual and unique high-fidelity designs. After re-evaluating our user story maps, user flows, persona, and card sorts, I was able to identify three key areas of our site that needed to be addressed during the high-fidelity designs.


Those key areas were:

Social Component of the Site — since single mothers can connect with peers and mentors, how will those interactions look? Will there be notifications, chat feature, or followers/following?

Career Assessment to Job Search Functionality — how do I connect each user’s aptitudes and interests (derived from the career assessment) to the job search feature? I decided to use tags that can be applied in any search filter.

Register/Sign In — Until the high-fidelity mockup, I had not thought to create a sign in or register function. Because each user can have saved jobs, aptitudes, etc., as well as the ability to connect with other users/mentors, account creation was needed.



Once I began the high-fidelity designs, I was able to dedicate time to branding.

I named the website New Path and created a logo to go with the name.





Slimming Down

Here is a list of the features I ended up cutting from the site, in order to improve usability and clarity:


- Retirement Planning

- Investment Training

- Budget Tool and Course

- Childcare Options and Connections

- Mental Wellness Experts


Though these features would have aided in the overall wellness of our users, they do not directly fulfill our goal of preparing and employing single mothers in flexible and fulfilling jobs.


Final Touches

After cutting out unnecessary features, I decided to do another round of user tests to ensure I’d caught all frustrations with the site overall, its structure, and its functionality.


I ended up making the following changes in the final iteration of the site:


- Homepage Header — Made it smaller, eliminated illustration.

- Unnecessary Landing Page — deleted the landing pages before the Job Search, Education Search, and Resources Pages.

- Changed language throughout the site to “Community” instead of “Forum” because of a slight confusion between the words “Blog” and “Forum.”

- Added a “Preview Template” overlay on the Resume Builder so that you can see each template in detail before selecting it.

- Fixed inconsistent CTA Button styles.

- Changed input forms to lines instead of boxes.

- Added explainer text and Back Button to the Edit Resume page.


Design Learnings

Here are a few learnings that I’ve internalized throughout the process of the project.


Grids System Sorrows

I gave little to no attention to keeping my margins consistent across all pages. Looking back through my designs, every page has unique spacing.


Though it may not be initially apparent, once you notice something like that you can’t get it out of your head.


I know that grids (8-point or 12-column, etc.) are meant to keep you consistent and that they help web pages transform to other devices.


Knowing that, I will be keeping an eye on my margins and will probably end up using the 12-column grid system.


I would love to hear opinions about grid systems if anyone has some advice to share.


The First Thing They See, The Last Thing I Fix

The first design change came from usability testing. I found that my header illustration did not match the rest of my site.


The problem? The rest of my site lacked any similar sort of illustration. Though it was a pleasant introduction to the site, it didn’t necessarily belong.


You can spend hours on something you feel is special because you created it, only to find that it misses the mark and a free image hits the user more accurately than your best creation.


Whether it’s your entire design, a font choice, color scheme, or just a small change, everything is subject to change or instant destruction.


I also decreased the height on the header to leave room for a “search jobs” section above the fold.


The first above-the-fold view the users see is this:


A Discard Page in Sketch

Instead of keeping my old designs, I trashed them as soon as I made something “better.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t foresee the need to see past design decisions and challenges. For example, I made three different homepages when I created my hi-fidelity wireframes.


One of the versions I ended up trashing had a color scheme that I really liked but didn’t think about until later.


Unfortunately, little mistakes like this happened all the time throughout my design process.

From now on, I will keep a “Discard” page for every Sketch design I create. I’ll send my old work there before deleting it from my main design page.


Goal Completion

The initial goals I defined were:


1. To help single mothers find flexible and fulfilling jobs.

2. Create a community for single mothers to connect with like-minded individuals.

3. Simplify and personalize the job search process.


The career assessment, which identifies each user’s unique aptitudes, allows users to search for jobs with filters applied to their own unique strengths/interests.


The community and articles pages allow users to engage with other single mothers and even seek help from career mentors.


Whether I fulfilled the third and final goal is up for debate. I do believe the website could simplify the job search process even more by allowing more personalized job search criteria (as it is, there aren’t many filter options).


Thank you for reading.


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I’d like to thank Natalie Isaacson and Steven Warren for their cooperation and teamwork in helping this project come together. Also, thanks to Haley Payne for the in-depth visual design advice. Clutch. Please leave a comment below with suggestions to help me create more in-depth, understandable, and meaningful case studies.

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Utah, United States

©2019 by Chad Zollinger.