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The non-profit S.S. Columbia Project is in the process of kicking off a year-long fundraising campaign for the restoration of a 1902 passenger steamboat, which would serve as a mobile event space for residents of the Hudson River Valley. The organization wanted a responsive website that would immediately capture the attention and support of the public with engaging storytelling and interactions. In addition, our extensive research and contextual inquiry process led us to develop a crowdfunding platform that would serve as the site's minimum viable product going forward.



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As the design communication lead and client liaison for the project, I was primarily responsible for coordinating work with client stakeholders and developing and finalizing the project presentation, as well as the project's research report. This required a great deal of copywriting, content strategy, and research. In addition, I supplemented our extensive comparative and competitive analyses by conducting contextual inquiries and on-site interviews at several NYC cultural attractions.



Step 1: Client Meeting  & Heuristic Analysis of Existing Site and Competitors

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After receiving the client brief, our team organized itself according to member strengths prior to our first meeting with the S.S. Columbia Project's executive director, Liz McEnaney. Following the formal project kickoff, the team developed comprehensive heuristic and competitive analyses examining the usability of the S.S. Columbia Project's existing site.


Step 2: Survey, User Interviews, and Contextual Inquiries


Using TypeForm, we transmitted a survey designed to analyze the online behavior and donation habits of visitors to websites for cultural sites and foundations. We received 43 responses and determined that over 65% of those surveyed had given to a cause or campaign using Kickstarter and other fundraising platforms. In order to discover how people find and support interesting cultural attractions and event spaces outside of the web browser, Andrew and I visited the McKittrick Hotel, High Line, and Jane Hotel in NYC. We interviewed 7 visitors, asking in-depth questions about why they make charitable donations and how they discover compelling cultural experiences. 


Step 3: Initial Paper Prototyping and User Testing


Using a combination of paper sketches provided by Haiyan and Axure print-outs from Val, we asked more than 10 peers to navigate and provide usability thoughts on our preliminary landing page. Using their feedback, we determined the strengths of our initial prototype and prepared and began making changes to our designs while compiling our research.


Step 4: User Persona Development

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We combined our research, contextual inquiry, user testing, and interview findings into 5 personas that reflected the typical users that the S.S. Columbia Project would need to win over with the new site. I developed the copy for each persona, determining that Amy, "the Good Samaritan", would represent the primary user and that her use case scenario would guide the development of the site's minimum viable product. Our research helped us determine that an effective crowdfunding platform would serve as the spine of the new website.


Step 5: Wireframe Build and Further Testing


Following the creation of Amy and the primary use case scenario, the team began designing (and iterating) clickable wireframes of the site in Axure. The team continued to refine and add visual design elements to the wireframes throughout the testing process.


Step 6: Prototype Build and Presentation

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After two weeks of hard work, we presented our finalized prototype and research report to the client at General Assembly. We followed an introduction and overview of the project in Keynote with an in-depth demonstration of the primary use case scenario in Axure. After the S.S. Columbia Project stakeholders provided us with feedback, they formally invited us to become honorary crew members of the S.S. Columbia and to continue working on the project outside of the General Assembly classroom.







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