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Making legal advice more accessible to asylum seekers
Web app / Human rights / Non profit
August 2018- January 2021
As part of my UX Design Course with CareerFoundry I started this project. With a background in Human Rights I wanted to work on something that related to that. At the same time I was also getting trained as a legal advisor with the Refugee Law Clinic Berlin. Asylum Advice had the intention to fill the gap where in person advice could not help refugees get the information they needed to have a fair asylum procedure.
Getting to know the environment
I started off with a competitive analysis to understand better what services already existed and what strength and weaknesses they had.
Firstly it became clear that already existing apps that had been created for asylum seekers were not specialised on legal advice, often had a poor user experience and often stayed unnoticed. With this discovery I realised what my risks and opportunities for Asylum Advice were. The biggest risk was to stay unnoticed. The biggest opportunity was to create a web application that was uniquely specialised on legal advice during the asylum procedure, complimented by a well designed user experience that would make asylum seekers feel empowered.
From my knowledge of the topic I also drafted a first problem statement and hypothesis for my design process:
Asylum seekers are missing legal support during their asylum procedure.
Surveys and Interviews
After my competitive analysis I drafted a survey for experts and asylum seekers and conducted interviews with also both experts and asylum seekers. Evaluating my research findings but also considering general asylum statistics I created the personas Rashid and Ellaha.
Rachid personifies the following essential research findings. He uses apps like Whatsapp and Facebook and general is quite tech savvy. His main frustration is about not being clear about how the asylum procedure will go for him. The information he finds is confusing and often misleading. He is also struggling with the languages barrier and the legal technicalities of the process.
Ellaha uses her smart phone to talk to family and friends at home. Apart from using WhatsApp, however, she is not very tech savvy. Similarly to Rachid she is quite lost in the asylum procedure. She is at a point where personal legal advice and support are essential for her, but she doesn’t know where to go and whom to trust.
Revised problem statement
Asylum seekers are struggling to access the legal advice they need while being overwhelmed and confused by the information they read about the asylum procedure.
We think that by creating a web app that enables asylum seekers to search for the advice and information they need, they will feel more empowered.
User journey and user flows
Taking my revised problem statement and my hypothesis I started ideating on how to best create a solution.
With these journeys in mind I started thinking about possible user flows that could meet both of their needs.
Wireframing and prototyping
Following Rachid’s and Ellaha’s goals I went through an iteration of low-, mid-, and high fidelity prototyping. I concentrated on a mobile first approach for a web app as most asylum seekers have mobile phones but not desktop devices. Additionally their mobile phones often don’t have a lot of storage space which made the choice of a web app more desirable. Following signing up, Rachid would have the chance to get an overview (automated advice) of his asylum process by answering a few questions, while Ellaha would be able to directly search for a legal advisor. The research implied that both a basic understanding of one’s own asylum process, while being able to reach out to experts seemed to be the most important functionalities.
Having designed the most essential features to enable Rachid and Ellaha to achieve their goals, I started my usability testing. Among other small issues the two main problems that usability testing brought to the surface were: 1. People felt uncomfortable having to sign up so early on. 2. It wasn’t really clear to many people what the overview function meant.
Throughout a series of prototyping and testing I eventually came to the conclusion that signing up was actually not at all necessary. Users could get an overview of their asylum procedure without sharing their personal details and searching for legal advisors would be helped by using a map with legal help near them.
The decision to take the sign up out of the project was also incentivised by further input from legal experts who preferred a tool that would be primarily improving the access to legal advice but not providing a platform of legal advice. This put the search of legal advisors nearby into the focus point and turned the overview function into a preparation and emergency tool that would help users understand their situation while also being able to prepare for their appointment with lawyers and legal advisors.
Since then Asylum Advice has gone through a series of prototyping sessions. During this work I was also supported by Valeria Mujaes, who helped me refine the designs and test them in another round of user testing .
We think that by creating a web app that helps asylum seekers find the right legal help nearby, while preparing them for their advice session, would make them feel empowered.
What coworkers said
He made the work with Asylum Advice much easier by having laid a solid foundation of user research. Apart from his professional design work he also has an extensive knowledge of refugee law and general human rights frameworks, which were essential for Asylum Advice. Michael is an excellent team player, gets work done with a no nonsense approach and is pleasant to work with.