Understanding pain points for a neurodiverse user-base

2018
I volunteered as a technology coach during my 4-month Research Fellowship with the organization Kudoz. I hosted tech coaching sessions to help Kudoers get familiar with the Kudoz web platform, the Kudoz mobile app, and with technology in general. 
Working with Kudoz was a turning point in helping me understand the impact and importance of inclusive design.
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What is Kudoz?
Kudoz is a community learning platform that connects people with developmental disabilities to novel experiences in their city.
Hosts run experiences which Kudoers can join and learn from.
Kudoz aims to break the isolation Kudoers often feel when they aren't exposed to novel experiences. 
Goals and Questions
My goal was to understand how Kudoers and hosts were currently using the platform, and what usability and accessibility improvements could be made. 
Tech coaching as user research
Through tech coaching sessions, I connected with those who considered technology frustrating, who were apprehensive about technology, and whose fear of technology was creating a barrier for them to complete their goals.
Tech coaching:
  • Minimized Kudoers' barriers to engaging with Kudoz
  • Helps Kudoers gain confidence in using technology, which helps with their overall independence
  • Gives Kudoz the opportunity to connect with our users and understand ways to improve the platform's usability and accessibility
Ongoing coaching

Although many coaching sessions were one-offs to support new Kudoers onboarding, I held ongoing tech coaching sessions with some Kudoers who needed additional support. Through these sessions, I found that I could track Kudoer improvements and ongoing pain points. It was important to note which web and app features could be learned quickly, and which points of confusion were barriers even after 3+ coaching sessions. 

Ongoing coaching helped with:

  • Building trust with Kudoers - Forming relationships is important

  • Building confidence of Kudoers - Learning grows with increase in confidence

  • Allowing flexibility with learning - There's no pressure to learn everything in one sitting, and allows for reviewing previously learned areas

Collecting and coding observations

One of my main challenges was collecting and making sense of the differing issues and observations I found during my coaching sessions.

I created a form on Google Forms to standardize and automate data collection during my coaching sessions. Using Zapier, I linked form responses to a database on Airtable. I used Airtable to code and organize my observations; using Airtable kept all the information in one shared, scaleable database.

By standardizing the collection of information from these sessions, I ensured that future tech coaches and the rest of the Kudoz team could continue to add coaching observations and build the user segmentation.

Filling knowledge gaps through segmentation

Given that Kudoers are so different from one another and face varying challenges, I found it useful to form segments of users based on their behaviours, as opposed to creating full personas.

With each coaching session, I discovered many pain points within Kudoers' and hosts' experiences. I created clear, concise stories to bring these pain points to life. By collecting stories, and coding those stories into segments, our team could: (1) find which pain points were most common, and (2) deeply understand implications of these pain points on our users, by referencing the stories.

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Learnings

My main takeaway from this experience was having a clearer understanding of the challenges that some (not all) people with developmental disabilities experience in using technology. As well as understanding the ways in which inclusive design can benefit both neurotypical and neurodiverse individuals.