After four years of growing a community of over 2,000 women, I embarked on a design research project to evaluate the impact of Women.Design.Build's program. In collaboration with friend and community member, Ruby Ku, we interviewed users and reimagined a learning experience that aligned with the community’s unique needs,
Stakeholder Analysis | Facilitation | Data Synthesis | Design & Content Execution
01: User Interviews
In the first interview activity, we asked each participant to communicate the A–Z process of a most recent construction project. With post-it notes and Sharpies, they jotted down each individual step and placed it on a linear timeline. In the next activity, we presented a grid of stock photos (i.e., a woman meditating, a highway with traffic, someone juggling, etc.). We first asked participants to use the images to communicate their current home building experience. Then, with the same images, we asked them to communicate their ideal home building experience.
02: Contextual Inquiry
Throughout the design research process, I looked for inspiration in other teacher-student environments. Yoga classes resonated with my vision for the reimagined Women.Design.Build experience. Specifically, I observed how yoga teachers provided soft encouragement to their students. I discovered that whether mastering a headstand or (wo)manning a circular saw, the practitioner must proceed with confidence.
03: Affinity Mapping
After the interviews were completed, we started to synthesize the raw data. By grouping the interview transcriptions into like categories, we discovered themes and patterns.
What We Discovered
Everyone Has A Process & Roadblocks
Through data synthesis, we discovered that despite socio-economic differences, each user had a similar process of tackling home construction projects. The user journey started with dreaming, and moved from making a plan to designing the elements to (hopefully) building a finished product. We also discovered that implementation was a challenge due to unforeseen roadblocks, such as unreliable contractors. Our research insights began pointing to a service that supported the user throughout their construction journey—from the moment they come up with the idea to when they apply the finishing touches to every touchpoint in between.
Connection To Community Matters
In addition to having a process, having connection to a community was clearly important. Whether it was a spouse, friend, or neighbor, people desired third-party insights and support to help drive their project forward.
The Final Product:
An Experiential Design-Build Curriculum
Using the data uncovered in the research, we developed a design-build process that reflected the user’s journey—Dream, Plan, Design, Build. This process served as the new program’s framework—a workshop series that built skills overtime and culminated in a construction project. Participants learned hard, transferable skills—such as to-scale drawing, 3D rendering, and woodworking—that could be applied to any construction project.
Based on our research, we learned that ongoing access to instructional materials were important to implementation. To fill this need, each participant received their own portfolio that included comprehensive worksheets for each step in the process. (Worksheets may be downloaded below.)
We leveraged online tools—Dropbox, Facebook, Pinterest, and Houzz—for participants to access materials, create connections, and catalogue inspiration.
The real magic was the connections built between people—in real life, not the internet. There was comradery and humor and a sense of collaboration. The experience of bringing people together proved critical to the success of their project.
photo credit: Sophie Stuart