Making the move abroad less difficult: A UX Case Study

Simple!As this was our final project we would also be presenting our products to a jury of UX and UI industry experts for feedback and the chance to present at the Ironhack Hackshow.

The subject area I chose to focus on was moving to a new country.

I know from personal experience how difficult this can be, especially when you make the move on your own and don’t know what to do or who to turn to for advice.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on UnsplashUnderstanding what challenges other people are experiencing through User ResearchWith my subject area identified I knew that what I didn’t want to do was design a product for me and based on just the challenges I experienced, this would be too limited.

I needed to understand problems encountered by other people in a similar situation and see if there were any common themes or trends which I could focus on addressing.

I started by running a survey and also posting on a number of Facebook groups for expats in Barcelona, Spain, and other locations to see what information I could gather.

Identifying that the main problem area is Administration & PaperworkThe questions I used in my survey were kept deliberately broad or open ended so I didn’t unknowingly focus on one particular area from the very beginning and to better understand the true feelings and opinions of the people who responded (See survey questions here).

It was very interesting for me to see in my survey results that a large proportion of the people who responded had lived for over 6 years in foreign countries, and that there was very little percentage difference between the three main reasons why people moved abroad: Work, Study/Education and Adventure or Personal ChallengeResults from my survey which 65 people responded toAnd I could also see that the main areas which caused issues for people when moving abroad: Administration/Paperwork, followed by Accommodation.

Results showing the main areas people encountered problems with when moving abroad (65 Respondents)Through the open ended questions in my survey I also gained additional insights, for example with administration and paperwork comments included:“The paperwork and process complexity in Spain was a headache 6 years ago…”“Bureaucracy & lack of clear information & guidance, even more so with material in Spanish & Catalan”“It feels like Spain tries to make it difficult for EU-citizens to move here, because of all the paperwork you have to do / how difficult it can be when you don’t speak Spanish”Now knowing that the main challenges people were experiencing when moving abroad were with bureaucracy and paperwork I decided that this would be the primary topic I would focus on addressing.

Now I needed more information as to what problems were actually being encountered here, and when people were experiencing issues how were they resolving them.

To do this I needed to interview people.

Lack of clear guidance and not knowing who to speak with — the main problems with bureaucracy and paperworkFinding people with experience of moving to a foreign country fortunately was not difficult in Barcelona and after speaking with eight people the main insights I was able to take away were:In Spain the main processes people were encountering problems with included the NIE, the city registration (Empadronamiento) and registering as self-employed (Autónomo)Getting clear and relevant information that provided people with a good understanding of the process could be a challenge depending on the process.

Local government websites didn’t always provide clear details and while other websites with guides existed there was sometimes questions on their accuracy.

Speaking with officials regarding the process was often by appointment only and sometimes the information provided was not consistent between officialsThere was often a language barrier for people who had moved to a new country and did not yet speak the local language fluently, this was made worse by there not being high quality translations of required documents availableOne point raised by everyone I spoke to was that speaking to people with experience was almost always the most effective way of resolving issues they were encountering, and searching on Facebook was often the only way people knew to do this.

The results of the interviews were valuable in confirming my survey results.

There was a definite issue understanding the bureaucratic processes you need to go through when moving to a foreign country, and I could now see that direct communication with someone who has relevant experience was the preferred option when people were experiencing problems.

I structured my findings with an Affinity Diagram to help understand and digest what I had gathered from my survey and interviewsAffinity DiagramDefining the usersThe insights and information gathered from my research allowed me to define the potential target users of my product.

Meet Anna Williams, my User Persona moving to BarcelonaMy later design decisions were based on this user’s goals, needs and pain points.

They helped me define the desired experience as I developed guide.

me and its features.

Anna’s Problem StatementThe problem statement I developed for Anna and people like her to address with guide.

me is:Now having identified my user and problem statement I wanted to understand more about what tools were already available for people moving to a foreign country.

A lot of websites provide information on bureaucratic processes, but no apps provide thisLooking at what resources are available to individuals such as Anna when moving abroad showed me that:A number of apps and websites someone moving to Barcelona may visitMany apps exist which provide information on local cultures, but the information provided is quite broad in scopeThere are many more apps which are focused on tourismbut I could not find any apps focused on helping people understand bureaucratic processesMany more websites available which provide information but knowing whether these are accurate is not always clear and many are from law firms trying to attract customers who need helpDespite all of these people are still going to Facebook groups to ask for advice on the processesBarcelona Expats — One of several Facebook groups for people moving to BarcelonaDevelopment of featuresHaving the problem statement in mind I identified as many features as I could that could be included within guide.

me, focusing on the main areas of:providing an easy to follow guide to processesa way to connect with people who have experience of the processes and can provide helpAs I had a short time to develop guide.

me it was important for me to prioritise on the Must have features to include in a Minimum Viable Product.

I did this by using the MoSCoW method:MoSCoW PrioritisationGoing from paper to high-fidelityFirst define the user flow and contentMy initial step was to design a user flow for the app so I could identify what people using the app would need to do at each stage and so what would need to see.

Initial user flow for navigating though guide.

meI also defined a high level content structure to help inform me what content would need to be provided.

Initial content structure for guide.

me focused on the NIE processDevelop initial ideas for the screens and test a paper prototypeTaking the list of prioritised features into the Ideation phase I generated different design ideas for some of the main screens which would be required and developed a paper prototype which I began testing with.

Paper PrototypesI went through several iterations of testing, getting user feedback to make improvements in structure and content and gradually developing it from a paper prototype, into mid-fidelity and finally into high fidelity.

Here are some of the main iterations I did:Introduction ScreenThe main screen which provides information on a certain location to the users went through several iterations as I took user feedback and looked at the best way of presenting the information and enabling them to go further into the app in a way that was not too difficult or overwhelming:Design iterations for the Introduction screenPresenting the stepsAnother area which I made changes to was how the steps the person using the app needed to go through and how they could best understand where they were in the processDesign Iterations for showing the process stepsAccessing the communityThe community screen is an additional one which went through several variations:Design iterations for the Community screenInitially the focus was on being able to see who else uses the app on a map.

However user feedback showed me that proximity to another person was actually not that important; what was important was making them easy to contact and knowing what areas they could help with.

Developing branding, a colour scheme and selecting fontsBefore I moved into High-Fidelity I developed my Style Guide to show the colours, fonts, icons and other elements of my product I wanted to stay consistent and on-brand.

I chose Blue as my main colour because of its association with stability, trust, intelligence, and truth.

I chose two Google Fonts to use as they are free and easily accessible for use, and in my opinion Montserrat and Open Sans work well together (and is a popular pairing).


me Style GuideFinal DesignTo demonstrate the final prototype of guide.

me I developed a scenario in order to visualise how people would use it and help to generate a better understanding of how the product can helps people like my user persona, Anna.

Scenario: Anna is moving to Barcelona to study to be an English teacher.

She knows she wants to stay in Spain and teach in Spain after her course but isn’t sure in which city.

She has heard that to work she will need the NIE, but is not sure what this is or how to get it.

Part 1: Anna checks on guide.

me what the NIE is and how she gets it.

Part 2: Anna messages another user of guide.

me with a specific questionYou can also view the final prototype on InVisionThe guide.

me roadmap for the next 3/6 monthsFrom my earlier feature prioritisation there were a number of things which I identified as ‘Should haves’ and ‘Could haves’.

These I put into my 3/6 month roadmap for future development:Next steps for developing the appThe main next steps for me are linked to my roadmap and continuing to develop the ‘Should have’ features for the next 3 months.

An example of this is users being able to see advice given to other guide.

me users by the community, such as through a posts page:In development version of the posts pageAdditionally I would focus on the content of guide.

me and refining it to better provide what users may need and not provide a duplication of information which may be accessible already elsewhere.


me was presented to the final project jury, their feedback was very helpful and included:Feedback from the Final Project Jury which I can use to develop my designs furtherLessons learnt from the development of guide.

meSupport of the Ironhack Cohort was invaluable throughout the projectFollow the research — I didn’t know when I created my survey what pain points I would end up addressing and it’s been a really interesting process addressing itValue of User Testing to refine process.

As with all my projects the user testing has been invaluable in improving the user flow and look and feel of the product.

Without this my product would not be nearly as user friendlyUI skillset is work in progress and I need to continue to practice and improve in this areaIf you made it this far then thank you for reading!.I would love to hear your feedback.

Also a special thank you to Nevan, Elise, Hector and JJ at Ironhack for the help throughout the Bootcamp.

And thank you as well to all the other students for their support!!Paul Naylor, UX Designer.

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