Los Angeles Homeless Outreach Portal: A 3 Day Hackathon Project

The purpose of the hackathon was to use our skills to combat homelessness in LA. We collaborated with LAHSA - Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority - to redesign their Outreach Portal to increase usage and make it more user friendly. This portal enables users to request help for people they see on the street that look like they aren’t getting the help they need. Once the request has been made, LAHSA goes out to the spot and tries to identify the person and see if they are getting the help they need and if not, to make sure they are aware of all the resources that are available to them.


Project Type:

Hackathon for the betterment of the community in Los Angeles


3 Days: June 11-13, 2019


UX/UI Designer & Researcher


3 UX Designers (myself included) & 2 Web Developers

The Problem

Redesign the tool used by homeless advocates to report someone in need

The Design Challenge

Since this project was for a government non-profit organization and this portal is part of the larger site, we thought it best to not change anything drastically in order to cut down on costs.

Our Solution

We focused on improving the site's usability to provide and easier, more efficient experience for the user. We took a mobile-first approach because when users are making the request, they are most often on their phones as it is usually right after they encounter the homeless person.



  • Evaluation of Current Site

  • Competitive & Comparative Analysis

  • User Surveys

  • User Interviews

Evaluation of Current Site

Mobile Focus

Evaluating this current site was a good starting point to help us get a feel for what needed to be done in order to provide a better user experience.


Competitive & Comparative Analysis

Analyzed LA-HOP with 2 Competitors

We analyzed the homeless help portals in New York City and San Francisco with the one in Los Angeles. The two main points we discovered from this was the ability to take/upload a photo - this feature could be helpful for homeless advocates trying to find the person in need, or it could be a breach in privacy and disrespectful. We also wanted to dive further and understand why it was required that the submitter of the form provide so much personal information, such as job title and phone number.


User Surveys

40 Responses

We surveyed an array of potential users from highly populated areas, particularly in the Los Angeles region. We learned that many people are open to helping a person in need but they were not sure if filling out the form would be beneficial or detrimental. They would also primarily use their phones to submit the form, as they would usually be outside of their home or office when encountering a person that needs help.

We discovered 85% of respondents would use a mobile phone to submit the form.

90% of respondents would be willing to fill out an online form if it meant helping a person in need.

77.5% did not know what would happen after they requested support for a person in need.

User Interviews

We spoke with 5 users who currently use the portal

From speaking with users, we learned that the flow is not currently intuitive, requests should be detailed but not so detailed that users will exit the site, and lack of closure after submitting the request often leaves people wondering what happened and if the request actually helped somebody.

“The current request flow is not intuitive and is difficult for people to use.”

Current User #1

"Incoming requests need to be detailed, but not so detailed that that no one wants to complete them."

Current User #2

“Lack of follow-up and closure after submitting a request leaves people distrustful of the system.”

Current User #3


  • User Personas

  • Journey Map

  • Feature Prioritization

User Personas

Neighborly Nancy embodies the audience that LAHSA aims to target - concerned neighbors that want to help out their community.


User Journey Map

This map identifies all of the pain points, as well as the delights, that Neighborly Nancy experiences as she goes through her journey of discovering and using the LA-HOP.


Feature Prioritization

Based on the research we gathered about users needs and pain points, we developed a list of features that should be prioritized.


Problem Statement Re-Defined

How might we enhance and streamline the LA-HOP form used by homeless advocates to increase participation?


  • Wireframes

  • Usability Testing

  • Logo Redesign

  • High Fidelity Prototype

Design Studio

Our team did a quick design studio, where we each sketched some ideas for the screens rapidly. We then agreed upon the elements we liked most, then drew out the updated and combined screens on the whiteboard before proceeding to our low-fi prototype.


Paper Prototype

3 Users Tested


Key Findings:

  • Users were still unsure what kind of journey they would be putting the homeless person through - would they be getting the help they need, or getting them in trouble?

  • Description of location where homeless person was last see was unclear. 

  • Users did not like having two "Submit" buttons at the end of the form - one to submit the form, the next to submit their own information if they wanted to stay informed. 

Medium Fidelity Prototype

3 Users Tested


Key Findings:

  • On Step 2, the purpose of the plus symbol was not immediately understandable. To fix this issue, in the next prototype we included the words "Add another person" next to the plus symbol.

  • Also on Step 2, users repeatedly thought the form was asking for their personal contact information. This part continued to be tricky.

  • Text size was too small 

Logo Redesign

The current logo of the LA-HOP felt outdated and not mobile friendly. We created a survey with 20 participants to test two new logo options against the current logo. 64% preferred this logo, stating that is easy to read, modern, and clean.


High Fidelity Prototype

For this final iteration, we went to the streets and tested with users walking by. Users had very positive feedback overall and considered the form to be fast, easy, and intuitive to use. One aspect that users really appreciated was not having so many text boxes that they have to write in - rather, there are dropdown lists and buttons users can select multiples of, and if they still don't see the option they are looking for, they can type it into the "Other" field.