Creating for community: A case study for user-centered web design in non-profits

The Refugee Forum of King County (RFKC), a non-profit professional organization that supports service providers working with refugees and newly arrived immigrants in the greater Puget Sound area, had an information problem.

The Red Cross, Seattle School District, the Seattle Police Department and local politicians are among many who send representatives to a monthly RFKC meeting to share information to improve the lives of refugees in King County. After three decades in operation, the RFKC had yet to develop a digital presence to post meeting minutes, event information, and provide connections to community resources. They contacted the iSchool for help.

Erika Deal, Laura Horan and Danielle Trierweiler, three MLIS students looking for a Capstone project, decided to work with RKFC to create a user-centered website as a repository for materials, a place for event notices, and other member resources.

“While our project is specific in many ways, we feel that the ideas and information needs we grappled with are universal,” says Horan. “We feel that the skills and ethics learned through the MLIS program put us in a unique position to help a non-profit organization realize their dream of a website.”

The students approached the project by implementing extensive user-centered testing, direct feedback, research, and design to fully understand how members wanted to access and use the information. The team felt that their skills and experiences–rooted in a commitment to public service, information access, and community support–helped them bring a fresh approach to website design.

After the site was successfully launched, the team’s case study was accepted at the Special Library Association (SLA) Annual Conference to be held in Vancouver, B.C. in June. SLA serves more than 9,000 members in 75 countries in the information profession, including corporate, academic and government information specialists.

“We decided to apply to present at SLA because we wanted to share our experience working with the Refugee Forum of King County with a wider audience,” said Horan. “SLA is an international Library and Information Science organization and as such, their annual conference seemed like an appropriate stage from which to share our experiences with this simultaneously global and local Capstone project,” added Trierweiler. 

The team will also present at the iSchool’s Annual Capstone Event on June 5. Their project, along with more than 100 others, will be on display at the Husky Union Building. The event is open to the public. 

View a short video of the project.