Going Digital
Designing for Resettlement Communication

︎ Project to be presented at 2019 Interaction Design Week
︎Role: research, UX/UI design


As one of nine resettlement agencies in the U.S., the International Rescue Committee provides clients with a caseworker to coordinate on tasks, as well as many other needs that clients may have. Refugees came in with diverse backgrounds, very different literacy levels and familiarity with technologies. While caseworkers have been proactive in using different digital applications to help with different needs, much of the communication is still relied on laborious work and often creates misunderstandings. Our challenge in this project is to create a systematic and streamlined communications application to avoid strains on time and resources for both the caseworker and clients.


In order to learn about the resettlement process and needs firsthand, we collaborated with the IRC Atlanta office - the largest resettlement offices in the South - on this project. We visited the office with a diverse team, bringing consulting, technology, research, and design skills to make the most of our first field visit. 

During our research visit, we spent time shadowing caseworkers and clients, visited clients at different stages of their resettlement process - from airport pick up to 90 days into their resettlement and tested prototypes with the IRC staff and clients. 

︎Initial lo-fi wireframes: rounds of testing and iteration while in the field 

Double booking, insufficient comprehesion of information, multiple communication platforms standout as the major problems in current situation. 

︎Flyers at newly arrived client’s home: the key pain points we had anticipated — but had not fully appreciated — were the problems associated with literacy level and language.  
Based our research and the fact that many clients come in without access to data plan and Wi-Fi, the technical decision we landed on is a web-based application on the IRC staff side and a SMS based function on client’s side. Given this format, how might we:
        1. Measure the comprehension of the messages received by clients?
        2. Reduce the possibilities of miscommunication and time invested in waiting for responses from different departments?
        3. Best solve the obstacles in translation?

Having synthesized all the research results the team identified functions of the app. I mapped out the user flow a staff would go through while using the application. The blue circle marked out the touchpoints being addressed by the feature.

︎ Touchpoints and user flow


We developed this product in an agile manner. The research, develop and piloting process took 3 months in total. We have deployed the product for testing in the IRC Atlanta office for a month and will gather feedback for revision before we rolling out the product to more regional resettlement office. If the application is well-received at different regional offices, we will make this product open-source, allow other agencies to use and tailor it to their own needs.

︎ Competed wireframes - on staff’s end 

︎ On clients’ end: a voice message and a text language in their preferred language and can reply their response by clicking the link


1. Rigorous research to understand the users
This application is designed for the IRC staff to provide better services for clients. Through our research process, we engaged as many stakeholders as possible to understand the existing problems and their ad-hoc solutions. We did not attempt to provide a new application to change users’ habits, on the contrary, we proposed a solution that seamlessly merged into the existing system that will fix the disconnected parts.

2. Design for inclusiveness
While there are many existing digital applications designed for refugees, not every refugee has a smartphone or is fluent enough in digital and literacy level to take full advantage of these applications. We aim at using technologies to provide better services to clients settling down when they first arrived in the States and beyond. We recognized the limitations newly arrived refugees may have and leveraged the existing service that the IRC provided to include as many refugees as possible.

3. Expansion strategies
We will expand the use of the application to different regional IRC offices, but we will make it open source that can allows different regional offices or even other agencies to adapt the application to the best of their needs.

Project housed in Airbel Center at the International Rescue Committee Special thanks to: Natan Last, Amanda Porter, Dylan Sun, Indrani Das, Bruno Geninatti, Ben Moskowitz, Grant Gordon, Chris Carpenter and Birtukan Assefa
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