Case Study for Rising Tides

The Arctic Institute is an independent international institute dedicated to the research of and engagement in the many dimensions of Arctic security. The Arctic Institute needs a simple responsive website (Rising Tides) that pairs skills-based volunteers with projects. The Rising Tides website will include information about various volunteer projects, how they work, and sign up links to the volunteer matchmaking platform.

Project Background

The Task
To provide research for a better understanding of users who would use the website and create navigation and web pages to accommodate the identified users.

The Challenge
To identify behaviors, processes and pain points of potential users for the website.

Target User
The target user are men and women who volunteer.

My Process
I followed a UX design thinking process (see below) to make sure that my design decisions were supported through user research and feedback. 

My Process

Phase 1: Empathize

  • competitive analysis
  • one-on-one interviews
  • empathy map
  • user persona

Phase 2: Define

  • define and agree on project goals

Phase 3: Ideate

  • site map
  • task and user flow
  • wireframes
  • ui design 

Phase 4: Prototype & Test

  • usability testing and iteration if needed

Phase 1

Empathize Competitive Analysis

First, a competitive analysis was conducted by reviewing websites from Peace Corp, Chicago Cares, Paws Chicago, and Americorps. The purpose of this analysis was to reveal any new design patterns or to identify similar ones. However no new design patters were discovered.

Eight(8) One-on-One Interviews
Interview Participants were Male and Female Between 40-65 Years Old
Purpose: To identify the type of volunteer that would use the Rising Tides Volunteer Matchmaking Website

Several hours of research was completed with eight interview participants. Five of the eight interviewees were female and three were male. All interviewees fall between the ages of 40 – 65. All interviewees are working professionals with college degrees. All interviewees except one regularly volunteer.

Research Findings


    • professional looking website
    • easy navigation to volunteer
    • organization information
    • success stories from organization
    • the cause of the organization is clear to understand


    • pictures of events
    • testimonials about organization
    • testimonials from volunteers
    • reviews of the organization


    • active social media pages
    • videos of volunteers in action

Pain Points

  • only one way to volunteer
  • not being appreciated when volunteering
  • organization is not legit in their claims

Interview Script (created by Traci Williams)

Hi my name is Traci Williams and I am conducting research on volunteering and what would make you become a volunteer.
Questions for Current Volunteers
  • Where do you volunteer?
  • How often do you volunteer?
  • What made you choose the organization?
  • What is your motivation to volunteer?
  • How did you sign up to volunteer? Did you use a website?
  • Looking at an organization’s website…what do you expect to see about volunteering?
  • If you had money (a huge sum)  to donate for a fund, looking at an organization’s website what would compel you to donate that money to that organization?
  • Is there anything you may see on a website that will make you not want to volunteer for that particular organization?
  • What would you do to get others to volunteer?
  • What is a good way to let people know that companies need volunteers?
  • Any suggestions on how to get local government involved in volunteering?
Questions for People Thinking About Becoming a Volunteer
    • Why do you want to become a volunteer?
    • What would compel you to volunteer for a cause?
    • Have you gone on a volunteer website recently? What did you think about it?
    • If you had money to donate for a fund, what would compel you to donate that money to an organization?
    • What is your motivation to volunteer?
    • Is there anything you may see that will make you not want to volunteer for a particular organization?
    • Looking at a organization’s website…what do you expect to see about volunteering?
    • What is a good way to let people know that companies need volunteers?
    • Suggestions on how to get local government involved in volunteering?

Empathy Map

After the interviews an empathy map was created. This map sums up the research found and gives a high level overview of the typical users for the site. View larger map.

A storyboard was created in order to create how a volunteer decides to lend their time to an organization. 

The story:
Karen has a passion for environmental causes and wants to find an organization where she wants to spend her time. She goes on the internet and finds “The Arctic Institute – Rising Tides”. She is very impressed with the website and the amount of work the organization has done and plans to do. She immediately volunteers for them. After volunteering for a bit Karen decides to tell others about the organization and successfully recruits them to volunteer. Karen also reaches out to local government for funding and sponsors. The positive experience Karen has received by volunteering with Rising Tides has made her a passionate volunteer for life.

 The empathy map and storyboard aided in the creation of the user persona for this project which is called “The Passionate Volunteer”.

Introducing…The “Passionate” Volunteer 

The participant with this passionate volunteering behavior is the focus of this report and will regularly volunteer and become a strong advocate for the organization if website gains her trust and loyalty.

Phase 2

Define Project Goals

Business goals were outlined according to the client’s objectives and the user goals were based on the interviews and user personas. The shared goals were then outlined to make sure both sides were accommodated in the design process.

Phase 3


Task Flow
By definition a task flow is a single flow completed by users for a specific action.
The specific action in this case is for the user to become a volunteer to Rising Tides Volunteer Matchmaking Website.

User Flow
From the task flow the user flow was created to demonstrate how a user would navigate the website. 


With the architecture in place, I created wireframes in Sketch for each screen of the flow.

Phase 4

Prototype & Testing
InVision Prototype

With InVision, I created a prototype using the wireframes. Once created, usability tests were conducted.

Branding and UI Design

The organization already had their logo and brand colors in place. Font choices were Lato and Impact. 

UI Design
After the wireframes were tested and adjusted, the UI prototype was created.

Reflection & What I Learned

This was a great project to work on because I have always been passionate about volunteering. I think websites like this are great to be able to match people who are looking for opportunities to volunteer their time. After a few more revisions, I was able to hand the design off to a developer to complete the project. See final site here:

copyright©2020 traci williams
all rights reserved
designed by traci williams