Product Owner Case Study #3: Location Capture

This post is about my software product Hyperion. You can read more about it here.

The Original Design

When a volunteer logs into the volunteer portal, they’re greeted with a map showing their location:

Volunteer Portal

This screen captures their location periodically. When the volunteer starts a survey, their location is included with the survey contents. The non-profits want to know where people experiencing homelessness are located for a few reasons:

  1. To assist in de-duplicating the data.

  2. To empower outreach after the PIT count.

  3. To inform future PIT counts about where to look for people.

The map itself wasn’t important – it just served as an indicator that the location was captured successfully.

The Problem

Browsers treat requests for location access differently. Most browsers give you a popup when a site requests your location, allowing you to choose whether to allow it or not. I’m not sure whether this is the default Safari behavior on some iOS devices or what, but many iOS users weren’t shown that popup and had to navigate to their settings to explicitly allow access. Many volunteers were not tech-savvy, and so this was a bigger problem than it might seem.

The design allowed volunteers to fill out a survey without allowing location access. That was intentional (I didn’t want to force all organizations to force all their volunteers to share location access), but an unacceptable number of volunteers chose the path of least resistance and simply ignored the fact that the location wasn’t being captured.

An additional wrinkle: GPS is more reliable than a data connection. Using a map (that required map tiles to be streamed over data) as a proxy for successful GPS connectivity was a bad idea and led to false negatives.

The Solution

I’m looking to make a few changes.

  1. Increase the prominence of the location request.

  2. If they don’t provide location access, then (a) give them some help so they can figure out how to do it, and (b) prevent them from continuing unless they either grant access or explicitly agree to continue despite the lack of location access.

  3. Remove the map. It isn’t adding value and can lead to confusion.

I’m also looking to increase the volunteers’ visibility into surveys that they’ve completed. The non-profits don’t want the volunteers to be able to review the data, but only providing a tally was confusing for some volunteers.

I’m thinking something like this:

Volunteer Portal 2.0

I don’t love increasing the number of clicks to start a survey from 1 to 3, but it seems like a worthwhile trade to increase visibility.

If a volunteer clicks on “continue without location,” then I will show them a confirmation popup. The “troubleshooting” link will go to a page on the PointInTimeCount.com website that will help them turn on location access.

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