Niepelnosprawnik

How I used good design to help gather more than USD 10,000 for a search engine of places accessible to people with disabilities
Niepelnosprawnik on a screenshot

Niepelnosprawnik is a search engine of places that accommodate people with disabilities. On it, one can find restaurants, cinemas, and offices, find out how accessible they are, and determine if one can use them.

The new version of Niepelnosprawnik is the result of a pro bono project that I realized on my own initiative in cooperation with the TUS Foundation.

The TUS Foundation is an organization that has been supporting people with disabilities in Poland since 1993.

Challenges

  • Create a Build‑Measure‑Learn feedback loop in a product developed by a pro bono non‑governmental organization
  • Design and build a search engine that accommodates people with various disabilities
  • Develop in cooperation with an NGO something good, wise, mature, and impressive that will make you want to work with me

Results

  • 4 awards
  • Over PLN 40,000 (more than USD 10,000)
  • Build‑Measure‑Learn feedback loop
  • Diametrical change in the search result quality
  • 137,644 unique users in 2017
  • Constant organic traffic growth

Awards

  • New Technologies Locally “Sector 3.0”
    From The Polish‑American Freedom Foundation
  • Website Without Barriers
    From Integracja, the most popular magazine for people with disabilities in Poland
  • Internet Site Without Barriers
    From the Polish Ministry of Administration and Digitization and the Widzialni Foundation
  • Wroclaw Without Barriers
    From the City Office of Wroclaw

Problem

My involvement in the project was born out of the desire to improve one of the key metrics in the product of a non‑governmental organization and describe this process in my portfolio. I quickly realized there were no key metrics in Niepelnosprawnik—no one had defined any. I decided to change that and create a Build‑Measure‑Learn feedback loop in Niepelnosprawnik, using it to help design, build, and optimize a new version of Niepelnosprawnik.

Audience

Niepelnosprawnik’s target audience is people with disabilities: people in wheelchairs, the deaf and hard of hearing, the blind and visually impaired, the intellectually disabled, and those with reading disabilities. Niepelnosprawnik provides data on places in Torun, Wroclaw, and Warsaw.

The website is almost perfect in terms of accessibility […]. I must also emphasize that it’s very pleasant to use, and the accessibility was implemented thoughtfully.

Jacek Zadrozny
Acclaimed Polish independent accessibility specialist, in the report from the accessibility audit

Team

The Niepelnosprawnik team provided the data and domain knowledge. I did the rest—from the asking of uncomfortable questions, data analysis, and concept creation to the design, coding, analysis, and optimization of the new version.

Constraints

The constraints in the project were the weaknesses of the database, WCAG, the multiple language versions, and the nature of the project.

Design process

The design process consisted of:

  • finding out about Niepelnosprawnik and its users everything that could be useful (such as through meetings, emails, data analyses, and scripts that allowed me to collect additional data missing from the data provided by the Niepelnosprawnik team)
  • preparing a vision of changes in Balsamiq and convincing the Niepelnosprawnik to accept it
  • designing a whole new Niepelnosprawnik in a web browser using HTML, CSS, and Sketch
  • coding everything
  • testing the product with the Niepelnosprawnik team
  • launching an open beta
  • going through an external accessibility audit
  • making 7 iterations using the just built Build‑Measure‑Learn feedback loop
  • documenting the entire application so others could also easily develop Niepelnosprawnik
  • introducing someone new to the project to take my place and oversee Niepelnosprawnik from a technical point of view after the end of my initiative

All this was possible thanks to the trust I built up starting from the first meeting. Before I started designing the new version of the search engine, I solved most of the problems the Niepelnosprawnik team had reported in the previous version of the application.

Results

I managed to create a Build‑Measure‑Learn feedback loop. I reduced Niepelnosprawnik’s technical debt and encapsulated it with analytical tools.

In 2015, before my involvement with Niepelnosprawnik, 5,293 unique users took advantage of their application. In 2017, 137,644 users used the product.

Niepelnosprawnik won all the most important awards in Poland that this type of project can win. The awards in the competitions topped up the TUS Foundation’s account with over PLN 40,000 (USD 10,000) for statutory purposes. To this day, Niepelnosprawnik’s outreach is constantly growing organically.

Each project is an opportunity to learn. In this project, I learned:

  • how to prototype search engines using real data
  • how difficult it is to sustain products in NGOs
  • how to make a project that wins awards
Thank you for your timeEnjoy the rest of your day
© Gregory Wolanski