VVMF (a non-profit based in Arlington, Virginia) came to us with an exciting concept to supplement their main website. They wanted us to create a space where living Vietnam Era veterans could tell their stories, connect with each other, and show their relationships to the names on The Wall. This website would live on after the veterans, preserving their important stories and connections for future generations.
Right away, we recognized that a frictionless sign-up process would be critical to this site’s success. To do make sure we got it right, we started by talking to Vietnam Veterans and those at VVMF with experience working with the veterans. Once we had some input, we created a prototype and did a session of user testing with a veteran. Our prototype followed best practices for forms — breaking the process up into steps and showing progress. Overall, the testing showed that our efforts had paid off. However, we did make a few adjustments. For example, we wanted people to upload 2 photos: one during their service and a more recent one. During testing, it was clear that people in this user group might not realize they could upload multiple images to the same image upload area. So, we created a second image upload area to make that clear.
After users signed up, we knew that we needed to make their experience well-organized and easy. To do this, we created a specialized dashboard that allows users to manage their profiles, connections, connection requests, and so on from one page. The dashboard page grouped each type of request — connection requests from others, sent requests awaiting responses, suggested connections, and so on — into sets of cards. The cards display relevant info and have actions users can take. To avoid errors, we gave users an option to confirm or reject key actions.
One of the site’s main goals is to document connections between Vietnam veterans. To facilitate this, we created an infinite scrolling page with cards showing an image, if available, and key details for each veteran. Only logged in veterans with profiles have the option to connect. VVMF also wanted to document the connections between veterans on the Registry and those on VVMF’s Wall of Faces and In Memory Honor Roll pages, but they did not want the sites to compete. To prevent this, we created a special version of the infinite scroll page for logged in Registry users. This page gives options to display and connect to profiles on Wall of Faces and In Memory Honor Roll. Users who are not logged in won’t see this page and, of course, search engines won’t index it.
As of this writing, over 500 veterans have created profiles on the Registry. More are added frequently and we hope the site will continue growing. As it does, we’ll host, monitor, and support it.
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