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Vancouver Love Project, a wonderful project setting out to raise funds for Megaphone Magazine and support Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Megaphone Magazine, is a non-profit magazine that is sold on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria with the aim of helping its vendors raise money to help them get off the streets, and into better living conditions. The work Megaphone does helps people gain work experience and get better jobs, helping them move forward. Megaphone is well known for its “Hope in the Shadows” calendars that show the hope in a neighbourhood of Vancouver that is most commonly looked down at and considered dangerous.

We stared talking to our stakeholders about what their vision for this project would be. They wanted to host a photo competition both on social media and on a website that would showcase the peoples’ love of the city of Vancouver as a whole, not just the “pretty pieces” hoping to put a very positive spin on an area of Vancouver that is so commonly referred to in a not so positive light. Hoping to draw a connection that Vancouver does include the Downtown East Side (DTES) our stakeholders also wanted to be able to raise funds through the sales of merchandise and donations, and produce a book made up of the compiled winners of both the social media photo contest and the “professional” photo contest that would be held on the website. There would also be a blog that accompanied the website to help support people learning about the campaign about Megaphone Magazine, and the DTES.

We went out and researched what users wanted from a photo competition platform, what they would use, and need, as well as what they wanted to know when they donated money and how likely, and often do people actually donate money?

We did 5 interviews and had about 50 survey respondents and this is what we found:

  • Yes people do donate to charities on a regular basis
  • People want to know where the money is going, whom it is supporting, and how much of their donation actually went to the cause vs admin work and other running costs.
  • Most people agree that the DTES need help, and that the homelessness problems need to be addressed
  • Photographs ranges from phone users, to amateurs and professional photographers that used social media to get their work noticed
  • People like photo contests to get recognition for their work.

We quickly realized that for this project to succeed, a user base would need to be developed. People would have to learn about the project, the hashtags, then participate in the social media campaign, and for the users wanting to participate in the professional photo contest they would have to be notified of its starting and ending dates, rules, regulations, prizes and judges. This made us looks at the design and development of the project differently. We knew we would have to break it down into three phases:

  1. Launch the landing page and social media accounts to start spreading the news.
  2. Launch the social media contest to gain traction and wider participation. launch “Vancouver Love Project” branded merchandise and the donation option on the website.
  3. Launch the professional photo competition.

Knowing that we had our work cut out for us, we went and started to dissect the information into what each of these “launch phases” would need from the users perspective as well as what would meet our stake holders needs.

Our first user persona, Nikki represents the needs of both Phase 1 and Phase 2 wants to learn about the project, and start getting involved with the social media campaign. She is motivated by being the first person to know what’s new and exciting in the city, she is the leader of her circle of friends and always has her finger on the pulse of the city.

Sebastian is our user for Phase 3 he has dabbled in the social media contest, but is an aspiring photographer and is always looking for new ways to get his work out, but also support his community.


With all of this information and research we delve into the design phase, we had a lot to capture in a short period of time.
We started on developing some branding for the project. Our stakeholders had the beginning of a logo that they wanted developed further, so we chose the brands colour scheme, keeping with red for love and also blue to represent Vancouver, because of its ocean, and mountains. We also wanted to represent our love of Vancouver through out the project, capturing pictures of the city and all it has to offer through the website its self.

For wireframes and design we worked on a lose structure for each of the 3 phases. Each one building on the last. How and where would we have an RSS feed for the Instagram hashtag? Where would we have a gallery to display the work that would be submitted? How often would there be a donate button on screen? How many are too many donate buttons? We wanted to keep our persona’s and our stake holders in mind as we developed, iterated and built.

We decided for V1 to have donation information regarding who and where the funds would be going front and center on the landing page, but as the project developed that information would be given less space on t he landing page, but link to a page of its own. That would house the full story of whom, what where and also show a counter to display the money raised.

We also recognized the importance to keep users connected to the project. There was a bit of coming and going from the project due to the launching from scratch, nature of the website and associated contests. We wanted to keep the blog and Instagram information accessible on the landing page at all times, so users could not only sign up to receive email notifications, but also see what other users were posting to social media and entice them to get involved.

User testing was a bit tricky, so we ended up mostly testing V3 due to it being the largest and most involved version to be launched. With the donations, and e-store in full swing, plus the addition of the professional photo contest, this was the area with the largest user flow.

In testing we found that we needed to stream line the uploading process and refine it more than we had anticipated. Users wanted to have a simple step by step upload that was straight forward, gave them feedback if they had not uploaded a large enough photo as well as not be overwhelming to complete. So back to the drawing board we went. We knew the way to solve this set of issues was be more selective in what the user had to accomplish in each step.

End result was a website and app the worked together with social media, and users to grow awareness of need and promote donations for the DTES but also demonstrate the love that Vancouver has for all its neighbourhoods, and the people that live in them.

Future iterations:

  • Develop a user friendly judges area
  • Design an opportunity for participants to vote on site for the professional photo contest.