Ethnographic Research • Co-Design • Product Design


A neotribe is a community bound by a common ethic which transcends the individual trajectories and defines a common purpose. During my MA, one of our tasks was to find and join such a tribe. Then through co-design, to identify and provide a possible solution to their problems.

I have always had a deep attachment with the cause of alleviating poverty and homelessness. So, I joined ‘The Hot Choc Mob’, a tribe that supports the homeless by serving food and giving company. Thus I managed to figure out various issues that they face and came up with a design solution.


Initial Problem

The tribe was facing difficulties in reaching out to people who had an interest in supporting the homeless community but stayed inactive due to the taboo surrounding rough-sleepers.

Final Outcome

I designed a mobile application that would bring together the neotribe and some rough-sleepers to guide interested citizens on how to get involved with supporting the homeless community in London.

Supporting Environment

Staff from the University of the Arts London • Members of the Hot Choc Mob • Members of the Pavement People

My roles

Product Designer • UX Researcher • UX Designer • UX Writer • UI Designer

Tools Used

Notion • Miro • Flowmapp • Balsamiq • Adobe XD • Zeplin

Skills Gained

Ethnographic Research • Co-design • Empathic Design • Design Intervention • Agile

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Process Flow

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Values business needs and users needs equally and performs research into the market and targeted audiences.

After spending a day with the tribe, I identified various issues that they face & set out to erradicate the major one – growth of the community.

Expanding the Project Brief

In this scenario, I have combined the course description and my chosen neotribe to come up with a short project brief unique to my situation. Expanding the brief allows me to understand the nuances behind the product demand and use cases.

Identifying the User Levels

Unlike traditional methods, I prefer to identify multiple levels of users of my product (akin to marketing segmentation). This gives me deeper insight into the needs of the users and thus design for almost all possible use cases.

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Market Research

Most people in the tribe tend to find similar communities on social media platforms which they mostly access through their mobile. This was also the medium through which they kept up-to-date with related events. Insights showed peaking interest towards such online communities.

Competitive Analysis

Digital platforms to support rough sleepers were very few in number. But indirect competition existed in the form of groups within platforms like Facebook & Meetup. The members of these groups were very active and had cordial relationships with other groups across various platforms.

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Feature Box

From the market research stage onwards, I start noting down various features that could be included in the product. These features are then validated during the user research stages. This acts as a source for the product backlog.

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Project Brief

Now that I have collected data about the product needs, the kind of users and the possible problems that they face, I am able to create the final project (design) brief.

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Inhibition exists in the individuals which restricts them from interacting with the homeless.

Communities are spread across various digital platforms.


Guide & support new members

Create a vibrant community


The application should enable users to come together – online and in real life – to help and support the homeless living in the streets of London.

User Epics

User / Scrum Epic is an Agile technique that gives a high level, broad overview of the users requirements. This enables the identification of smaller tasks and thus in the creation of User Stories.

Since there are 3 different categories of users – chocolatiers, observers & rough sleepers – I used role based epics to split the needs to correspond to the needs of each category of users.

Functional Requirements

From the epics, I specify technical requrements for the products that in the future stages I will need to develop after conducting a thorough research.

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Having a close relationship with the users is essential in developing a sucessful product. This stage aims to develop such a relationship.

I became a regular memeber of the tribe and started taking part in its weekly meetings and volunteered for its activities.

Initiating Co-design

Co-design technique is based on the fact that users are experts of their own experience. Here we engage directly with the users to understand their needs, then create ideas about the product which are evaluated by the users themselves.

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Ethnographic Research

I adopted the observant-participation method wherein I became a member of the comunity and simultaneoulsy observed their activities. It allowed me to identify various unarticulated needs of the members and also the variations in what people say and what people do.

Unstructured Interviews

Every tuesday evening, the chocolatiers spend almost 2 hours with the homeless making hot chocolate for them. After that, theywould spend some time at a pub just to catch up with each other.

This provided me the perfect opportunity to gather valuable information about the people who make up the community, the reasons behind them joining the mob, and the problems that they faced.

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Empathy Maps

Empathy maps help me visualise the collective throughts and actions of the members of the Hot Choc Mob. Ethnographic Research played a vital role in helping me gather information for the creation of empathy maps and user profiles.

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Literature Survey

Gathering information from the rough-sleepers was a difficult task as I could only meet a few who were open to discussing about the work to a novice like me. So, through research into existing publications and by attending seminars and conferences, I gathered suficient secondary data to support my study.

I also looked into non-digital experiments and ventures that were related to this subject. Learning about these ideas keeps my mind open to the various angles through which a poblem can be approached. These angles help me evaluate the importance of the product that I am developing.

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User Profiles

For a project targeted at a small population, I prefer to create user profiles (one for each user level) rather than user personas. This ensures that the close bond formed during the empathising stage remains strong throughout the whole design process.

User Stories & Acceptance Criteria

User stories are more specific descriptions of users needs. Acceptance criteria specifies the external conditions and results of the events and thus helps to specify the technical & functional requirements of each of the stories.

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User Flow

For each user story, I generate a user flow diagram which shows the steps taken by the user to meet the task in the app.

Application Sitemap

Once all the user flows are generated, I can easily identify the various pages in the application. And thorugh card sorting technique, I can create a sitemap.

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Wireframes & Wireflows

Wireframes allow me to identify any missing pages that I might have missed during the previous stages. Then creating a wireflow allows me to try navigating through these pages as if it were already an application.


After building the wireframes, I test out the prototype with a few tribe members to check if my findings corroborate with the users needs

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This is the final design stage in this iteration where I create high-fidelity mockups that allows users to navigate trhough the pages.



A/B Testing

This is the final design stage in this iteration where I create high-fidelity mockups that allows users to navigate trhough the pages.

Guerilla Testing

Guerilla testing is my preffered method of identifying the users satisfaction with the product.

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Developer Handoff

Though I was not able to get the product developed, for the purpose of completing my duty as a designer, I generated the design system using Zeplin.

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I strive to be a user-centered designer focused on developing products and services that provides value to the society. I believe, that with NeoTribe, I have managed to create a product that will help us come together and alleviate the struggles of one of the weakest sections in our community.

My resources and skills does have its limits, and so I seek help from kind hearted souls to join me and my tribe in our quest to protect and comfort the weak in the streets of London.


Current Issues

The product still needs some more features in order to entice the audience to adopt it. Additionaly, without developing the product further, it is not possible to conduct proper user tests and discover pains and gains.

Ultimate Outcome

A best practice while designing for a niche product like NeoTribe is to develop it as a Minimum Viable Product. This allows me to test the initial reactions and identify responses to make the right future decisions.

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