By Ty Burke

In celebration of Carleton University’s 2023 Throwback week–a homecoming for alumni and community members–we sat down with seven alumni to see where they are now. Their stories moved us and reminded us of the impact our engineering and design alumni have on creating technology for good, sustainability, health and wellness, and social innovation.

Designing Solutions

Good design can prevent big problems.  One of Canada’s provincial governments was operating a portal for people seeking overdue child and spousal support, and it wasn’t going well. Users were frustrated and staff were burning out. Carleton alumna Sara Fortier’s company Outwitly helped fix its problems by completely redesigning the system. 

“Case workers would get calls from angry people who hadn’t received their support payment,” says Fortier, the CEO and founder of the UX and service design consultancy. 

Sara Fortier, CEO, Outwitly, industrial design alumna.

“People depend on these payments, and case workers were getting burnt out because they received so many calls. It created a huge burden.” 

Outwitly conducted discovery research to better understand the problems. They made recommendations to improve the portal by enabling users to see the status of their payment, and to optimize its user experience on mobile phones. This was particularly important because many portal users didn’t have laptops. But some design insights were even simpler.  

“Many users didn’t understand the call centre’s function. They thought they have a lot more power than they do, and when a payment didn’t arrive, they’d call five times a day. That places a lot of burden on workers,” says Fortier, a graduate of the Bachelor of Industrial Design and Master of Design programs. 

So, Fortier and Outwitly devised a solution to help get call volume down. One of their recommendations was for better educational materials to help users better understand how the system worked. 

“A better onboarding program tells people about the program. It sets expectations up front, and really changes a lot about their experience.” 

Fortier credits the Master of Design program as a major stepping stone. 

“I did a Bachelor of Industrial Design, but by the time I finished, I knew I didn’t want to design physical products,” says Fortier. 

“The Master of Design really got into design thinking, and applied the design process not just to physical things, but to digital experiences. I really fell in love with that side of design.” 

Want to participate in Carleton’s 2023 Throwback events? Visit the alumni website to learn more.

Thursday, September 21, 2023 in , ,
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