Pigeonly

Role: Senior UI/UX Designer

May '15 - Junye '16

Employment Summary

From May 2015 to July 2016, I served as Senior UI/UX Designer at Pigeonly in Las Vegas, NV. Pigeonly is a company that uses VOIP and modern fulfillment technology to make communication easier for the families of incarcerated men and women.

Empirical academic studies have shown that recidivism rates decline when inmates have more access to communicating with loved oves. Unfortunately, the major players in inmate communications have been largely monpolized for a very long time. They gouge families who are already struggling financially in most cases, and Pigeonly is a company founded by a former convict that set out to disrupt the status quo.

Cohesiveness

When I arrived at Pigeonly, they had never had a dedicated UI/UX person on staff full-time. Their photo delivery and phone call products were put together largely by contractors and a small team including the CTO. They lived in separate codebases and had very little visual or UX consistency. My first job at Pigeonly was to fix that.

One of the first steps was making sense of all the user paths.

Not So Normal Use-cases

While streamlining Pigeonly into a platform from a UX perspective, I got a taste for designing for a specialized target demographic - both in my research and with guidance from our CEO. Pigeonly’s users and target users are used to being taken advantage of by the greedy prison telecom monopolies, and are generally very distrusting of anybody looking to charge them for these services. Additionally, most of the users did not use email, and only wanted to communicate VIA mobile SMS. These factors perpetually informed our design and marketing decisions.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

If there is one thing I could say about working with Pigeonly, it’s that I was always out of my comfort zone - in a good way. It made for a fun challenge, and a lot of growth. Pigeonly’s target demographic is African American and Latin American women aged 35-55. So as a white male in his twenties, I was decidedly not the same as the people I was designing for. Getting past this requried a lot of user observation through heatmaps and apps like Full Story, as well as constantly reminding myself that how I operate the web is not the same as our users.

Some of my performance was measured on conversion metrics at checkout, and successful non-abandoned signups. I was tasked with setting these funnels up and reporting from Google Analytics, which was also out of my comfort zone, but I learned a ton.

First wireframes for Pigeonly single sign on. Email was always optional for user accounts based on our research and knowledge of the target demo.

With the Inmate in Mind

Without question, designing for Pigeonly was one of the most unique experiences of my life. The amount of growth I experienced after a year and a half of designing for a target market so different than me was remarkable, and a true exercise in empathy.

Early lo-fi mock

Takeaway

We put out a ton of stuff in my time at Pigeonly. I am proud to have been the lead designer on Photos by Pigeonly, Voice by Pigeonly, Message by Pigeonly, and continuous iterations on single sign-on and the company’s marketing website.

Putting aside the technical, empathetic and design skills I gained at Pigeonly - the most rewarding moments were hearing from the relatives of inmates who were just so overjoyed about our services. It was great to have done a lot of work that had social impact.