Inspired by the opportunity for broad social impact, a Chaotic Moon design team carved out some spare time and answered the call -- interviewing, prototyping, testing, writing, illustrating, iterating, and coding their way to a simple, intuitive, forward-thinking online application template.

Our Design Process

Prior to starting this project, we defined three principles to help guide our design process: Empowerment, Humanization, and Relevance.

  • Empowerment: Provide parents with the ability to complete the application with confidence.

  • Humanization: Design an experience that respects a parent’s situation using language that is empathetic and easy to understand.

  • Relevance: Provide parents with appropriate and relevant instruction to increase understanding and accuracy.

We experimented with an aggressive, iterative approach: 1.5 weeks of concepting and 1.5 weeks to test and refine the application. We began by conducting high-level research to define the project, followed by in-depth discussions with school administrators, volunteers, and parents during our design phase. While we would have preferred to do the bulk of the research up front, time constraints and busy schedules made it impossible to do so. Therefore, we had to make a lot of assumptions before strengthening our concept with research findings in the second iteration.

In regards to visual design, we created mood boards to establish the tone and mood of the interface during the beginning of the project. After we solidified our final concept, our visual designers quickly began work on a design language and illustrations. We focused on creating a design that was friendly and approachable for the user.


Having 12 team members on any project requires coordination, especially when 7 of those members are UX designers! Going into the project, we did not establish a hierarchy for roles or assign one person to oversee the direction of the design. However, due to our commitment and passion, we collaborated very well and natural roles emerged. In the end, every single team member can claim ownership of at least one deliverable.

This project would have been much easier if the goal was to simply create a digital version of the existing paper application. However, in tackling this project, we wanted to create a better, more human experience for individuals filling out the application. This required a much more in-depth understanding of where people are struggling with the application and more importantly, why. Understanding the why allowed us to make design decisions that are geared towards addressing the root cause of the issue.

Unique Solutions and Features

  • Audio voice overs for illiterate and visually impaired users
  • Mini in-line quizzes to help clarify student status
  • Flows that fast-track applicants and bypass unnecessary questions
  • Delightful & fun visuals
  • Review page that also serves as an administrative view for district proxies
  • Error prevention:
    • Income groupings based on results of card sorting exercise
    • Conversational labels for income frequencies
    • EDG/Case number explanation and requirements (EDG Number is specific to Texas schools)
    • Designed to ensure that the applicant includes him/herself in the household

List of Deliverables

  • Interviewed 6 AISD administrators for insider viewpoints
  • 3 hrs of recordings from interviews
  • 10 major wireframe iterations
  • 10 In-Person Usability Tests
  • Over 100 participants in online card sorting exercise
  • 2 Affinity Diagrams involving the entire team
  • Streamlined Content (via hundreds of copy edits)
  • 1 InVision & 2 Axure prototypes
  • 2 Visual Design Directions
  • 46 Illustrations
  • Open-Source, Web-Based Form
  • Process & Walkthrough Video

Watch Our Process

Special Thanks

We want to say a special thank you to the Austin Independent School District (AISD) administrators, parents, and volunteers for being invaluable resources throughout this project. Their insights and expertise were key in helping us design our solution.

+ 7 more
Share this project: