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Margarita Zulueta

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🔎 Reporting 

Observation

Fat harassment reporting does not lead to consequences, as harassers are either not banned or allowed to return to the platform.

😮 Insight

Fat women end up abandoning these spaces due to the social exhaustion of their harassment being ignored.

🔎 Ghosting Observation

Many claim they were "tricked" when swiping positively on fat women, which leads to painful in-person interactions of ghosting and insults when meeting for the first time.

😮 Insight

Swiping quickly without intention exposes fat women to "matches" who could potentially insult them because people don't pay attention when they are swiping.

🔎 Discrimination

Observation

Fat discrimination is a known phenomena in dating, but is not addressed or presented in multiple dating platforms.

😮 Insight

Immediately addressing fat bias on dating apps creates a sense of being seen by the platform from fat daters, which indicates the app's support.

🔎 Harassment Observation

Fat women's harassment on dating sites often comes from people who believe they should be grateful for any attention.

😮 Insight

Fat women are made to feel like they cannot have preferences in fear of hostility and retaliation.

Report Process Changes

Fat women are consistently harassed on dating sites and when reported, their concerns aren't taken seriously, which can be changed to create a safer space.

Longer Dating Profile Visitation

The gamification of apps by swiping encourages not spending time learning about the person swiped on, which leads to negative interactions later.

Fat Acceptance Language Usage

For most dating apps, with the exception of Lex, there was a history of no fat acknowledgment which communicates that fat women are not welcome.

Initial Points of Change

The implementation of insight-driven features could potentially change the digital experience for fat women.

Preference Options

The third framework after seeing the high engagement of educational pieces and the desire of the Content team to utilize lead magnet data acquisition.

Preference Option

My users consistently discussed how they felt unable to reject any potential partners who paid them attention and were made to feel guilty for having preferences, which led to fear of retaliation.

Preference Option

Initially, I had placed self-descriptors like "small-fat" or "BBW" and looking for "X identifier" in the profiles, but people felt it put fat daters on the spot and presented too great of a chance of being stigmatized, so I removed it.

Blocked users

While users appreciated the pledge of Affirmd to take reporting concerns seriously, some brought up that people might not know they were doing anything wrong at all. So I saw this as an opportunity for education through content, while at the same time not backing away from app removal.

Visibility Matters

What I thought was just a small feature, actually had a much larger impact as both fat-identifying daters and staight-sized daters both felt an immediate intention of inclusivity entering the application with early acknowledgement.

Updated Points of Change

I used Maze to conduct tests with those who have used dating apps in the past.  Post-testing, I saw thatsome features made fat women feel more stigmatized, so I decided to make some shifts.

Preference Options

The third framework after seeing the high engagement of educational pieces and the desire of the Content team to utilize lead magnet data acquisition.

Lack of community outside the app as well

Support of individual experiences only goes so far. Many talked about how receiving in-person support was difficult because dating as a fat person is difficult to understand if you have not experienced it. Not many had that community, so there was an opportunity to develop it within the space. 

Concept Testing Results

🔑 Acknowledgement is Key

Fat-identifying and plus-size identifying daters responded positively to both the acknowledgement and community development features, as support was a big focus in app adoption.

👯‍♀️ Cross-User Appreciation

Straight-size users generally felt appreciative of the features and discussed how they could be applied to other groups as well, and made them feel safer when potentially adopting the app on their end.

🤮 Biases Remain Strong

Some straight-size responders had hostile reactions to the application and focus on fat-positive dating, showing that biases are difficult to change, but others felt safer with these implementations than without them.

GOALS & NEXT STEPS

MORE TESTING NEEDS TO BE DONE, BUT SAFE SPACES ARE APPRECIATED AND NEEDED.

The goal of Affirmd was to create a social space that supports fat women rather than discourages them from participating in connection seeking spaces and community. ​

To develop Affirmd further, additional research and testing would need to be done that opens up the pool to more daters and evaluate if the features on the platform translates to greater participation and hopefully a welcome place for social connection.

Affirmd

DESIGNING SAFER DATING SPACES FOR FAT-IDENTIFYING WOMEN THROUGH DESIGN, COMMUNITY BUILDING & RESEARCH

Affirmd is a dating platform that acknowledges fat dating challenges by encouraging fat positive behaviors and community building. Affirmd seeks to disrupt the current structure of discouraging fat-femme identifying people to creating a safe and acknowledged dating space.

Affirmed addresses four areas of fat negative behavior in dating spaces: that apps rarely acknowledge fat daters, that swiping can be dehumanizing, that reporting is not taken seriously, and that the lack of fat-community while dating is isolating. 

🤔 The Challenge

As a result of anti-fat bias, fat-identifying women are discouraged from dating spaces as it is less accessible the bigger you are.

 

The belief that fat is ugly perpetuates the space and leads to harassment on and off dating platforms. 

🤔 The Opportunity

How might we create a safe and acknowledged dating space for fat women?

🖐 My role

Used a range of design thinking methodologies (user research, interaction design, and more) to uplift and address challenges that fat-female daters experience. 

🙋🏻‍♀️ My Context

As a small-to-mid fat person myself, I have had many negative experiences regarding dating spaces and knew from others about their experiences as well. Additionally, I am using fat here in the tradition of other fat activists reclaiming the word.

Project Summary

TIME FRAME

2022 for 10 weeks at SVA MFA Products of Design with Krissi Xenakis

PROCESSES

Design Research, Interaction Design,  UI, Service Design

DESIGNER

Margarita Zulueta

TOOLS

Figma, Maze, Miro, Notion, Zoom

FAT-ACCEPTANCE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT SERVES AS A FOUNDATION FOR SAFETY AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT

1) Creating an engaging Rules of Conduct entry point that not only requires users to say that they adhere to no anti-fat bias (amongst other behaviors) and providing examples of what that looks like, places the onus on the user to acknowledge that bias in a way that cannot be ignored if they agree to participate in the app made a lot of people feel like this bias was taken seriously.

2) Rules of conduct also serve as an impartial jumping off point for the reporting feature (below).

DEVELOPING FAT-POSITIVE COMMUNITY

USING A DATING PLATFORM AS A SPACE FOR COMMUNITY BUILDING AMONGST FAT-FEMMES

1) Users would self-select forums that best fit identities and communities they want to be a part of. Users would be vetted by the Affirmd team to screen for potential harassers so that the spaces would be for people of that community.

2) Users would be able to access channels for support, such as audio topic channels similar to Clubhouse where people could join in on topic-oriented discussion, or on chat pages to discuss common topics.

 

3) Users were also grouped into connect groups based on commonalities found in their public profiles. These groups served as cohorts of support that could be relied upon as needed.

TAKING REPORTING CONCERNS SERIOUSLY

TAKING HARASSMENT CONCERNS SERIOUSLY MAKES SPACES SAFER AND MORE WELCOMING

1) Reporting is done by confirming the profile of concern and also by checking which rule of conduct was broken to serve as a guidelines for users. 

2) The Rules of Conduct are the jumping off point to report, which serves two purposes. The first is that all users had to undergo the conduct acceptance process and previously acknowledged that they would abide by those rules. The second is that by making reporting based on a set of rules, it limits the level of recounting needed by the harassed user so that they do not have to feel like they are needing to relive that stress.

3) The blocked user is immediately blocked from the platform and cannot create a new profile. This is screened against by the requirement of creating a video in the profile, which is cross-referenced by the Affirmd team to confirm that this user is not just creating a new profile.

4) The blocked user is redirected to a link of educational resources on the blocked page, to provide answers as to why they were removed from Affirmd and what they can do to learn about not repeating those behaviors and hopefully reducing bias.

REDESIGNING THE MATCHING INTERACTIONS

NO MORE SWIPING; FOCUSING ON THE PERSON HOLISTICALLY RATHER THAN THE PHOTO

1) Rather than swiping, the Affirmd matching process requires users to "like" at least two aspects of a person's profile in order to move forward, slowing down the matching with the goal of getting users to get to know the person before being able to match as a way to filter out those who aren't truly interested.

 

2) Additionally, the profile also includes the implementation of additional assets needed on the profile, such as a short TikTok length video (to verify users and provide a bit of personality).

TESTING & RESEARCH

USABILITY TESTING GOALS AND METHODS

I did two tests: the first was after wireframe completion to test for concept evaluation and for usability without the distractions of UI preferences, and the second was after completing an initial hi-fi draft of screens to see what the responses were for the features when interacting with Affirmd in a more refined presentation.

The goals for the testing were to evaluate whether each of the four found opportunities listed above were actually useful to fat daters and if straight-size daters would notice those features and make cognizant changes and approaches to fat people. Additional smaller goals included seeing whether the flows and interactions on-screen would be clear and easy to use for users.

PRODUCT DESIGN PROCESS

HOW TO CREATE SAFER DATING SPACES IN COMMUNITY THROUGH THE DESIGN PROCESS

For this project, I started out by noticing that my users consistently would discuss social spaces as a place of fear and discouragement and dating would always come up. As dating spaces are now hybrid between digital and in-person experiences, I felt that the best way to create safer spaces was to evaluate current dating applications and develop a product that modifies their systems and processes to make fat-identifying femmes feel safer. This process involved a large amount of secondary and user research, app audits, continuous refinement of what a safe dating experience means in light of bias, and mobile app creation, testing, and feedback implementation.

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