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Creating Impactful Tech for Voter Engagement
By Liam Cummings
When I began my work as a Tech Intern with New Voters this summer, I was tasked with a specific, seemingly straightforward project: the "Run a Drive" button. This feature aimed to seamlessly walk a user through the complex process of running a voter registration drive in support of New Voters’ comprehensive youth voter registration efforts. Little did I know, this button would become my gateway to understanding the vast intricacies of tech development beyond coding.
While it's widely recognized that crafting any product is a complex endeavor, the world of tech offers a distinct twist: many of its most formidable challenges arise not from the implementation itself, but rather from the non-technical aspects of the project. In the Tech Team’s mission with New Voters, we quickly realized that our primary task wasn't just building an app, but designing a product that does something different. As is the case with many projects, our initial work was plagued by over-ambition. Our initial brainstorming sessions were filled with grand visions for the "Run a Drive" button: we imagined expansive features, interactive guides, and a host of support tools. Striking a balance meant prioritizing essential features, understanding our technical and time constraints, and ensuring that every inclusion was purposeful and valuable to the youth who would be using the button.
We were unable to identify existing products that facilitated the voter registration drive process the way we aimed to do so; however, that did not mean there weren't other web applications rich with lessons to be learned. This is when we conducted our landscape analysis, during which we examined other web applications, many of which had little to nothing to do with our goals, in order to better understand what made them effective or ineffective tools. Next came the process of wireframing, a concept that may be unfamiliar to some. Think of wireframing as the architectural blueprint for an app; before any brick is laid in construction, there's a plan. Wireframing allowed us to visually plot our user's journey, from their first click to the final step. This skeletal structure went through three renditions, each of which learned from and improved upon the previous iteration. It ensured that every screen, every transition, and every interaction was thought out, providing clarity and preventing potential pitfalls down the road.
Building a tech product is not a tech-specific endeavor. This was reflected by our need for frequent interaction with other New Voters teams, many of which offered feedback that provided the Tech Department with a unique perspective. Diverse feedback helped optimize our approach, ensuring our tool was not just technically sound but also resonated with the organization's larger goals. This consistent collaboration helped me learn a vital lesson: a holistic approach, where multiple voices contribute to a product's development, is often the path to creating something truly impactful.
Working as a Tech Intern with New Voters is more than a project; it's an opportunity. An opportunity to contribute positively to the world, prepare for real-world tech challenges, and understand that at the core of every tech product lies its potential to solve problems and make a difference. As our product takes shape, I'm reminded of the immense power of technology, not just as a tool, but as a force for positive change.