QuLab

An open source project repository and professional development platform for women in quantum computing.

Problem Space

Quantum computing is an emerging field based around the development and usage of quantum computers. With their superior computing power, quantum computers may be used to solve extremely complex problems in areas such as artificial intelligence, medicine, climate, finance, and cybersecurity. But for a technology that has so much potential to do good, there’s always a danger of it doing harm, whether intentional or not. So we have to ask: who’s involved in building this and who’s not? Who’s getting a say in how this tech should be used and who isn’t?

Like many other STEM fields, there is a lack of diversity in quantum computing. Not only is diversity important in mitigating bias in technology, it’s also valuable to have different perspectives and viewpoints when solving problems. While there are many underrepresented groups in quantum computing, we decided to focus on women for this project.

Design Response

Video

Features

Projects

QuLab's collection of open source quantum computing projects provides a centralized hub that streamlines the experience of finding projects to work on and finding teams to work with.

Profiles

QuLab's user profiles provide a comprehensive overview of user's skills, work, and interests.

Profiles showcase users' work and contributions both on and off the platform, creating a centralized record of their work and acting as a living resume.

Browse

QuLab also helps users discover interesting projects and get a sense of what's going on in the community. On the Browse page, users can explore the breadth of topics and applications within quantum computing and also see the incredible work being done by fellow community members.

Incubator

QuLab's Project Incubator is a space for users to pitch new project ideas, which will be voted on by community members. The community can also chime in on pitches by commenting and suggesting additions or improvements to the idea. If the pitch garners enough votes, it will move forward as a full project.

Research

Objectives

To inform our design, we first conducted research. We wanted to learn more about the quantum computing industry and what it was like to be a woman in the field. We wanted to learn what drew women into quantum computing and what kept them interested in it. Conversely, we also wanted to learn what discouraged them and drove them out. And considering the interdisciplinary nature of quantum computing and the relatively small size of the industry, we wanted to see how the quantum computing community affected women’s experiences in the field.

Methods

Literature Review

To help us form our initial research objectives and to get a high-level view of the space in question, we conducted literature review of 28 articles and sources about the quantum computing and the state of the industry.

Expert Interviews

To get a deeper understanding of our space, we conducted 5 subject matter expert interviews. We spoke to 2 industry professionals and 2 academic researchers within quantum computing to get a better understanding of the field. We also spoke to 1 STEM educator to get some insight into what motivates and demotivates female students in STEM.

Competitive Assessment

We also completed a Competitive Assessment of 6 quantum computing or STEM-related organizations to see what kinds of educational or community building initiatives were already out there in these spaces.

We also wanted to see what they were doing well while also determining opportunities for improvement that we could potentially apply in our future design response.

For the full report, please see the Competitive Assessment file below.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

View full competitive assessment
Analysis of one of the organizations we looked at. View the full report for all analyses.

Semi-structured Interviews

From here, our research began to dig deeper into women’s experiences in the quantum computing field. We conducted Semi-Structured Interviews with 8 participants, 7 women and 1 nonbinary person, working in the quantum computing industry to learn about their experiences as a professional in the field.

Interviews with participants were conducted remotely over Zoom.

Mapping Activity

Of our 8 participants, 5 of them also took part in a Mapping Activity that we designed to get a more in-depth understanding of their interactions and relationships with others within the QC community.

Participants created these maps by drawing circles to represent the communities they engaged with, then added triangles and squares to represent particular individuals and groups of people they interact with in those communities. The colors indicate the participant's feelings toward these communities, individuals, and groups, with green meaning positive, yellow meaning neutral, and red meaning negative.

As participants created their maps, we asked them to further elaborate on their decisions to include these communities and people on their map, as well as the colors they assigned to them.

Data Analysis and Synthesis

We used affinity mapping to sort out all our findings and data. This allowed us to find patterns and themes across our research, which led us to 4 key insights.

Insights

Insight 1

Those who persevere through all the judgement have received positive peer support.

“One of the reasons that I really enjoy mentoring is because I've personally had a lot of really great mentors and so, that's something that I [...] often talk about with my mentees as well is if you don't like your manager, if there's something wrong with like, your relationship with your manager, address that early [or] figure out if you can have a different manager.”  –P1

Insight 2

Educating others help women feel control and ownership over quantum computing.

“Interacting with all students, I find rewarding [...] I like to give back in any way that I can, and I find that emotionally rewarding, so in that way, you know, it's emotionally supportive, [...] I just feel like I'm helping people.” –P3

Insight 3

Women are taking it upon themselves to address issues in the community through different initiatives.

“I see the same few people gatekeep people out of the field, how much I see the same few prominent sexual harassers hurt people over and over again, you know. And the feeling that, if I can go make things easier to use, go make things more inclusive and more expansive, then maybe that gatekeeping doesn't have to be that way.” –P7

Insight 4

Women are taking it upon themselves to address issues in the community through different initiatives.

“The people in the position to make decisions don't necessarily buy in. Like, they'll say with words, ‘Yes, diversity is important to us, inclusion is important to us’ and then like, nothing actually happens. So that's, I think, the biggest problem we face right now is buy in. From a lot of people who don't fully grasp that this is an issue.” –P1

Design Principles

From these 4 key insights, we developed 4 design principles to focus the development of our design response.

Provide Shelter

Provide women a safe, inclusive, and non-judgemental space.

Normalize Experiences

Build internal support structures that amplify women’s voices.

Highlight Truth

Encourage truthfulness by balancing expectations with scientific integrity.

Showcase achievements

Provide opportunities for recognition that show and validate hard work.

Research Report

For more details of our research activities and findings, please see our Research Report below.

View full research report

Ideation

Sketches

With our design principles in mind, we moved into our Ideation phase. We each generated 20 concept sketches, for a total of 60 ideas.

Our 60 initial concept sketches.

Downselection

We started downselecting by grouping together similar concepts into larger ideas or themes. After grouping, we were more easily able to vote on concepts that best aligned with our design values while also being feasible for us to build.

In the end, we were left with a small set of ideas and groupings that we were able to combine together into a single concept, which would go on to become QuLab.

Storyboard

We put together a storyboard to illustrate the key moments someone within our target audience would experience when interacting with our design.

The final version of our storyboard, made by sketching on top of stock images.

Prototyping

User Flows

Information Architecture

Full platform information architecture.

However, it was not feasible for us to prototype the entire platform in the time we had remaining for this project, so we focused on building out just a few of the important pages.

Based on the imagined user flow illustrated in our storyboard, we determined that the most pertinent pages were the Browse, Search, Project, Profile, Project Incubator, and Create Pitch pages.

Wireframes

From there, we began to make wireframes of the main pages of the platform. We started by each making our own versions of the pages. Then, we compiled our individual layouts and marked aspects and elements we liked and wanted to include in our next iteration.

We laid out our individual wireframes and circled bits and pieces that we liked.

Screen Iterations

We began fleshing out our screen designs, once again working separately to generate multiple iterations in parallel. Just like before, we came together to review our individual designs and pick out elements that we wanted to carry over to our next iteration.

Individual screen designs of a Project page.

After deciding on a single visual design system, we worked together to continue refining our screens.

Feedback

At this point, we asked a few of our participants for feedback on our design and these were some of the takeaways. The overall concept seemed to be well-received. We were told that this would be a great tool for those in industry to be able to find talent to hire and it would also be useful to students or people looking to enter QC to gain experience. For QuLab to be a centralized hub for QC works and connections, we needed to make it easy for users to both fill in information and find information. For users’ profiles, make it easy to populate external links to their work. For projects, make it easy for users to create projects and listings for open positions on their teams. And finally, tighten up our information architecture so that it was clearer what each link and page on the platform was for.

Final Screens

Home/Browse

1. Spotlights
  • Articles featuring projects and people, showcasing users’ work and achievements.

  • Helps users to discover new projects and people.

2. Explore Tags
  • Clicking on a tag populates a search query for that tag

  • Helps users discover projects by interests/technologies/other categories.

3. Trending Projects
  • List featuring projects that have been gaining popularity recently.

  • Follow button to quickly follow projects.

  • Shows users what projects other users have been interested in lately and what the community is currently excited about.

4. Upcoming events
  • Clicking on a tag populates a search query for that tag

  • Helps users discover projects by interests/technologies/other categories.

Search

1. Search
  • Type search queries into the search box.

  • Filter by Projects, People, or Events.

2. Advanced Filters
  • Show/hide advanced filters by clicking the button.

  • Shows various options to narrow down search results (e.g. women-led projects, team size, project status, mentorship opportunities, location, project type, open roles, etc.)

3. Sort
  • Sort search results.

  • Default sorting by relevance.

  • Other sorting options include newest, popularity, alphabetical, etc.

4. Search Result
  • Short description of project.

  • Tags give a quick look at what the project is for, what technologies it uses, company hosting, etc.

  • Quick summary of roles that the project is currently looking for.

  • Follow button to quickly follow projects.

User Profile

1. Follow/Contact
  • Follow button allows users to get this person’s updates in their community feed.

  • Contact button pops up a modal with user’s contact information, social media, website, portfolio, research, etc.

2. Skills/Interests
  • Skills and interests displayed in tag form, provides a quick summary of who this user is, what they are capable of, and what they are interested in.

3. Project Contributions
  • Like a resume, a list of projects this user has worked on and how they contributed to them.

  • Data pulled from projects on QuLab as well as the user’s linked social media accounts (e.g. LinkedIn, Github) to automatically populate this information, reduces the burden on the user to manually fill in.

4. Community Posts and Comments
  • A list of the user’s community contributions (community posts and comments).

  • Shows how they have helped others and demonstrates their thinking.

Project - Landing/Values

1. Follow/Contact
  • Clicking the join button leads to the Open Positions section where the user can view what roles the project is currently recruiting for.

  • Clicking the follow button allows user to follow the project, which allows them to get this project’s updates in their community feed.

2. Header Info
  • Short description of project.

  • Preview of contributors; clicking leads to Members section for full list of contributors.

  • Quick access to relevant links to project source code, assets, etc.

  • Tags provide quick summary of project, what it’s for, technologies, if it’s hosted by a company, etc.

3. Values
  • Speaks more to what the team is like rather than the project itself.

  • Team values, code of conduct, work style, etc.

  • Helps users determine if they would work well with the team.

Project - Members

1. Members
  • Shows all contributors on a project and their roles on the project.

  • Clicking on their icons leads to their profile pages.

Project - Open Positions

1. Open Positions
  • Shows the types of roles that the project is currently recruiting for.

  • Description and desired skills for each role.

  • Clicking Apply leads to a contact form to be sent to the project team; user interested in the role attaches a message and any additional materials (e.g. website, portfolio, research, etc.)

Project - Updates

1. Updates
  • Project status updates let the rest of the community know about their progress, what they’ve accomplished, any issues they’ve run into, etc.

  • Adds more transparency and authenticity to help mitigate the secrecy that leads to competition and overhype within the field.

2. Comments
  • Updates facilitate discussion.

  • Users can comment on updates and provide feedback or help.

Project Incubator

1. Project Incubator
  • Users can pitch ideas for projects through the Project Incubator.

  • Helps gauge community interest in ideas and mitigates unrealistic projects.

  • Pitches are vetted by the community through a voting system.

  • Pitches that garner enough votes can move forward to become full projects on the platform.

  • Button leads to Create New Pitch button.

2. Pitch
  • Name of pitch, short description of idea, and the user pitching the idea.

  • Type of project (e.g. long term, short term, fun project, etc.)

  • Tags providing quick information about the project, technology, company hosting, etc.

  • Pitch o’ Meter shows pitch’s progress toward being greenlit.

  • Click the vote button to support the pitch.

  • Shows how many days are left to vote for this project.

  • Clicking on the pitch card leads to a page with full details about the pitch and a comments section to leave suggestions and feedback to improve the idea.

Create New PItch

1. Project Assist
  • A tool that helps users build a project by providing recommendations and templates.

  • Learns what to suggest based on what the user had filled out in certain fields as well as by pulling from previous project pitches.

2. Sponsored Project
  • Users pitching a project as part of their company can indicate that the company is hosting the project.

3. Roles
  • Users indicate the roles the project would need starting out.

  • Project Assist suggests roles that the project might need based on the project description, project type, and other previous fields.

Visual Design

Video Prototype

We created a video prototype to showcase the key moments throughout a user's interaction with QuLab. We wrote out a voiceover script, then made a storyboard to plan out our shots. We filmed our shots within a day.

Design Documentation

For detailed product specifications and visual system documentation, please see our Design Documentation file below.

View full design documentation

Future Work

Building Out More of the Platform

Due to time constraints, we decided to design only a few of the most important pages for one particular user flow. There are many pages on the platform that we didn't have time to flesh out, such as community-related pages and user workspace pages. If we had more time on this project, we would definitely want to work on these parts of the platform.

Safety and Inclusion Efforts

We would also like to focus on safety and inclusion efforts. Women and other marginalized groups are often the target of harassment and abuse on online platforms, so we want to ensure our users’ safety.

What we have in mind so far to help achieve this safe space is to create a code of conduct and a moderation system to enforce this code of conduct. In addition, we would like to develop a system of vetting users before they can join the platform in order to keep bad actors out.

Providing More Options For Involvement

We’d also like to further expand the options for involvement and provide more opportunities to users at various stages in their quantum computing careers.

User Testing

Of course, we would also like to continue testing and refining our prototypes, as we did not quite have the time to do any involved user tests.

Assessing Long-Term Efficacy

On a related note, since a user’s engagement with QuLab would generally be long-term, we’d like to identify factors to assess the long-term efficacy of the platform.

Reflection

Despite this project being the culmination of all that we learned throughout our Master’s program, there were definitely some challenging moments and things we didn’t expect.

Adjusting Our Problem Space

We grappled with a lot of ambiguity, especially in the Research half of development and we ended up adjusting our problem space quite a bit as we learned more through our research.

Grappling with Scope

We also grappled a lot with scope. What we were dealing with was essentially a wicked problem, so we really had to narrow down to make this problem space more manageable. But even still we often found ourselves asking questions like, Who is this for exactly? What about these kinds of users? Should we only focus on these people? This project really challenged us to put stakes in the ground and make decisions in order to not hem and haw over these questions forever.

Role as a Discussion Piece

In the end, we designed a product that maybe isn’t the most viable thing in the world. But I think there’s still quite a lot of value in it as a discussion piece. When people talk about quantum computing, issues of diversity don’t really get discussed that much. Even if this project isn’t something that would realistically take off as a platform, it can still raise awareness about these very real problems in the industry.