Last December through March, Mapbox sponsored an intern through the Outreachy program to work with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) on redesigning their website. Outreachy organizes internships specifically for underrepresented groups within the free and open source software (FOSS) community, bringing together enthusiastic newcomers and experienced FOSS contributors, like HOT.

Mapbox already has a long history of commitment to HOT's mission: we participate in crisis mapping, provide imagery, and contribute funding. Our choice to sponsor their website redesign project reflects our enthusiasm for supporting all aspects of their operations, as well as their diversity efforts.

I've been a fly on the wall these last few months, observing graphic design intern Moriah Ellig, web development lead Felix Delattre and the rest of their team work collaborate on this project. We've invited Moriah to share some thoughts on her internship:

Before becoming an Outreachy intern, I had only been a passive participant in FOSS communities – using tools and software, reading forums, and quietly learning how to be a web designer. I was immediately welcomed by the HOT community, and that inclusion and support has been so important to me as I venture outside of my comfort zone. FOSS is built around sharing, and being open about my challenges throughout the internship allowed the community and my mentors to encourage and assist me instead of floundering on my own.

One of the more challenging aspects of the redesign was understanding the various goals and groups that comprise the HOT community. I learned how important it is to ask questions about the purpose of the content, because any confusion or lack of clarity will show up as messiness in the design.

The website is HOT’s public face as well as the common gathering place for HOT information, so it needs to be both engaging and accurately represent the variety of HOT’s activities. The new site showcases the breadth of work that HOT volunteers are doing, and emphasizes the variety of ways new volunteers can get involved. Mobile devices were taken into consideration resulting in a responsive design that will make HOT’s site easier to use on smaller screens, an increasingly significant visitor demographic. The redesign meets the initial goals we set for the project, so I’m very excited to see it in action.

HOT's homepage, before and after.

I have had great help from my mentor, Felix Delattre, as well as graphic design guru Katja Ulbert. They have generously shared their time and expertise with me throughout the project, and enthusiastically supported my first contribution to the FOSS world.

Working with HOT gave me insights into some of the ways in which technology can be leveraged to improve lives. My Outreachy internship with HOT significantly increased my confidence in my ability to contribute to FOSS projects, and I want to keep up the momentum. I recently participated in my first hackathon, a local “civic” hackathon, and you will find me exploring other ways FOSS can be used to assist with people-oriented problems!

Read more about HOT's website redesign process, and check out the newly-launched!